Inside the House GOP’s key Biden impeachment claims

Inside the House GOP’s key Biden impeachment claims

As House Republicans forge ahead with a vote to formalize an impeachment inquiry against President Biden, they are using some new details and testimony to prop up hotly disputed allegations that he abused power to benefit his family.

Months of investigation have given the House GOP thousands of pages of subpoenaed bank records, testimony from key business partners, and bombshell allegations from IRS whistleblowers who were investigating the president’s son, Hunter Biden. But they are also turning back to long-circulated claims about Ukrainian energy company Burisma, where Hunter Biden served on the board.

Democrats say the GOP’s key claims have been largely debunked, with White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations Ian Sams saying in a recent statement that the House GOP impeachment probe is a “baseless stunt” that “is not rooted in facts or reality.”

Here are the claims at the center of the House GOP’s multi-pronged impeachment inquiry:

Burisma and the claim of a bribe

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told reporters he sees disputed claims surrounding Burisma as central to the impeachment investigation.

“The impeachable offense is — I think, the key thing is in Burisma,” Jordan told reporters in a recent briefing.

For Republicans, Burisma brings up accusations of both bribery and abuse of power — two clear paths to get to an impeachable offense. But so far, they have struggled to show a smoking gun while they have dismissed evidence poking holes in their allegations.

The core allegation was previously pushed by former President Trump and led to his first impeachment: that Biden conditioned a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine on firing state prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who was seen as passive in going after corruption in Ukraine. The GOP argues the loan guarantee benefited Burisma and by extension Hunter Biden.

Republicans earlier this year released an FD-1023 FBI form in which a trusted FBI informant relayed a conversation with Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky, who alluded to paying $5 million to “one Biden” and “to another Biden.”

But the FBI did not corroborate the information upon further investigation, and the informant noted that it’s common for businessmen in Russia and Ukraine to “brag or show-off” about seeking to influence politicians. 

Zlochevsky later appeared to refute this claim in information supplied to Congress during Trump’s impeachment through an exchange captured with Vitaly Pruss, an associate of Rudy Giuliani.

Other details of Biden’s work in Ukraine also undercut key GOP claims that Biden’s effort to topple the Ukrainian prosecutor was done to benefit his son.

State Department officials already interviewed by congressional investigators testified that withholding the aid was a matter of bipartisan U.S. policy and backed by the international community. State Department emails show the U.S. demanded progress on corruption reforms to secure funding, determining in 2016 that those conditions had “​​not yet been met.”

Plus, Shokin’s deputy has said that an investigation into the company had gone dormant before then-Vice President Biden’s intervention, undercutting the idea that Shokin’s firing would help Burisma and Hunter Biden.

And then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt criticized Shokin for failing to work with United Kingdom authorities who had just seized $23 million from Zlochevsky, who was also the country’s ecology minister. The appointment of a new prosecutor ran the risk of more scrutiny on Zlochevsky.

Handling of Hunter Biden prosecution 

Beyond Hunter Biden’s business dealings, the House panels are also reviewing the probe into his alleged failure to pay taxes, with two IRS whistleblowers complaining the investigation was slow-walked and mismanaged.

The two IRS agents, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, said prosecutors took numerous missteps. They alleged that the team showed too much deference to Hunter Biden, were blocked from pursuing investigative steps surrounding then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, and resisted bringing charges for some of the tax years with the most substantial evidence.

In many ways, the whistleblowers have been vindicated.

U.S. Attorney for Delaware David Weiss was appointed as special counsel over the summer, seeking the status after the whistleblowers said there was confusion over his ability to bring charges outside his district.

And a plea deal for Hunter Biden brought by Weiss, which Republicans widely criticized as a “sweetheart deal,” dissolved in court as both sides appeared to disagree over the extent it would shield the president’s son from further prosecution. 

Weiss has since brought two indictments against Hunter Biden: One in Delaware for failing to acknowledge drug use when seeking to buy a weapon, and another sweeping tax case with much more serious charges than those covered by the would-be plea deal, bringing charges in California where the IRS agents said they found the strongest evidence.

But House investigators have also heard from other witnesses who worked the case and have disagreed with numerous claims and opinions from the whistleblowers about how the case should have been handled, noting that the timing of the investigation collided with a quickly approaching presidential election.

That includes a high-ranking FBI official who asserted there was no political motivation in how the case was addressed, noting no one on the investigative team voiced that concern.

Hunter Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell said last week that rather than receiving favorable treatment, “if Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought.”

Family finances and connections with Biden

One of the most complex aspects of the House GOP’s investigation has looked at the web of Hunter Biden’s business and personal finances, looking for any connection between him and his father.

While the House Oversight Committee has taken pains to document money flowing in and out of the accounts of Hunter Biden, the president’s brother James Biden, and various other Biden family members and business associates, it has had trouble showing any clear improper connection between Hunter and James Biden’s work and Joe Biden, while all financial dealings between the men are said to be repayments of personal loans.

Republicans have zeroed in on two checks from James Biden to his brother — one for $200,000 and another for $40,000, both written when Joe Biden did not hold a political office.

The $200,000 check from James Biden was characterized as a loan repayment and came after he received a loan from rural hospital operator Americore Health. While James Biden evidently told the company his name could “open doors” in the Middle East, he failed to follow through, and the loan payment appears to have no ties to any work overseas.

Another $40,000 check between the brothers was also described in the check’s memo line as a loan repayment and came after Hunter Biden secured a major deal with a Chinese energy company, then wiring money to his uncle. James Biden used some of those funds to repay his brother. Republicans have stretched this when speaking about the checks, accusing President Biden of taking laundered money from China.

Finally, the panel pointed to a series of three 2018 wire transfers of $1,380 between Hunter Biden’s Owasco PC business account and his father — which Republicans initially claimed showed the president’s involvement with his son’s foreign businesses.

But Hunter Biden’s legal counsel said each of those were made to repay Joe Biden after he helped finance his son’s purchase of a truck when Hunter Biden could not secure credit. The Wall Street Journal recently shared photos of both men at the dealership. Hunter Biden allegedly used the Owasco PC account for hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses, according to the most recent indictment against him.

The White House has said none of the financial records show any wrongdoing by President Biden, including any shifts in policy or personal benefit stemming from his family’s business dealings.

Hunter Biden has also defended his right to earn a living as a private citizen.

What Biden knew about his family’s business activities

The White House and Biden have maintained that he was not involved in his son’s business dealings and did not act unethically.

On the 2020 campaign trail, Biden went further — saying that he had not spoken to his son at all about his business dealings. In a debate with Trump, Biden falsely said his son had not earned money from China.

With those statements in mind, Republicans have heavily highlighted facts and testimony that shows he knew about his son’s foreign business dealings and even met and spoke to some of the foreign business partners.

Devon Archer, a former business partner of Hunter Biden, testified to the House Oversight Committee this year that Joe Biden had joined him, Hunter Biden, and Ukrainian Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi at an April 2015 dinner at Cafe Milano — an encounter that the White House had previously told news outlets had never taken place. Archer said that they “talked about the world, I guess, and the weather.”

Archer also described Hunter Biden at times putting Joe Biden on speakerphone in front of foreign business partners when he called his son and exchanging brief pleasantries with whoever was in the meeting.

In one memorandum, the Oversight Committee highlighted a photo of Joe Biden posing with Hunter Biden and foreign business partners.

An outstanding question is whether House Republicans will argue that Biden’s false statements rise to the level of impeachment. Jordan indicated in a recent briefing with reporters that this is under consideration.

“Was it obstruction when Joe Biden said all the things he’s said that turned out not to be accurate when we got the facts?” Jordan said. “About him not knowing anything about his family’s business deals, his son’s business deals — Was that obstruction? Was obstruction what some of the other people in his administration have said that contradict, again, the facts that we’ve uncovered?”

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