Fact check: House Republicans first hearing in Biden impeachment inquiry

Date:

Mandel Ngan/AFP/.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee and Rep. Jason Smith, during a House Committee on Oversight and Accountability hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on September 28, 2023.



CNN
 — 

The GOP-led House Oversight Committee is holding its first hearing Thursday in the impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden. Republicans have made Hunter Biden’s business dealings the central focus of their impeachment inquiry, but there is no public evidence to date that the president personally received any money.

CNN is fact-checking the hearing. This article will be updated as additional fact checks are completed.

Republican Rep. James Comer, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said in his opening remarks at the hearing on Thursday that the committee has uncovered how “the Bidens and their associates created over 20 shell companies” and “raked in over $20 million between 2014 and 2019.”

Facts First: The $20 million figure is roughly accurate for Joe Biden’s family and associates, according to the bank records subpoenaed by the committee, but the phrase “the Bidens and their associates” obscures the fact that there is no public evidence to date that President Joe Biden himself received any of this money. And it’s worth noting that the majority of the money went to the “associates” – Hunter Biden’s business partners – not even Biden’s family itself.

So far, none of the bank records obtained by the committee have shown any payments to Joe Biden. And a Washington Post analysis in August found that, of about $23 million in payments the committee had identified from foreign sources, nearly $7.5 million went to members of the Biden family – almost all of it to Hunter Biden – and the rest to people Hunter Biden did business with. (The Post also questioned the use of the vague phrase “shell companies,” noting that “virtually all of the companies” that had been listed by the committee at the time had “legitimate business interests” or “clearly identified business investments.”)

The records obtained by the committee have shown that during and after Joe Biden’s tenure as vice president, Hunter Biden made millions of dollars through complex financial arrangements from private equity deals, legal fees and corporate consulting in Ukraine, China, Romania and elsewhere. Again, Republicans have not produced evidence that Joe Biden got paid in any of these arrangements.

From CNN’s Daniel Dale, Annie Grayer and Marshall Cohen

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio repeated a false claim about Hunter Biden that CNN debunked when Jordan made the same claim last week.

Jordan claimed that Hunter Biden himself said he was unqualified to sit on the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings.

“Hunter Biden’s not qualified, fact number two, to sit on the board. Not my words, his words. He said he got on the board because of the brand, because of the name,” Jordan said Thursday.

Facts First: It’s not true that Hunter Biden himself said he wasn’t qualified to sit on the Burisma board. In fact, Hunter Biden said in a 2019 interview with ABC News that “I was completely qualified to be on the board” and defended his qualifications in detail. He did acknowledge, as Jordan said, that he would “probably not” have been asked to be on the board if he was not a Biden – but he nonetheless explicitly rejected claims that he wasn’t qualified, calling them “misinformation.”

When the ABC interviewer asked what his qualifications for the role were, he said: “Well, I was vice chairman on the board of Amtrak for five years. I was the chairman of the board of the UN World Food Programme. I was a lawyer for Boies Schiller Flexner, one of the most prestigious law firms in the world. Bottom line is that I know that I was completely qualified to be on the board to head up the corporate governance and transparency committee on the board. And that’s all that I focused on. Basically, turning a Eastern European independent natural gas company into Western standards of corporate governance.”

When the ABC interviewer said, “You didn’t have any extensive knowledge about natural gas or Ukraine itself, though,” Biden responded, “No, but I think I had as much knowledge as anybody else that was on the board – if not more.”

Asked if he would have been asked to be on the board if his last name wasn’t Biden, Biden said, “I don’t know. I don’t know. Probably not.” He added “there’s a lot of things” in his life that wouldn’t have happened if he had a different last name.

A side note: Biden had served as the board chair for World Food Program USA, a nonprofit that supports the UN World Food Programme, not the UN program itself as he claimed in the interview.

From CNN’s Daniel Dale

Jordan cited new documents obtained from IRS whistleblowers, made public by House Republicans on Wednesday, to argue that the Justice Department improperly blocked investigators from asking about Joe Biden in a 2020 search warrant related to Hunter Biden’s overseas dealings.

“We learned yesterday, in the search warrant…examining Hunter Biden electronic communications, they weren’t allowed to ask about Political Figure 1,” Jordan said. “Political Figure number 1 is the big guy, is Joe Biden.”

Facts First: This is highly misleading. The Justice Department official who gave this instruction said Joe Biden’s name shouldn’t be mentioned in the search warrant because there wasn’t any legal basis to do so. Furthermore, this occurred during Trump’s presidency, so it doesn’t prove pro-Biden meddling by the Biden-era Justice Department.

The August 2020 email from a deputy to now-special counsel David Weiss, the Trump-appointed federal prosecutor who is leading the Hunter Biden probe, said the warrant was for “BS,” an apparent reference to Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying firm that represented Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden was on the board.

The Weiss deputy said in the email that “other than the attribution, location and identity stuff at the end, none if it is appropriate and within the scope of this warrant” and that “there should be nothing about Political Figure 1 in here,” according to emails released by House Republicans. Another document released by the GOP confirm that Joe Biden is “Political Figure 1.”

Before obtaining a search warrant, investigators need to establish probable cause and secure approval from a judge. If federal prosecutors believed the references to Joe Biden weren’t within the legal scope of what the warrant was looking for, it wouldn’t have been appropriate or lawful to include them.

From CNN’s Marshall Cohen

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