Thursday, May 23, 2024

As HTML tags As they search for evidence they can use to impeach President Biden, House Republicans have repeatedly pointed to evidence that they say undercuts his claims that he never had anything to do with the foreign business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden. As vice president, for example, Mr. Biden did briefly meet with some of his son’s business associates, though there is no testimony that he had any substantive discussions with them or that he changed government policy to benefit any of Hunter Biden’s ventures. Still, Republicans have continued to mine voluminous records related to Hunter Biden, including a trove of messages from a computer hard drive, to try to make a case that Hunter Biden’s income from abroad was at the heart of an influence-peddling operation that enriched the entire Biden family, including his father. Republicans have used quotes culled from text messages or emails to add a confessional quality to their presentations — evidence, they say, that Hunter Biden was essentially admitting that he and his father were engaged in political corruption. But an examination of some of the highest-profile examples cited by Republicans shows that they have been taken out of context, or that Republicans have omitted key messages in email or text chains that often cast the communications in a more innocuous light.

‘Half my salary’

In one example, Republicans point to a 2019 text message Hunter Biden sent to his daughter in which, they say, he confesses to sharing half of the millions he received from overseas business deals with his father. “I Hope you all can do what I did and pay for everything for this entire family Fro 30 years,” he wrote in the typo-filled message. “It’s really hard. But don’t worry unlike Pop I won’t make you give me half your salary.” Rather than being about money Hunter Biden received from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma or from a venture with a Chinese partner, Hunter Biden was alluding to his financial support for his children and his school days, when his father allowed him to keep half the paycheck from part-time jobs but asked that he turn over the other half to help pay for room and board, according to a review of Hunter Biden’s messages and interviews by The New York Times.

‘10 percent for the big guy’

The phrase “10 percent for the big guy” is almost ubiquitous in Republican circles, stemming from the accusation that Hunter Biden gave his father a 10 percent stake in his business deals. It originates from a 2017 email sent by James Gilliar, a business associate of Hunter Biden’s, who proposed including the “big guy” — presumably Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president — in a business venture under the name Oneida Holdings. “10 held by H for the big guy?” Mr. Gilliar wrote. But he told The Wall Street Journal in 2020 that his suggestion never went anywhere. The former vice president did not get involved with their business, and the proposed deal never produced any profit for anyone to split. “I would like to clear up any speculation that former Vice President Biden was involved with the 2017 discussions about our potential business structure,” Mr. Gilliar said in 2020. “I am unaware of any involvement at any time of the former vice president. The activity in question never delivered any project revenue.” In an interview with the F.B.I., Rob Walker, Hunter Biden’s former business partner, described suggestions of getting Hunter’s father involved with the business as “wishful thinking.” He stated he “certainly never was thinking at any time that the V.P. was a part of anything we were doing.”

‘I can work with you father alone !!’

Another message Republicans have highlighted is a 2018 text sent from James Biden, the president’s brother, to Hunter Biden, who at the time was in the throes of addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine: “I can work with you father alone !! We as usual just need several months of his help for this to work.” At a House Oversight Committee hearing, Republican lawmakers implied this message was in reference to business dealings, but another text in the chain makes clear James Biden was referring to working with Joe Biden to get help for Hunter Biden as he struggled to keep up with his bills, get sober and find a place to live.

Concerns of a bank investigator

Republicans have also drawn attention to the concerns of a bank investigator about Hunter Biden’s business activities, which involved securing millions of dollars from a Chinese firm in exchange for work the investigator flagged as potentially nonexistent. “The activity on the account appears unusual with no current business purpose,” the investigator wrote. But Republicans omitted other emails in the chain that were later released by Democrats on the Oversight Committee. They show a robust debate inside the bank about the legitimacy of the business activity. One response described the activity connected to Hunter Biden’s account as “reasonable and consistent with the business profile.”

$240,000 to Joe Biden

Despite assertions that anywhere from 10 percent to half of the money from Hunter Biden’s business deals went to his father, Republicans have failed thus far to show any profit for the current president. They have documented three instances in which family members paid money to Joe Biden — while he was not in office — but they have often omitted the context that the exchanges were loan repayments, not a cut of income. Rather than showing Joe Biden was enriched by his family’s foreign business dealings, the documents released by House Republicans so far have showed the opposite. After leaving the vice presidency, Joe Biden made more than $15 million, mostly through speaking engagements and book sales, some of which went to support his extended family. By contrast, Hunter Biden spent much of his money on alcohol, drugs, prostitutes, fancy cars and other self-indulgent expenses and failed to pay his taxes on time, resulting in his federal indictment this month on tax charges. James Biden also found himself from time to time in need of a loan. According to House Republicans, at one point, James Biden had just $46 in a personal account. House Republicans have pointed to two payments — one for $200,000 and another for $40,000 — James Biden made to Joe Biden while he was not in office. They have characterized the $40,000 check as “laundered China money.” But they did not note evidence showing Joe Biden had first loaned money to his brother before being repaid. The House Oversight Committee has also released documents that showed that one of Hunter Biden’s businesses, Owasco PC, made three payments of $1,380 to Joe Biden in 2018. But other documents indicate the money was to pay back his father for helping to cover the cost of a Ford truck.

‘I am sitting here with my father’

One WhatsApp message that has received much attention was provided by an I.R.S. investigator who testified before Congress under whistle-blower protections. In it, Hunter Biden invoked his father, who was then out of office, while pressing a potential Chinese business partner in 2017 to move ahead with a proposed energy deal. “I am sitting here with my father and we would like to know why the commitment has not been fulfilled,” the message states. On its face, the message seemed to suggest Joe Biden was in league with his son pressuring for a payment to the family. But Democrats have argued it is more likely an example of Hunter Biden’s bluster than an accurate statement of Joe Biden’s involvement in a shakedown. A lawyer for Hunter Biden says he does not remember sending the message. The president has denied he was present at the time.

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