Hunter Biden’s long trail of suspicious business dealings will get new scrutiny as House Republicans, armed with subpoena power, begin what is expected to be an intense, politically charged investigation of President Biden’s suspected involvement in his son’s moneymaking schemes.
By serving on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, pursuing deals with Chinese Communist Party-linked energy tycoons and reportedly pocketing more than $3 million from a Russian businesswoman and widow of a former mayor of Moscow, Hunter Biden’s far-flung business deals have raised eyebrows for years about potential influence peddling and other possible crimes.
President Biden, who has denied any involvement in his son’s business deals and framed his son’s tribulations as a struggle to overcome years of addiction and grief, has largely been granted a free pass from the mainstream news media and the powers that be in Washington.
All of that is changing, though, as Republicans aim to expand their investigation of Hunter Biden, 52, and look at whether the president has been “compromised by foreign governments” in connection with his son’s overseas business ventures.
Details that Republicans hope to uncover will add to the mountain of evidence accumulated over the years from investigative reporting — mostly by conservative-leaning news outlets — and from inquiries on Capitol Hill.
Much of the evidence was unearthed by Senate Republicans led by Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, then the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, then chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. They led an investigation beginning in 2019 into potential conflicts of interest arising from Hunter Biden’s position on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings while his father served as vice president in the Obama administration.
The Senate inquiry followed accusations by President Trump that Mr. Biden used his position as vice president to improperly press for the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, angling to shield Burisma and his son from a corruption investigation.
Hunter Biden and his business partner, Devon Archer, received more than $4 million from Burisma from 2014 to 2016 despite bringing few qualifications to the table, leading the lawmakers to conclude in their September 2020 report that Hunter Biden “cashed in” on his father’s role as the White House’s point man on Ukraine.
Officials in the Obama administration were aware that Hunter Biden’s position on the board was “problematic” and interfered “in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine,” but they stopped short of pinning any wrongdoing on Mr. Biden while he was a candidate, according to a Senate report.
The report, which was based in part on suspicious activity reports filed with the Treasury Department’s financial crimes enforcement network, also unlocked a trove of suspect payments that Hunter Biden received from other foreign sources while his father served as vice president and thereafter.
“These foreign nationals have questionable backgrounds that have been identified as being consistent with a range of criminal activities, including but not limited to organized prostitution and/or human trafficking, money laundering, fraud, and embezzlement,” it said.
Hunter Biden also sent “thousands of dollars to individuals who have either: 1) been involved in transactions consistent with possible human trafficking; 2) an association with the adult entertainment industry; or 3) potential association with prostitution.”
The recipients included Ukrainian and Russian citizens and nonresident alien women in the United States who wired funds received from Hunter Biden to people in Russia and Ukraine.
Citing Treasury Department records, the report noted that some of those transactions were linked to “what ‘appears to be an Eastern European prostitution or human trafficking ring.’”
Hunter Biden’s financiers and business partners include Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs and Chinese businessmen with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
In 2014, Yelena Baturina, the widow of corrupt former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Russia’s only female billionaire, wired $3.5 million to Rosemont Seneca Thornton LLC, a company tied to Hunter Biden’s investment company Rosemont Seneca Partners. She also wired $241,000 in 2015.
Those payments came under scrutiny again this year after the Treasury Department excluded Ms. Baturina from its public sanctions list of Russian elites after the invasion of Ukraine.
In an April letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, House Oversight and Reform Committee Republicans, led by Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, questioned whether the U.S. avoided “sanctioning certain Russian oligarchs because of concerns they may attempt to influence American policy by exploiting Hunter Biden’s connection with his father.”
The 2020 Senate report also detailed Hunter Biden’s business associations with Chinese nationals Ye Jianming and Gongwen Dong, who ran a $33 billion energy fund and maintained ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
Hunter Biden traveled to China at least six times from 2010 to 2016 seeking Chinese investors for various business ventures.
Hunter Biden’s ties to Mr. Ye, who controlled CEFC China Energy, began in 2011 while Mr. Biden was vice president. In 2013, Hunter Biden flew with his father on Air Force Two to China. After the visit, China approved a business license for Hunter Biden’s newly formed venture, Bohai Harvest Shanghai Equity Investment Fund Management Co.
Throughout their relationship, Mr. Ye’s energy company wired at least $6 million to Hudson West LLC, a joint venture that Hunter Biden owned with Chinese investors.
In 2016, Mr. Gongwen, who executed transactions for Mr. Ye’s companies, opened a line of credit for Hudson West LLC that was tapped by Mr. Biden’s brother James Biden, James’ wife, Sara, and Hunter Biden.
“The Bidens subsequently used the credit cards to purchase $101,291.46 worth of extravagant items, including airline tickets and multiple items at Apple Inc. stores, pharmacies, hotels and restaurants,” the Senate report said. “The cards were collateralized by transferring $99,000 from a Hudson West III account to a separate account, where the funds were held until the cards were closed.”
The Treasury Department flagged several transactions between Hunter Biden and the two Chinese businessmen as “potentially criminal.”
In November 2017, Mr. Ye’s associate Patrick Ho was arrested by U.S. authorities on charges of money laundering and conspiracy. Mr. Ye was detained in China the following year.
Hunter Biden’s unsavory ties were further exposed by whistleblower testimony and from the trove of emails and text messages recovered from his discarded laptop computer.
Emails recovered from the laptop computer show Hunter Biden sought a $10 million annual fee from Mr. Ye for making introductions that led to more business ventures.
Hunter Biden laid out his expectations from Mr. Ye in an August 2017 message to Mr. Gongwen.
“My understanding is that the original agreement with the Director was for consulting fees based on introductions alone a rate of $10 million per year for three years guarantee total of $30 million,” Hunter Biden wrote.
Republican-led investigations have revealed further evidence that lawmakers say shows Hunter Biden may have been compromised by Chinese intelligence through a business associate who advised on a deal to sell liquefied natural gas reserves to China and later encouraged his father to run for office in 2020.
In a letter last month to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, Mr. Comer revealed emails and text messages between Hunter Biden and JiaQi “Jackie” Bao, a former Chinese official who maintained ties to Chinese intelligence while advising the Biden family.
Mr. Comer wrote that Ms. Bao “provided Hunter insight into purchasing liquefied natural gas reserves in the United States to sell to China, had access to the Biden family’s financial information, and liaised with CCP-affiliated agents on the Bidens.”
The Republican investigators said Ms. Bao provided Hunter Biden with Chinese-language maps of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, holdings in the U.S. and attended negotiations with U.S. energy companies to help execute financial transactions.
They also said Ms. Bao, after “infiltrating the Biden family,” encouraged the current president to run for office months before he announced and supplied his campaign with “advice related to China.”
In a December 2018 text message exchange, Ms. Bao told Hunter Biden that “Uncle Joe should run for President in 2020” and “should not be distracted” by a New York Times article about the Chinese energy conglomerate CEFC’s influence peddling within the Biden family.
Mr. Grassley and Mr. Johnson said Ms. Bao also provided opposition research to Hunter Biden on Mr. Trump ahead of the election and called Hunter Biden her “coconspirator-in-mischief.”
Mr. Biden has repeatedly denied any involvement in his son’s business dealings. In 2019, he declared that he had never spoken with Hunter about his overseas business dealings. He has stuck to that story despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
A September 2017 email obtained by the Daily Caller showed that Hunter Biden planned to set up a Washington office that would include his father and Mr. Gongwen.
“Please have keys made available for new office mates,” Hunter Biden wrote in an email to the office building manager. He listed his father, uncle James and stepmother Jill Biden as office mates along with Mr. Gongwen.
The office sign was to read: The Biden Foundation and Hudson West (CEFC US).
Hunter Biden’s former business partner Tony Bobulinski has revealed that he met with Mr. Biden in Los Angeles in 2017 while attempting to set up a venture for Chinese investments, SinoHawk Holdings.
Mr. Bobulinski was set to become the CEO and Hunter Biden the chairman. Hunter Biden’s father, believed to be referred to as “the big guy” in an email thread, was to receive a 10% cut in the venture. The deal, however, fell through.
In a voicemail from 2018, Mr. Biden called his son to assure him that he was “clear” after reading a New York Times article detailing Hunter Biden’s dealings with CEFC.
The newspaper reported that Mr. Ho called Jim Biden upon his arrest. Jim Biden told the newspaper that he believed the call was meant for his nephew, though the outlet reported that it was “unclear whether Hunter Biden struck any deals with CEFC.”
“I thought the article released online, it’s going to be printed tomorrow in the Times, was good,” Mr. Biden said in the voicemail recording to his son. “I think you’re clear. And anyway if you get a chance give me a call, I love you.”
Mr. Biden immediately dismissed the 2020 Senate report as politically motivated. His campaign said the investigation was based on “a long-disproven, hardcore rightwing conspiracy theory.”
Mr. Biden’s campaign also branded the now-authenticated laptop as Russian disinformation.
That explanation was also peddled by more than 50 former U.S. senior intelligence officials in an open letter and by social media platforms that, acting on FBI warnings on the authenticity of the laptop computer, began censoring online discussion of the laptop ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Hunter Biden has also been the subject of a Justice Department investigation dating to 2018.
Last month, reports surfaced that David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware leading the investigation, is nearing a decision on whether to bring charges against the president’s son.
Prosecutors are said to be considering charging Hunter Biden with tax crimes and making false statements in connection with a gun purchase.
House Republicans have pledged to expand their investigation of Hunter Biden’s business dealings once they take the committee gavels in January.
Republicans who will soon run the House Oversight and Reform and Judiciary committees fired their first shot across the president’s bow last week by laying out evidence that they say “raises troubling questions” about whether the president has been “compromised by foreign governments.”
“This is an investigation of Joe Biden,” said Mr. Comer, who is poised to become chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee.
Mr. Comer and Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who is expected to lead the Judiciary Committee, recently previewed their investigations of Mr. Biden and his family’s moneymaking deals.
Citing evidence obtained from Hunter Biden’s laptop computer and through whistleblowers, Mr. Comer said his committee uncovered a “decade-long pattern of influence peddling, national security risks, and political cover-ups” committed by the Biden family with the direct knowledge and involvement of the president.
Republicans on the oversight committee said in a 31-page report that Mr. Biden was directly involved in his family’s business deals, including those involving foreign interests, despite claiming he did not know the details.
The White House has brushed off Republicans’ pledge to expand their inquiry. It again called the lawmakers’ claims “politically motivated attacks chock full of long-debunked conspiracy theories.”
“President Biden is not going to let these political attacks distract him from focusing on Americans’ priorities, and we hope congressional Republicans will join us in tackling them instead of wasting time and resources on political revenge,” said White House counsel’s office spokesman Ian Sams.
Mr. Jordan noted the administration’s evolving attempts to distance the president from Hunter Biden’s business schemes as more evidence emerges.
“When it started off, it was, ‘No, it’s not his laptop,’” Mr. Jordan said. “Then it was, ‘Well, it’s his laptop, but remember, it’s Russian disinformation, and no one did anything wrong.’ Then it was, ‘Well, maybe he did something wrong, but President Biden didn’t know about it.’”
• Joseph Clark can be reached at email@example.com.
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