House Republicans passed a resolution on Dec. 13 to formalize their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. In attempts to build momentum for the vote, Republicans continued to present misleadingly incomplete information in service of the claim that Biden benefited from his family members’ “influence peddling” with foreign businesses and governments.
So far, Republicans haven’t been able to establish that Biden was involved in his family’s business dealings, that the president directly benefited from those deals or that he ever used his position as vice president to assist the companies.
In press releases, media interviews and speeches from the floor in the days before the vote, Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House oversight committee, and others highlighted three instances of potential wrongdoing that Comer says warrant the expanded powers of a congressional impeachment inquiry to enforce subpoenas. The resolution to proceed to a formal impeachment inquiry — which Republican leaders noted does not equal an impeachment — was passed along party lines, 221 to 212.
Comer cited three “direct monthly payments to Joe Biden from Hunter Biden’s business entity” as evidence that Joe Biden profited from a deal Hunter Biden made with a Chinese energy company. But Hunter Biden’s attorney said the payments — which totaled a little over $4,000 — simply reflect Hunter Biden repaying his father, who bought him a truck while Hunter was in the throes of drug and alcohol addiction. That explanation appears to be corroborated by emails obtained from Hunter Biden’s laptop, as reported by the New York Post last year.
Comer also referenced a $40,000 payment to Joe Biden from his brother, Jim. Comer called the payment “laundered China money,” but the check was labeled “loan repayment,” and a similar sum was transferred from a Joe Biden-tied account to his brother less than two months prior.
Comer also argued that a 2018 email from a bank money laundering investigator, who identified red flags about millions of dollars from a Chinese company transferred to a company controlled by Hunter Biden, lent credence to the oversight committee’s accusations of money laundering.
In that email, the bank investigator wrote that Hunter Biden’s company, Owasco PC, received large sums from the Chinese company even though Owasco “does not appear to have any services rendered” and had “no current business purpose.” Given news reports about China “targeting children of politicians and purchase of political influence through ‘sweetheart deals'” and other news reports about Hunter’s “extravagant spending on his own interests (drugs, strip clubs, prostitutes, etc.),” the investigator warned it might be prudent for the bank to reevaluate its relationship with Hunter Biden.
Not mentioned by Comer were subsequent emails in the chain — later released by Democrats on the oversight committee — in which more senior money laundering investigators at the bank concluded the payments were “reasonable and consistent with the business profile” and showed no signs of bribery payments.
The vote to formalize the impeachment inquiry came six days after the Department of Justice announced on Dec. 7 that a grand jury returned a nine-count indictment against Hunter Biden alleging that he “engaged in a four-year scheme in which he chose not to pay at least $1.4 million in self-assessed federal taxes he owed for tax years 2016 through 2019 and to evade the assessment of taxes for tax year 2018 when he filed false returns.”
According to the indictment, despite making more than $7 million in income between 2016 and 2020, Hunter Biden “spent this money on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature, in short, everything but his taxes.”
Although the indictment alleges that Hunter Biden failed to pay taxes on money made through overseas business deals, he has not been charged with any crime related to engaging in the deals themselves. The indictment also makes no mention of Joe Biden.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Dec. 10, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said Hunter Biden’s business deals were only possible by Hunter “trading on his father’s name,” which Romney called “ugly and unsavory.” But Romney said he had not seen any evidence yet that Joe Biden, himself, had committed high crimes and misdemeanors — the threshold for impeachment of a president.
“I don’t see any evidence of that at all,” Romney said. “I think before you begin an impeachment inquiry, you ought to have some evidence, some inclination that there’s been wrongdoing. And so far, there’s nothing of that nature that’s been provided.”
“President Biden’s son, Hunter, has obviously been a very unsavory person and has had some extremely damaged personal foibles, including a drug habit and so forth,” Romney said. “That’s not President Biden. And we’re not going to impeach someone because of the sins of their kids.”
In an interview on Newsmax on Dec. 12, however, Comer said his committee had “connected the dots” to Joe Biden’s “back pocket.” The same day, Republican House Majority Whip Tom Emmer said evidence now showed “it is very likely that he [Biden] was involved in and benefited from his family’s corrupt business dealings.”
In a statement to the press on Dec. 13, Hunter Biden acknowledged that while in the depths of addiction, “I was extremely irresponsible with my finances.”
However, he said, “Let me state as clearly as I can, my father was not financially involved in my business.”
Payments from Hunter-Controlled Company to Joe Biden
The redacted bank records released by Comer show a $1,380 payment on Sept. 15, 2018, from Owasco to Joe Biden’s personal checking account, the first of three monthly payments of that amount.
“This wasn’t a payment from Hunter Biden’s personal account but an account for his corporation that received payments from China and other shady corners of the world,” Comer said in a video accompanying a press release. “Payments from Hunter’s business entity to Joe Biden are now part of a pattern revealing Joe Biden knew about, participated in, and benefited from his family’s influence peddling schemes.”
Comer said Joe Biden and his family “must be held accountable for this blatant corruption.”
Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, responded to Comer’s release of the check with this statement: “There Chairman Comer goes again – reheating what is old as new to try to revive his sham of an investigation. The truth is Hunter’s father helped him when he was struggling financially due to his addiction and could not secure credit to finance a truck. When Hunter was able to, he paid his father back and took over the payments himself.”
Lowell’s explanation for Owasco’s payments to Joe Biden comports with reporting from the New York Post in April 2022, based on emails it says it obtained from a hard drive purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden.
Citing an email from Hunter Biden’s personal assistant at the time, the New York Post story said that in 2018 and 2019 — after Joe Biden left office but before he began his run for president — Joe Biden “agreed to cover more than $800,000 in bills racked up by his son — including legal fees tied to the winding down of his controversial overseas business dealings.” The story included a spreadsheet of other Hunter Biden debts assumed by his father, including “payments and insurance for a Porsche, a Ford truck and a boat; tuition for Hunter’s daughters to attend the University of Pennsylvania and the private Sidwell Friends School; and $37,000 a month to his ex-wife, Kathleen Buhle.”
The 2019 spreadsheet published by the New York Post included regular $1,380 payments for a “2018 Ford Raptor Truck Payment.” According to notes on the spreadsheet, that was “Payment to JRB from RHB – autopay owasco acct.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Joe Biden bought the truck for Hunter in June 2018 from a dealership in Wilmington because, according to a now-retired salesman who did the deal, Hunter’s credit “wasn’t worth spit.”
On Newsmax on Dec. 5, however, Comer cast doubt on Lowell’s claim that the payments were simply reimbursements for a car loan.
“They think everyone’s ignorant,” Comer said. “They assume that the majority of Americans at the end of the day are going to be financially illiterate. People know that if you make a loan, you receive a loan repayment, you should have a copy of a check that you made the loan to.”
“I mean they’re just not being honest with the American people,” Comer said. “They want to say, ‘Well the president’s son couldn’t qualify for a truck loan’ for what, $40,000, but then China loans him $5 million, Russia loaned him $3.5 million, the list goes on and on. … But they can’t even get a car loan? It makes no sense.”
In another appearance on Newsmax the day before, Comer said it didn’t matter if payments from Owasco to Joe Biden were reimbursements for car payments.
“You can loan people money,” Comer said. “If they pay you back then you benefited directly from the influence peddling scheme.”
But even if Hunter Biden got the money to repay his father from a deal with Chinese partners, that doesn’t prove Joe Biden participated in that deal.
$40,000 Payment from Jim to Joe Biden
Comer and others have also raised the issue of a $40,000 check to Joe Biden from his brother Jim and Jim’s wife, Sara, that was labeled “loan repayment.” Comer called the payment “laundered China money.”
“We traced the fact that one of these checks that went into Joe Biden’s back pocket was a $40,000 check that came from China that just happened to be part of a $400,000 check to the company that Joe Biden was supposed to be 10% owner of, the ‘Big Guy’, and lo and behold, that 40,000 ended up being 10%,” Comer said on Newsmax on Dec. 12.
Arguing for the formal impeachment inquiry on the floor on Dec. 13, Republican Rep. Byron Donalds also cited the $40,000 paid by Jim and Sara Biden to Joe Biden.
“That’s your evidence,” Donalds said. “If you want to talk crime: bribery, co-conspirators to a FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act] violation.”
We wrote in October about that $40,000 payment — as well as another one for $200,000 — from Jim to Joe Biden. “These bank records show that in 2017 and 2018, while President Biden was not in office, he provided two short-term loans to his brother, James, who repaid each loan within two months,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the oversight committee, said in a press release on Oct. 20.
FactCheck.org obtained an Excel spreadsheet of wire transfer records and check images that are consistent with Raskin’s account.
Those records show two wire transfers from Joe Biden to a joint account for James and Sara Biden, one for $40,000 on July 28, 2017, and one for $200,000 on Jan. 12, 2018. The wires came from an “Attorney Trust Account” maintained by Joe Biden’s attorneys at the firm “MONZACK MERSKY MCLAUGHLIN BROWDER.”
A check image from Sept. 3, 2017, shows a $40,000 payment from a joint account for James and Sara Biden to Joe Biden (the check is signed by Sara Biden and is labeled “loan repayment” on the memo line). The payment was deposited into the same account from which the $40,000 wire payment was made 38 days prior.
In an emailed statement to the Wall Street Journal, James Biden’s attorney, Paul Fishman, said the checks were repayments of short-term loans made by Joe Biden to his brother. “At no time did Jim involve his brother in any of his business relationships,” Fishman said.
As for Comer’s claim about 10% going to the “big guy,” Comer is referring to an email the oversight committee obtained in which James Gilliar, a business associate of Hunter Biden, discussed the possible equity for the partners in a business deal that involved Hunter Biden and CEFC, a Chinese energy conglomerate, and referenced, “10 held by H for the big guy?”
Regardless of whether Joe Biden is the “big guy,” the final draft agreement setting up the venture made no mention of Joe Biden.
“I would like to clear up any speculation that former Vice President Biden was involved with the 2017 discussions about our potential business structure,” Gilliar told the Wall Street Journal in 2020. “I am unaware of any involvement at anytime of the former vice president. The activity in question never delivered any project revenue.”
Concerns Raised by Bank Investigator
In a floor speech on Dec. 13 in support of the resolution for a formal impeachment inquiry, Comer said, “One bank investigator was so concerned about Hunter Biden’s financial transactions with the Chinese company that he wanted to re-evaluate the bank’s relationship with him. He noted that his transactions served ‘no current business purpose.'”
That’s true, but it’s not the whole story.
“We have been monitoring the subject customer due to the PEP designation and observations on the account activity as well as recent negative news indicate this entity to be high risk,” the investigator wrote in the email.
PEP is an acronym for “Politically Exposed Person,” which LexisNexis Risk Solutions defines as “someone who, through their prominent position or influence, is more susceptible to being involved in bribery or corruption.”
By way of background, according to the tax indictment, in 2015, while Joe Biden was still serving as vice president, Hunter Biden began meeting with representatives of CEFC about potential infrastructure projects.
In the summer of 2017 — after Joe Biden had left the White House — the indictment says Hunter Biden formed a joint venture with CEFC called Hudson West III. In August 2017, Northern International Capital, a Chinese company affiliated with CEFC, seeded Hudson West III with a $5 million capital contribution. According to the operating agreement for Hudson West III, Hunter Biden was to be paid a one-time retainer fee of $500,000 plus $100,000 per month.
Shortly after execution of the contract, the indictment states, Hudson West III wired $400,000 to Owasco PC, and an additional $165,000 in monthly transfers after that. In total, more than $3.5 million was transferred to Owasco in 2017 and 2018. Hunter Biden, in turn, transferred about $1.4 million to an unnamed business associate (believed to be Joe Biden’s brother Jim).
It was the payments to Hunter Biden from this venture that the bank investigator raised concerns about. The bank investigator email released by Comer noted that the payments to Owasco “were indicated as management fees and reimbursements.”
“We find it unusual that approximately 58% of the funds were transferred to” Hunter’s firm “in a few months and the frequency of payments appear erratic,” the investigator wrote. “It was also previously indicated that HUDSON WEST III LLC does not currently have any investment projects at this time, which raises further concerns as millions in fees are being paid but does not appear to have any services rendered by Owasco PC.”
“Furthermore, there has been negative news regarding the beneficial owner of Owasco PC, Robert Hunter Biden (son of former U.S. Vice President- Joe Biden) regarding allegations by his ex-wife that there were financial concerns about his extravagant spending on his own interests (drugs, strip clubs, prostitutes, etc.) which may put his family in a deep financial hole,” the investigator wrote.
In addition, the investigator warned that “recent negative news indicate China targeting children of politicians and purchase of political influence through ‘sweetheart deals.'”
The investigator concluded, “The activity on the account appears unusual with no current business purpose and also with the recent negative news … may require re-evaluation” of the bank’s “relationship with the customer.”
Comer and other Republicans have said the email confirmed the committee’s suspicion that Hunter Biden’s payments from the Chinese firm smelled of money laundering.
“The bank examiner realized that this was a bad deal,” Comer said in an interview on Fox News on Dec. 3. “Not only is this money laundering, and not only is this tax evasion, but this is how China comes in and buys politicians off.”
Referring to the email in an interview on Newsmax on Dec. 13, Republican Rep. Tim Burchett said, “Can you imagine if any American citizen had $30 million flowing through their bank accounts and the banks even said … ‘This is not legit.’ I mean, in their emails, they were basically saying that.”
However, the email shared publicly indicates it is the last of four pages. The first three pages were subsequently shared publicly by Democrats on the oversight committee and include more recent responses in the email chain from more senior investigators, who concluded the concerns raised in the email highlighted by Comer were unwarranted. Although the identities of those who wrote the emails were redacted, a source with direct access to the unredacted bank records provided us with their titles.
One email notes that bank officials corresponded with Mervyn Yan of Hudson West III. He outlined for bank investigators the business operations and business plan, and the projects Hudson West III was working on.
According to that email on Aug. 3, 2018, Yan told bank officials, “HW3 is an operating company for the purpose of sourcing large projects, including LNG, shale, solar and port infrastructures in US, hence the carrying cost is very high. Owasco LLC and Coldharbour are members in such pursuit. We have and continue to act on opportunities. Other than regular monthly draws, others are travel and business expenses from time to time. We have negotiated and still in the process of negotiating major port deal in Louisiana and Texas, acquisition of new solar company in California, shale frackers in Pennsylvania.
“To the extent that [t]here are no guarantees incomes derived from any of these negotiations, only time will tell, and subject to further roadshow and capital raising in China and other … markets.
“The typical deals size we are considering is over $500 million and more,” Yan wrote. “It is time consuming and a lot of efforts spent. The expenses are inline with these types of high risk high return venture activities.”
Comer also didn’t share another email sent later that day from an anti-money-laundering compliance officer who said he or she had spoken with the bank’s anti-money-laundering senior investigator, who relayed that, “based on her opinion and experience with larger banks, she thinks the activity is reasonable and consistent with the business profile,” and that she “does not see any sign of bribery” as the business activity is “clearly written in operating agreements.” The senior investigator, the email said, had noted that “The political connection makes sense as it involves the energy industry/sector, which is not easy to get into. Nothing unusual with lobby type of activity.”
“Based on her assessment the activity does not appear unusual,” the compliance officer wrote, recommending that the bank “waive and continue monitoring under PEP process.”