Republicans target Biden – Hunter Biden – as they seek to overturn congressional scrutiny midterm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Intelligence officials had gathered to brief some members of Congress on future threats to the U.S. election when a key lawmaker in the room, House Republican No. 3 Elise Stefanik of New York, attempted to move the discussion to a new topic: Hunter Biden’s Laptop.

Stefanik, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, asked officials during the April 1 briefing if they had any evidence of Russian involvement in leaking Biden’s laptop to the media at the fall 2020 – a possibility raised by a former high-ranking government official in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.

Intelligence officials told Stefanik the question would be best answered by law enforcement.

The margin (October 2020): NPR explained why it’s not covering Hunter Biden’s laptop story – now Trump’s son wants to ‘defund’ him

Stefanik’s question, shared with The Associated Press by a person who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified meeting, reflects a widespread sentiment within the GOP that questions about President Joe’s son’s financial dealings Biden remain unanswered. And they say they intend to do something about it.

As Republicans aim for a return to power amid growing hopes of winning the House and even the Senate in the November election, they are setting the stage to make Hunter Biden and his business connections a central target of their efforts to investigation and monitoring.

“Hunter Biden’s fair game because I think Hunter Biden is a national security risk.”

— Rep. James Comer, a Republican from Kentucky

Republican lawmakers and staff discussed analyzing specific messages and financial transactions found on the laptop and also discussed issuing congressional subpoenas to foreign entities involved in Hunter Biden’s payment, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The conversations are in their early stages, but have included talks about bringing in Republican lawyers and former Justice Department officials to help with investigations, the people said.

The White House, in turn, is gearing up to defend the Democratic president against any allegations of wrongdoing and to argue that Republicans are driven by opportunism. Democrats will likely point out that Republicans have not called for investigations into President Donald Trump’s business activities in Russia and China or the foreign dealings of his children and son-in-law while they were in roles keys in the campaign or the White House, including, in some cases, high-level security clearances.

To see: Jared Kushner secures $2 billion investment in Saudi Arabia: report

Extract from the archives (March 2021): Putin personally endorsed Russia’s influence operation to undermine Biden’s campaign: US intelligence

All of this raises the possibility of a messy and politically explosive showdown between a GOP-controlled Congress and the White House that could deepen the affairs of the president’s family and shape the contours of the 2024 race for the White House.

Hunter Biden’s taxes and foreign business work are already under federal investigation, with a Delaware grand jury hearing testimony in recent months.

Although he has never held a position in the presidential campaign or the White House, Hunter Biden’s appointment to the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, and his efforts to strike deals in China have long raised questions about whether he traded on his father’s public market. service, including reported references in his emails to the “big guy”.

Joe Biden said he never told his son about his overseas business. And there is no indication that the federal investigation implicates the president in any way. The White House declined to comment, and a lawyer for Hunter Biden did not respond to an email.

Young Biden admitted in a 2019 ABC News interview that he probably would not have been offered a position on the board of directors of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma if his last name had not been Biden, but, he added, many opportunities that he had had in his life wouldn’t have come forward if he wasn’t the son of a longtime U.S. senator and two-term vice president.

Representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York State, speaks at a GOP press conference ahead of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in March. 1.

AP/Jacquelyn Martin/File

Republican leaders see Hunter Biden as a unifying force who can bring GOP factions together and potentially satiate those calling for more dramatic action.

Some members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus have said the first order of business for a Republican majority should be an impeachment trial of Joe Biden in retaliation for Trump’s two impeachments, for his alleged attempt to force Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky , to announce a nonexistent investigation into the Bidens’ conduct in this country and his alleged incitement to the US Capitol seat on January 6, 2021 by Trump supporters seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s election as president.

There is also growing talk among Republicans about urging the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel, people familiar with the matter said.

“Hunter Biden’s fair game because I think Hunter Biden is a national security risk,” said Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, who is expected to take over the House Oversight Committee if Republicans win the House. . “Hopefully when I get the hammer, we go further.”

In preparation, Comer watchdogs have already begun making requests for documents and archived information relating to the president’s son.

The New York Post first reported in October 2020 that it had received from Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, a copy of a laptop hard drive that Hunter Biden had deposited 18 months earlier. in a computer repair shop in Delaware and never recovered.

The story was met with skepticism due to questions about the laptop’s origins, including Giuliani’s involvement, and because senior Trump administration officials had previously warned that Russia was working to bashing Joe Biden ahead of the November election. The Kremlin had also interfered in the 2016 race by hacking into Democratic emails that were later leaked.

Extract from the archives (October 2020): After uproar, Twitter explains why New York Post article on Hunter Biden was blocked

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee now want to probe the origins of a widely shared letter from 50 former intelligence officials published a week after the New York Post article. The letter claimed that the laptop bore “all the classic hallmarks of a Russian information operation” and suggested that “the Russians are involved in the Hunter Biden email problem.”

Joe Biden during the second presidential debate, responding to a Trump reference to a ‘laptop from hell’, said ‘there are 50 former national intelligence agents who said what he’s accusing me of is a factory Russian”. This statement went further than the letter, although it was immediately and widely reported to have called the laptop misinformation. Trump has accused Biden of invoking Russia to avoid scrutiny of his son.

No evidence has emerged from direct Russian connections to the laptop or emails. A declassified US intelligence assessment of the 2020 election alleged that Russian leader Vladimir Putin authorized multiple efforts to support Trump.

Russian state media amplified “derogatory content” about Biden “including stories centered on his son,” according to the assessment, which also alleges Putin had “jurisdiction” over the activities of a Ukrainian lawmaker who met Giuliani.

Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, called the allegations that the Russians were behind the laptop “absurd”. Stefanik, in a statement, said that “any alleged attempt by intelligence agencies or leaders of the intelligence community to present the facts surrounding Hunter Biden’s laptop as disinformation must be investigated. and prosecutions”.

Meanwhile, Republican Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who in 2020 released a report on Hunter Biden and his work on behalf of Burisma, recently made a Senate presentation setting out allegations they say the media ignored it but the Justice Department and Congress must investigate. “The Biden administration has been completely unresponsive to our demands for oversight,” Grassley said.

At this time, the Biden administration and many top Democrats are not publicly commenting on Hunter Biden. But the White House has reassigned communications staff to prepare to respond to GOP inquiries into the president’s son and other likely targets, including the origins of the coronavirus and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Democrats are expected to argue that the investigation into Hunter Biden’s actions is a bad-faith distraction for most voters concerned about national issues. The current House Oversight Chair, Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, made that argument in a statement responding to Comer, her Republican counterpart.

Said Maloney: “I hope my colleagues across the aisle would be more focused on delivering for the American people than bogus outrage.”

MarketWatch contributed.

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