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Evaluating the anti-Biden case House Republicans offered on social media

Since January 2023, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) has been almost single-mindedly focused on uncovering and documenting nefarious actions by President Biden. His committee and his colleagues on other committees have deposed people in Biden’s family and their orbit, hoping to demonstrate that Biden had done … something that might convince House Republicans to impeach the president.

On Tuesday, the Oversight Committee put forward its case, the product of those months of depositions and, really, efforts that extended back to before Republicans gained control of the House. The social media thread — dropped a day before Biden’s son Hunter appears on Capitol Hill to answer questions — has the aesthetics of a damaging case, with various claims presented and images of highlighted documents offered in support. It also had the desired effect: Elon Musk took a break from sharing right-wing memes to put it in front of his enormous follower base on X.

But neither the aesthetics nor the credulity with which the thread was received made it effective in its actual intent. Instead, it shows that after all of those months of effort, House Republicans still haven’t proved anything of significance.

Let’s walk through each of the 19 posts in the thread to show why.

1. “Biden Associate Devon Archer testified Joe Biden was ‘the brand’ that Hunter Biden sold around the world when his father was Vice President of the United States.”

The first words here are misleading. Devon Archer was a business partner of Hunter Biden, the president’s son, not of President Biden. Calling him a “Biden associate” is a manifestation of the Republicans’ consistent effort to refer to wrongdoing by the “Biden family” — guilt by association.

This argument manifests another common rhetorical trick the Republicans use: smearing Joe Biden with his son’s — and at other times, brother James’s — efforts to make money off the family name. It has been understood for years that the non-Joe Bidens were making deals based on their last names. If nothing else, the Republican probe has provided lots of examples of how that was demonstrated, the Archer testimony included.

What this post elides, though, is that Archer also confirmed that Hunter Biden had emailed him while they worked together to say the two of them should convince their partners that they’d gotten Joe Biden to act in certain ways even though they had no power to do so. (See p. 115.) In other words, Hunter Biden wanted to demonstrate to his business partners that his last name was worth the money, even though it wasn’t. Archer was also one of numerous witnesses to state under penalty of perjury that Joe Biden was explicitly not involved in their business efforts.

2. “Selling ‘the brand’ has been lucrative for the Bidens. In our third bank records memo, our committee identified over $20 million in payments from foreign sources to the Biden family and their business associates that occurred during Joe Biden’s Vice Presidency.”

Lucrative for the Bidens — meaning Hunter and James. As The Washington Post Fact Checker tallied in August (before the impeachment inquiry began, mind you), members of the Biden family were paid less than $8 million of this total, with Hunter Biden getting the bulk of that money.

Not all of this money came while Biden was vice president, either. See, for example, the deal Hunter Biden made with a Chinese energy company.

3. “Devon Archer testified he was aware of at least 20 times in which then-Vice President Biden spoke on speakerphone with Hunter Biden’s foreign business associates. These phone calls were used to send signals of power, access, and influence to those paying the Bidens.”

“Spoke on speakerphone” is carefully written, since Archer testified that Hunter Biden would generally put his dad on speaker when he’d call. (Archer said the two spoke every day.) Archer also said the conversations were casual, suggesting that they were standard “political” patter from the career politician. (See p. 123.) Yes, Hunter Biden probably hoped to impress those he was sitting with. That’s part of his leveraging his last name.

4. “In a recent interview with Biden family associate Jason Galanis, Hunter Biden put then-Vice President Biden on speakerphone with Russian oligarch Yelena Baturina and her husband, the former mayor of Moscow. VP Biden ended the call by saying, ‘OK then, you be good to my boy.’ ”

The interview with Galanis was conducted in Alabama, as he is in prison after pleading guilty to securities fraud. Whether this call happened as indicated — there is no confirmation that it did — Baturina’s known investments, once tied to Hunter Biden by Comer, actually went to Archer and the businesses he ran. (See p. 138.)

5. “Then-Vice President Biden dined with Russian and Kazakhstani oligarchs, as well as a Burisma executive, who collectively funneled millions of dollars to Hunter Biden and his business associates.”

6. “Then-Vice President Biden had coffee with Hunter Biden’s Chinese business associate, Jonathan Li, in Beijing and even wrote a college letter of recommendation for Li’s daughter.”

The letter was mentioned by Archer as an example of the only thing Hunter Biden asked his father to do. (The daughter was not accepted.) The dinner with the Burisma executive was in April 2015, after Hunter Biden was on Burisma’s board. The dinner with the “oligarchs” the previous year included Baturina. Biden “came to dinner, and we ate and kind of talked about the world, I guess, and the weather,” Archer testified.

Both of these posts are meant to imply Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s business. In each case, Hunter Biden’s ability to deploy his father as an asset is demonstrably constrained: a dinner, a letter.

7. “Hunter Biden’s business associates visited the White House at least 80 times while Joe was Vice President.”

Various people associated with Hunter Biden testified about being invited to White House events like Christmas parties. The report, from Fox News, includes visits that were apparently job interviews and visits from Eric Schwerin, an associate of Hunter Biden’s who also did Joe Biden’s taxes.

8. “Then-Vice President Biden allowed his son to tag along on Air Force 2 to at least 15 countries to sell ‘the brand.’ ”

9. “FOIA’d records show Biden’s VP Office emailed with his son Hunter, his brother Jim, and both of their ‘businesses’ over 29,000 times.”

10. “Then-Vice President Biden used email aliases and private email addresses to communicate with Hunter Biden and Hunter’s business associates hundreds of times.”

Hunter Biden did travel with his father; this happens with presidential family members. So do email exchanges. (Schwerin also worked for Hunter Biden’s business, it’s worth noting.) The idea that the flights were part of “selling the brand” is framing from the Oversight Committee.

The content of the email messages isn’t known. We do know Comer has in the past falsely tried to suggest that a message sent to apparently update Hunter Biden on a family memorial was nefarious. He’s also tried to paint innocuous communication between the administration and Hunter Biden’s associates as suspicious.

11. “Tony Bobulinski also testified Joe Biden was ‘the brand’ being sold by the Biden family as they did work with a Chinese Communist Party linked energy company, CEFC. As part of this deal, CEFC sought to gain a stake in U.S. oil and gas companies to export American made energy to China.”

See the first post.

12. “Bobulinski said that Joe Biden was more than a participant and beneficiary in his family’s business schemes; he was an enabler.”

Bobulinski first alleged impropriety by Joe Biden back in 2020; he went on to participate in campaign events for Donald Trump. His credibility has been repeatedly questioned.

Biden “enabling” his son was described in his testimony the way Archer did: put on phone calls and with Hunter Biden scheming to figure out how to present his father as involved.

13. “The ‘Big Guy’ is 100% Joe Biden according to Bobulinski.”

This is an invocation of a bit of Biden-corruption lore.

In 2017, James Gilliar, an associate of Hunter and James Biden’s, emailed about a business deal, noting that Hunter Biden would get a 20 percent stake. He included a comment: “10 held by H for the big guy?” Bobulinski previously said this was a reference to Joe Biden — but Gilliar has admitted that this was speculation on his part. The eventual deal included no carve-out for Joe Biden.

14. “Joe Biden has interacted with nearly all of Hunters foreign business associates yet continues to lie to the American people about it.”

This is a recapitulation of the claims above.

15. “According to Rob Walker, Joe Biden met with the now-missing Chairman of CEFC, Ye Jianming, and other CEFC officials. This meeting was around the time Hunter Biden and his associates received $3 million from a CEFC entity for the work they did when Joe Biden was Vice President.”

Walker testified that Biden was at the meeting for 10 minutes. (See p. 43.) He suggested — though he admitted he couldn’t say for certain — that Biden stopped by because he happened to be nearby. (See p. 71.) He offered pleasantries, Walker said, but didn’t know what was being discussed.

That the chairman is “now-missing,” of course, is a smoke screen, an effort to make everything seem riddled with suspiciousness.

16. “Our committee subpoenaed and obtained two bank wires revealing Hunter Biden received payments originating from Chinese nationals, including Jonathan Li, in July and August 2019 when Joe Biden was running for President of the United States. Joe Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home is listed as the beneficiary address for both wires.”

Now we’re getting into the really goofy stuff.

Hunter Biden had his father’s house listed as his home address in this period. The money wasn’t sent to Joe Biden’s house; it was a wire. It went to Hunter Biden’s bank account.

17. “We obtained bank records revealing a $200,000 direct payment from James and Sara Biden to Joe Biden in the form of a personal check. This check was written on the same day James Biden received a $200,000 ‘loan’ from Americore — a financially distressed rural hospital operator which James Biden made ‘representations that his last name, “Biden,” could “open doors.” ’ ”

18. “In an internal Americore document obtained by POLITICO, Jim Biden’s first attribute on his biography is ‘Brother and Campaign Finance Chair of former Vice President Joe Biden.’ ”

That “direct payment” was a repayment of a loan Joe Biden had extended his brother, something that was reinforced by documents reviewed by The Post. The check says “loan repayment” in the memo field. That the money came from a deal James Biden had made by leveraging his last name is irrelevant to the payment.

19. “We released bank records revealing how Joe Biden received $40,000 in China money from the account of his brother, James Biden, and his sister-in-law, Sara Biden, in the form of a personal check. This money landed in Joe Biden’s bank account shortly after Hunter Biden threatened a CEFC associate to pay up — claiming his father was sitting next to him in the room.”

This, too, was a loan repayment, as the check says. It came more than a week after James Biden had received payment as part of a deal made with a Chinese energy company.

There’s no evidence that Joe Biden was sitting with Hunter Biden when the mentioned message was allegedly sent, nor any evidence that — if he was — Joe Biden knew anything about the message being sent. In fact, this claim came to light through a summary of the initial message. It’s not clear if the summary accurately captured the original message.

The Oversight Committee’s thread concludes with a summary of the allegations.

Walking through this risks giving the impression that we are trying to stick our thumbs in myriad holes in a crumbling dam. It’s why the thread was presented the way it was, to give the impression that there is a surfeit of evidence against President Biden that cannot be refuted.

But even as this list includes debunked claims, it excludes other allegations that Comer and his allies have made over the past year.

Most notably, it skips the allegation that Joe and Hunter Biden had been bribed by Burisma — an allegation that collapsed when the person who made it was indicted this month. It doesn’t include claims that Hunter Biden and his brother used suspicious “shell companies,” shown by The Fact Checker to be little more than LLCs. Perhaps that’s because Comer had similar corporate entities of his own. It doesn’t include the allegations of another witness, Gal Luft, who had also been indicted by the federal government. It doesn’t include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) false claims about Joe Biden leveraging the vice presidency on Hunter Biden’s behalf. It doesn’t include Comer’s attempt to depict a repayment from Hunter Biden to his father as suspicious. It certainly doesn’t point out that numerous people who’d worked with or for Hunter Biden denied under penalty of perjury that Joe Biden had any role in the business.

The posts above are the picked cherries of about 14 months of Republican-led work. The best case they have, then, is that Hunter Biden and his uncle leveraged Joe Biden’s name and their ability to get him to come to dinner or call to reinforce that leverage. No money to Joe Biden; no demonstrated intentional involvement by him at all.

Just 19 often-repetitive social media posts.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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