Wednesday, May 10, 2023

House Oversight Chairman James Comer releases memo about foreign payments to the Biden family, but fails to tie Joe or Hunter Biden to alleged wrongdoing

Joe and Hunter Biden

Republicans on the U.S. House Oversight Committee this morning released new details related to allegations that the family of President Joe Biden, including his son Hunter, received millions in dollars in payments from foreign entities in China and Romania, including when Joe Biden was vice president.

The committee, however, shows no links to Joe Biden during his time as president and does not suggest any illegality regarding Hunter Biden's business activities, including payments from foreign sources, according to reports from multiple news outlets. In related matters, allegations that Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) once abused an ex-girlfriend -- first reported by The New York Times -- resurfaced, while a Democrat-aligned organization has asked a Kentucky prosecutor to investigate Comer's possible ties to a 2015 email leak while he was running for governor.

Also, the public should be concerned about the makeup of Comer's committee. That is especially true, given signs that Comer himself does not intend to operate in a bipartisan and fair manner. (more on that at the end of this post.)

House Democrats claimed Comer is repackaging allegations that have been around for years, but never been proven. From Jordain Carney's article at POLITICO:

House Republicans on Wednesday showed their cards on a sprawling investigation into the Biden family — sans a smoking gun that directly links President Joe Biden.

The rollout by Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and GOP members of his panel marks the biggest public swing that Republicans have taken since November in a probe they’ve put at the center of investigations they hope will help them both keep their majority in 2024 and win the White House.

But the highly anticipated press conference also raised fresh questions about their ability to ultimately capture their white whale: the president himself. And Comer’s already faced plenty of doubt, including from some within his own party, that he can back up his promises to show Biden’s connection to family business dealings.

No link has publicly emerged, and that didn’t change at Wednesday’s press conference.

Asked if he would ultimately be able to prove his central thesis, Comer sidestepped: “I don’t think anyone in America … would think that it’s just a coincidence that nine Biden family members have received money.”

“We believe that the president has been involved in this from the very beginning. Obviously, we’re going to continue to look,” he added, characterizing Wednesday’s update as the “beginning stages” of his investigation.

CNN reported that Comer's report was slim on details and lacked support for any claims of wrongdoing:

New bank records cited in the memo were obtained by the committee through a subpoena and include payments made to companies tied to Hunter Biden. Republicans also alleged that Hunter Biden used his familial connections to help facilitate a meeting in 2016 between a Serbian running for United Nations Secretary-General and then-national security adviser to the vice president Colin Kahl.

The foreign payments raise questions about Hunter Biden’s business activities while his father was vice president, but the committee does not suggest any illegality about the payments from foreign sources. The bank records by themselves also do not indicate the purpose of the payments that were made.

The memo marks Comer’s most direct attempt to substantiate his allegations that Biden family members have enriched themselves off the family name. Comer has suggested that Biden may have been improperly influenced by the financial dealings, particularly by his family’s foreign business partners.

But the latest report does not show any payments made directly to Joe Biden, either as vice president or after leaving office.

Comer has been publicly teasing information for months about the paper trail committee Republicans have uncovered through subpoenas sent to multiple banks and trips to the Treasury Department to review records.

Comer and other Republicans on the committee held a press conference Wednesday morning to tout their findings.

Release of the Comer memo, plus his response to questions about it, helped turn up heat on the committee chair. From the CNN report:

On Wednesday, Comer was asked about specific policy decisions Biden made while president or vice president that may have been directly influenced by these foreign payments. Comer failed to name any and instead pointed to then-vice president Biden traveling around the world and discussing foreign aid in the last year of the Obama administration, and added they think there are decisions Biden made as president that “put China first and America last.” Comer said the committee “will get into more of those later.”

Ahead of the memo’s release, White House spokesperson Ian Sams said in a statement to CNN, “Congressman Comer has a history of playing fast and loose with the facts and spreading baseless innuendo while refusing to conduct his so-called ‘investigations’ with legitimacy. He has hidden information from the public to selectively leak and promote his own hand-picked narratives as part of his overall effort to lob personal attacks at the President and his family.”

Abbe Lowell, counsel for Hunter Biden, said in a statement, “Today’s so-called “revelations” are retread, repackaged misstatements of perfectly proper meetings and business by private citizens. Instead of redoing old investigations that found no evidence of wronging by Mr. Biden, Rep. Comer should do the same examination of the many entities of former President Trump and his family members.”

The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Jamie Raskin, said in a statement to CNN, “Chairman Comer has failed to provide factual evidence to support his wild accusations about the President. He continues to bombard the public with innuendo, misrepresentations, and outright lies, recycling baseless claims from stories that were debunked years ago.”

According to POLITICO, the Comer memo is long on smoke and short on fire:

The memo detailed payments to Biden family members and asserted that “it is not credible” that the president wasn’t aware of his family’s business efforts given the total size of the payments. It also did not show any way in which Biden’s decisions were influenced by those agreements or that he had direct knowledge of them.

And while Republicans have criticized the payments as questionable, they stopped short of calling any of the activity potentially illegal.

Comer outlined his next investigative steps on Wednesday, vowing that he would soon issue subpoenas to several more banks. He also hinted at subpoenaing Hunter Biden’s business associates, including a gallery that has been selling the First Son’s artwork.

He’s also mulling a slate of potential legislation, including changes to ethics and financial-disclosure legislation that would impact presidents’ family members.

Democratic staff members of the House Oversight Committee state that Comer has misrepresented evidence uncovered in the probe. From POLITICO:

Democratic Oversight Committee staff circulated their own memo on Wednesday, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, that accused Comer of misrepresenting suspicious activity reports — or SARs — that he has received from the Treasury Department. The records are submitted by banks to the Treasury but don’t necessarily indicate wrongdoing.

“None of the SARs allege, or even suggest, any potential misconduct by President Biden, and many of the SARs, including those on which Chairman Comer relies, are based on erroneous or unfounded claims,” the memo from Raskin’s staff says. (A GOP Oversight aide told POLITICO that the information in Republicans’ memo is based not on the Treasury documents but on separate bank records they received from subpoenas.

As for allegations of Comer's alleged abuse toward women, the Web site addressed that issue:

A recent New York Times profile chronicled Comer’s transformation from an “affable country boy” who voted to certify the results of the 2020 election to MAGA attack dog. The profile also resurfaced disturbing allegations that Comer physically assaulted an ex-girlfriend in college and later tried to discredit her claims. That woman, Marilyn Thomas, claimed the anti-abortion congressman took her to get an abortion in the 1990s. The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List has given Comer an A+ rating.

Jezebel contacted Comer’s office for comment and did not hear back by publication time. Thomas declined the Times’ request for comment.

The reports of Comer’s alleged domestic abuse first came to light in 2015, when a local blogger published them during Comer’s unsuccessful run for governor in Kentucky.

In Mary 2015, as the blogs circulated and reporters hounded her, Thomas sent a letter to a Louisville Courier-Journal reporter in which she said she was upset about people online calling her a liar and opportunist. The four-page letter went on to recount her experiences with Comer in devastating detail. Thomas said they dated for two years at Western Kentucky University in the 1990s and claimed that Comer not only hit her, but was a “toxic,” “abusive,” and “controlling” partner who isolated her from family and friends. Thomas heavily implied that Comer impregnated her and said he took her to an abortion clinic in November 1991 when she was 19, and was “enraged” when she listed his real name as the person escorting her home. Thomas said she kept documentation of the abortion given to her by the clinic.

As for a possible investigation of Comer over an email leak, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported in March 2023:

A Democrat-aligned organization has asked a Kentucky prosecutor to investigate U.S. Rep. James Comer over his possible involvement in the leak of a law firm's emails during his 2015 race for governor, stemming from an admission in a recent New York Times profile of the congressman.

The Congressional Integrity Project — a 501(c)(4) that is pushing back against U.S. House Republicans' investigations of President Joe Biden's son and administration — wrote a letter Wednesday to Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney Kimberly Baird, asking her office for a "formal and thorough investigation" into Comer's "involvement in unlawfully obtaining and/or receiving stolen emails from a computer server" of the law firm.

"No one should be above the law, and information revealed yesterday in an article published in The New York Times provides strong reason to believe that Representative Comer committed at least one, and perhaps multiple, felony offenses during his failed attempt to secure the Republican nomination for governor in 2015," wrote Kyle Herrig, the group's executive director.

What about the makeup of Comer's committee. It includes Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), and House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.). That is a veritable rogue's gallery of right-wing loons. The public probably is not, and should not, be comforted by their presence on Comer's committee.

That especially is the case when the chair himself has shown signs that he does not plan to operate in a bipartisan and just manner. From CNN:

Comer left the door open on whether his committee would investigate the foreign business dealings of former President Donald Trump and his family ahead of making any legislative recommendations to address influence peddling. To date however, Comer has not looked into Trump’s financial dealings or pursued an investigation into the classified documents that he had at Mar-a-Lago.

“We’re going to look at everything when we get ready to introduce the legislation to ban influence peddling” Comer said. “This has been a pattern for a long time. Republicans and Democrats have both complained about Presidents’ families receiving money.”

On the foreign business dealings of Trump’s son-in law, Jared Kushner, specifically, Comer said, “I’m not saying whether I agreed with what he did or not, but I actually know what his businesses are. What are the Biden businesses?”


e.a.f. said...

You'd think some of these politicians might do something that would improve the lives of Americans, especially American children. We've been hearing and reading about Hunter Biden's lap top and he and his father and who knows how many other Bidens receiving money allegedly from some foreign entities. Get a grip there people. The U.S.A. has a few problems which need immediate attention, i.e. mass killings on a weekly basis if not twice a week, a mass of people at the southern border who will need to be looked after, increasing lack of health care, the cost of giving birth in the U.S.A.--you might want to deal with it because at the rate shooters are killing children you're going to need to produce more. Than there is the no small problem of unhoused people. So attention American politicians who are fixated on the Bidens lap top and money, do your job and deal with the real issues facing Americans.

If you really want to have a look at a president's son and receiving money, why no interest in Jared's sources of income, he is married to the former president's daughter, the last time I read and he was the former president's "advisor".

legalschnauzer said...

My research indicates Comer's investigation has turned up little, if anything, in the way of solid evidence. It might turn out they have something, but I will be surprised. Comer is a MAGA guy, with a bunch of loons (Greene, Bobert, Jordan, etc.) on his committee, so this point, I think it's wise to consider the source.