Members of the House Oversight Committee who have alleged that President Joe Biden and members of his family have committed multiple federal crimes failed to offer any evidence that any member of Mr Biden’s family had done anything of the sort, at a press conference to unveil new “evidence” against the Biden family on Wednesday.
The nearly hour-long session led by Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer came one week after Mr Comer and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley alleged in a letter that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has in its records a report detailing “an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions”.
Mr Comer had issued a subpoena for the FBI document, known as a FD-1023, and had given FBI Director Christopher Wray until 10am Wednesday to turn over the document.
“I mean, guys, you in the press, this is easy pickings,” Representative Byron Donalds of Florida told reporters. “I'm giving you Pulitzer stuff here. Like all you have to do is literally look at our memo and see the level of detail upon which they have created this and it's ... very frustrating.”
Flanked by a horde of fellow members of the House Oversight Committee ranging from relatively moderate Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina to opponents of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy such as Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the assembled GOP representatives tried to make the case that Mr Biden and his family had profited off of his tenure in public service.
Republicans attempted to tell the press that the allegations were serious and that reporters should probe into potential illegal activity. In the days leading up to the presentation, Mr Comer and his allies had intimated that they would be presenting bombshell evidence that would show clear instances of wrongdoing. They’d expected a significant turnout and asked reporters attending to RSVP to the press conference.
Upon arrival, The Independent was handed a summary of the allegations of impropriety, but when Mr Comer began to speak shortly after 9am, it was clear that seats in the House television studio were not nearly as packed as the chairman and Republican members had likely hoped.
As he opened the press conference, Mr Comer noted that the FBI had not yet turned over the report at issue, and said the panel would “report to you only facts when they are verified and indisputable” after receiving the document. He also said his committee “will not pursue witch hunts, or string the American people along for years with false promises of evidence that is beyond circumstantial evidence”.
Yet at the same time, the Kentucky Republican offered conclusions for which he had no proof, such as when he told reporters it was “inconceivable that the president did not know” his family members were allegedly receiving “millions of dollars from China”.
The House probe being led by Mr Comer, who earlier this year shuttered an investigation into how members of former president Donald Trump’s family came into billions of dollars from Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds after he left office in 2017, is a continuation of efforts by top Republicans to tar Mr Biden with corruption allegations through his son, attorney and former lobbyist Hunter Biden, and other members of his family.
The first of Mr Trump’s two impeachment trials was touched off by efforts by the then-president and his associates to push Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce sham investigations into both Joe and Hunter Biden, the latter of whom served on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm for several years in the 2010s.
In appearances on Fox News, Mr Comer has also alleged that Hunter Biden’s prior business relationship with a Chinese national factored into decisions his father has made as president. He and other top Republicans have accused the president of being “compromised” by his son’s business dealings even though Mr Biden has never been shown to have garnered any financial benefit from them.
He has also repeatedly denied having any involvement in his family’s private business affairs. But Republicans have nonetheless attempted to cast the president as somehow leading a family-based enterprise that they’ve unfavourably compared to Mr Trump’s eponymous real estate and branding company, even though two of Mr Trump’s companies were convicted of criminal tax fraud in a New York court last year.
Despite promises to prove Mr Biden’s criminality, Mr Comer’s presentation on Wednesday did not allege any criminal acts by Mr Biden or his family – even as he and his fellow committee members told reporters that Hunter Biden, Mr Biden’s brother James, and other members of the president’s family have been involved in “shady business deals that capitalised on Joe Biden's public office and risked our country's national security”.
Much of what Mr Comer discussed involved bank records which he said reveal that Hunter Biden had a “lucrative financial relationship” with a Romanian national by the name of Gabriel Popoviciu during the period his father was vice president under Barack Obama.
According to The New York Times, Mr Popoviciu retained Hunter Biden, who is a Yale-educated lawyer, to represent him in an effort to fend off criminal charges related to a land deal in the Romanian capital, Bucharest. The funds transfers Republicans suggested were evidence of wrongdoing began in 2015, the year Hunter Biden began representing Mr Popuviciu.
Mr Comer described the Romanian national as having been “under investigation for and later convicted of corruption” in his home country, though the Kentucky Republican never alleged that the investigation or conviction had anything to do with Mr Biden or acknowledged that the two men had an attorney-client relationship.
One of Hunter Biden’s attorneys, George Mesires, has said his client never discussed the Popoviciu case, Romanian anti-corruption efforts or anything else related to Romania with the then-vice president, his father.
Despite the clear explanation for the transactions at issue, the Oversight Committee chairman alleged that Hunter Biden’s relationship with Mr Popoviciu was connected to the then-vice president’s work carrying out Obama administration policy in Romania, which he described as “a foreign adversary” even though Romania is a longstanding American ally and member of Nato.
He also suggested that the wire transfers to Hunter Biden, an attorney and lobbyist, were suspicious because they “occurred while Joe Biden was vice president and leading the United States efforts in these countries” and accused the now-president of “lecturing Romania on anti corruption policies” while “walking billboard for his son and family to collect money”.
Mr Comer accused the Biden family of engaging in “a pattern of influence peddling” because the end of Hunter Biden’s business relationship with Mr Popoviciu happened around the time the Obama-Biden administration left office, though he offered no evidence that any American policy decision was the result of any undue influence exerted by Hunter Biden or anyone with whom he had a business relationship.
Other committee members who spoke after the chairman attacked other members of Mr Biden’s family, including Hallie Biden, the widow of Mr Biden’s eldest son, Beau Biden.
Rep Kelly Armstrong noted that bank records show that some of the money paid to Hunter Biden by Mr Popoviciu in 2015 was transferred to Ms Biden, and called those transfers suspicious because then-Vice President Biden had delivered a speech about the dangers of corruption during a May 2014 visit to Romania.
“In fact, it's very hard to come up with any legitimate business reason to conduct transactions with this type in this type of complex way,” he said.
He also suggested that there was no legitimate reason for Ms Biden to receive any portion of funds paid to Hunter Biden by Mr Popoviciu in late 2015 even though she had by then entered into a romantic relationship with him following the death of her husband in May 2015.
Though not a single committee member offered any evidence that the president, his son or his brother had broken any laws, some called for the prosecution of Mr Biden and his family nonetheless.
Ms Mace of South Carolina said the Department of Justice “needs to get off its a**” and file charges against the Bidens.
“If any these allegations are proven true than someone with the last name Biden needs to be charged, prosecuted, maybe spend a little time in prison to take to account and responsibility,” she said, despite it being unclear what crimes, if any, she was alleging the Bidens to have committed.
The presentation by the House Republicans comes as House Democrats, the White House and outside groups are stepping up efforts to defend the president — and his family — from what they describe as unsubstantiated attacks that are heavy on innuendo and lacking in substance.
Mr Comer’s Democratic counterpart, Oversight Committee ranking member Jamie Raskin, said in a statement that the GOP “has failed to provide factual evidence to support his wild accusations about the President” and panned the allegations as “innuendo, misrepresentations, and outright lies, recycling baseless claims from stories that were debunked years ago” made with “cherry-picked bank records, misrepresentations about confidential and unverified bank reports known as SARs, and baseless conspiracy theories to attack the President’s family, including his grandchildren”.
“As Republicans use their oversight powers to advance this tiresome and aging smear campaign, they refuse to honor their public commitment to investigate former President Trump and former senior White House advisor, Jared Kushner, their hundreds of LLCs, and the billions of dollars they collected directly from autocratic and corrupt foreign governments. If they’re in search of presidential corruption by foreign powers, the undisputed champion is their own guy.,” Mr Raskin said.
An outside group led by veteran Democratic operative David Brock, Facts First, also held a conference call with reporters to debunk the Republican claims shortly after Mr Comer’s session had concluded.
Mr Brock noted that the GOP’s own report “showed no payments to Joe Biden, no evidence of any policy decisions influenced by anything other than a US national interests” and mocked Mr Comer’s promise to reveal wrongdoing that would make the Watergate scandal which ended Richard Nixon’s presidency “look like jaywalking”.
“The reality is we don't even have a scandal here, much less Watergate,” said Mr Brock, who was followed by former Trump fixer Michael Cohen.
Cohen, who in 2018 pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, making false statements to a federally-insured bank, and campaign finance violations for actions he has said he undertook at Mr Trump’s behest, told reporters that Mr Comer’s claim of having found “breathtaking foreign entanglements” was “ridiculous and irresponsible” and evidence that the Oversight committee chair is auditioning for a spot on the 2024 GOP ticket alongside Mr Trump.
He also said nothing Mr Comer has alleged about the Bidens is worse than what Mr Trump and his family is known to have done during and after his time in the White House.
“The Trump children profited more off their father's presidency than anyone in history. For example, Ivanka, and Jared somehow made over $600 million during their time in service as senior advisors to the President. Now, during that tenure, Ivanka also received a series of trademarks on her clothing and her jewellery lines from China. And Jared, shortly thereafter, received a Middle East bailout on his troubled 666 Fifth Avenue property, a property that Jared acquired on behalf of his family, which happens to be noted as the single worst real estate deal in New York City's history,” he said.
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