As they search for evidence they can use to impeach President Biden, House Republicans have repeatedly pointed to evidence they say undermines his claims that he never had anything to do with his son Hunter Biden's foreign business dealings.
As vice president, for example, Biden met briefly with some of his son's business associates, although there is no evidence that he had substantive conversations with them or that he changed government policy to benefit any of Hunter Biden's companies.
Still, Republicans have continued to mine voluminous records related to Hunter Biden, including a trove of messages from a computer hard drive, to try to prove that Hunter Biden's foreign income was at the center of a money-smuggling operation. influences that enriched the entire Biden family, including his father.
Republicans have used quotes drawn from text messages or emails to add a confessional quality to their presentations — evidence, they say, that Hunter Biden was essentially admitting that he and his father were involved in political corruption.
But an examination of some of the most prominent examples cited by Republicans shows that they have been taken out of context or that Republicans have omitted key messages in emails or text chains that often shed a more innocuous light on communications.
'Half my salary'
In one example, Republicans point to a 2019 text message Hunter Biden sent to his daughter in which they say he confesses to sharing half of the millions he received from overseas deals with his father.
“I hope everyone can do what I did and pay for everything for this entire family for 30 years,” he wrote in the typo-filled message. “It's very difficult. But don't worry, unlike dad, I won't force you to give me half your salary.”
Instead of referring to the money Hunter Biden received from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma or from a company with a Chinese partner, Hunter Biden alluded to the financial support he provided to his own children and his school days, when his father allowed him to keep the half the salary. part-time jobs, but asked him to hand over the other half to help pay for room and board, according to a review of Hunter Biden's messages and interviews by The New York Times.
'10 percent for the big guy'
The phrase “10 percent to the big guy” is nearly ubiquitous in Republican circles, stemming from the allegation that Hunter Biden gave his father a 10 percent stake in his businesses.
It has its origins in a 2017 email sent by James Gilliar, a business associate of Hunter Biden, who proposed including the “big guy” (presumably Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president) in a business venture under the name Oneida. Holdings.
“10 in H's possession for the big guy?” Mr. Gilliar wrote.
But he told The Wall Street Journal in 2020 that his suggestion never went anywhere. The former vice president did not get involved in his business and the proposed deal never produced any profits that anyone could divide.
“I would like to clear up any speculation that former Vice President Biden was involved in the 2017 discussions about our potential business structure,” Gilliar said in 2020. “I am not aware of any involvement at any time by the former vice president. The activity in question never generated income for the project.”
In an interview with the FBI, Rob Walker, Hunter Biden's former business partner, described suggestions of involving Hunter's father in the business as “wishful thinking.” He said, “I certainly never thought at any time that the vice president was a part of anything we were doing.”
'I can work only with you father!!'
Another message that Republicans have highlighted is a 2018 text sent by James Biden, the president's brother, to Hunter Biden, who at the time was mired in alcohol and crack addiction: “I can only work with you father!! As always, we only need several months of his help to make this work.”
At a House Oversight Committee hearing, Republican lawmakers implied this message was about business, but other text on the network makes clear that James Biden was referring to working with Joe Biden to get help for Hunter. Biden as he struggled to keep up with his bills, stay sober and find a place to live.
Concerns of a banking investigator
Republicans have also drawn attention to a banking investigator's concerns about Hunter Biden's business activities, which involved obtaining millions of dollars from a Chinese company in exchange for work the investigator noted as potentially nonexistent.
“The activity on the account appears unusual with no current business purpose.” the researcher wrote.
But Republicans omitted other emails from the chain that were later released by Democrats on the Oversight Committee. They show a strong debate within the bank about the legitimacy of business activity. One response described the activity related to Hunter Biden's account as “reasonable and consistent with the business profile.”
$240,000 for Joe Biden
Despite claims that between 10 percent and half of Hunter Biden's business money went to his father, Republicans have so far failed to show any benefit to the current president.
They have documented three cases in which family members paid money to Joe Biden while he was not in office, but have often omitted the context that the exchanges were loan payments, not a reduction in income.
Instead of showing that Joe Biden became wealthy from his family's overseas businesses, the documents released so far by House Republicans have shown the opposite.
After leaving the vice presidency, Joe Biden earned more than $15 million, mostly from speaking engagements and book sales, some of which went to supporting his extended family.
By contrast, Hunter Biden spent much of his money on alcohol, drugs, prostitutes, fancy cars and other self-indulgent expenses and failed to pay his taxes on time, resulting in his federal indictment this month on tax charges.
James Biden also found himself in need of a loan from time to time. According to House Republicans, at one point, James Biden had just $46 in a personal account. account.
House Republicans have pointed to two payments, one of $200,000 and another of $40,000, that James Biden made to Joe Biden while he was out of office. They have characterized the $40,000 check as “laundered Chinese money.” But they did not notice evidence showing that Joe Biden had first lent money to his brother before receiving the repayment.
The House Oversight Committee also released documents showing that one of Hunter Biden's companies, Owasco PC, made three payments of $1,380 to Joe Biden in 2018. But other documents indicate the money was to repay his father for helping cover the cost of a Ford truck.
'I'm sitting here with my father'
One WhatsApp message that has received a lot of attention was provided by an IRS investigator who testified before Congress under whistleblower protection. In it, Hunter Biden invoked his then-out-of-office father as he pressured a potential Chinese trading partner in 2017 to move forward with a proposed energy deal.
“I am sitting here with my father and we would like to know why the commitment has not been fulfilled,” the message states. At first glance, the message seemed to suggest that Joe Biden was allied with his son pushing for a payment to be made to the family.
But Democrats have argued that it is more likely an example of Hunter Biden's bluster than an accurate statement of Joe Biden's involvement in extortion. A lawyer for Hunter Biden says he doesn't remember sending the message.
The president has denied being present at that time.
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