WASHINGTON — Republicans announced Friday that they had uncovered a “direct payment” to President Joe Biden — exactly the kind of evidence they’ve sought linking Biden to his family’s foreign business deals.
But the March 2018 payment came from Joe Biden’s brother James, not a Ukrainian oligarch or Chinese tycoon, and the check was marked as a “loan repayment.”
Still, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), who obtained the records via subpoena, said the $200,000 check looks suspicious for the president.
“Does he have documents proving he lent such a large sum of money to his brother,” Comer said in a video, “and what were the terms of such financial arrangement?”
Comer has been leading Republicans’ investigation and impeachment inquiry into President Biden, which so far hasn’t implicated Biden himself and in recent weeks has been overshadowed by infighting among Republicans that has paralyzed the House of Representatives.
Democrats on the Oversight Committee say the personal bank records recently provided to the committee do show that Biden loaned his brother the money.
“These records actually show that President Biden was the one who stepped in to help family members when they needed support, including by providing short term loans to his brother,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the committee’s top Democrat, said in a statement.
Raskin added that the 1,400 pages of records Republicans got from their subpoenas, which asked banks for several years of records relating to the president’s brother and son, show no wrongdoing, but do reveal “payments for things like groceries, vet visits, and plumbing repairs.”
HuffPost obtained check images and a spreadsheet reflecting wire transfer records that mostly corroborate Raskin’s claim about the $200,000 transaction from March 2018. The documents suggest an account connected to Joe Biden sent James Biden $40,000 in July 2017 and $200,000 in January 2018, and that James Biden paid the money back without interest. The wire transfer records do not say, however, that the payments to James Biden were loans.
Paul Fishman, an attorney representing James Biden, called the Oversight Committee’s description of the $200,000 repayment check from his client to Joe Biden highly misleading.
“The Committee has the bank documents that show both the loan Jim received from his brother in January 2018 and the repayment by check six weeks later,” Fishman said. “At no time did Jim involve his brother in any of his business relationships.”
Comer said Friday he doesn’t believe the president had given his brother a loan. He also said that it didn’t matter because James Biden was moving money around in a corrupt scheme that ultimately benefited Joe Biden.
“Even if this was a personal loan repayment, it’s still troubling that Joe Biden’s ability to be paid back by his brother depended on the success of his family’s shady financial dealings,” Comer said.
The same day James Biden repaid his brother $200,000, he received a payment for the same amount from a for-profit hospital chain called Americore Health. In a bankruptcy filing last year, the company said it had loaned James Biden $600,000 in two installments “based upon representations that his last name, ‘Biden,’ could ‘open doors’ and that he could obtain a large investment from the Middle East based on his political connections.”
The large investment from the Middle East never materialized, and James Biden never repaid the loans, the company said.
There’s no doubt that James and Hunter Biden traded on their famous last name in ways that some ethics experts consider inherently corrupt, if not illegal. State Department officials have said that Hunter Biden’s position with a Ukrainian gas company created the appearance of a conflict of interest when Joe Biden oversaw Ukraine policy as vice president.
Republicans have focused most of their investigatory work on the accusation that as vice president, Biden pushed for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor they claim was investigating the gas company. But the same State Department officials who questioned Hunter Biden’s role with the company testified in 2019 and 2020 that they were unaware of any such investigation and that Joe Biden hadn’t done anything to enrich his family.
Hunter Biden faces criminal charges for illegally buying a gun while addicted to crack cocaine in 2018 and for failing to pay federal taxes for several years. Democrats have conceded that the younger Biden broke the law, but have aggressively defended Joe Biden from accusations that he was in on his family members’ schemes.
Comer did not accuse Joe Biden of taking any action to benefit Americore Health.
White House spokesperson Ian Sams said Republicans should pick a House speaker instead of picking on the president’s family members.
“After rummaging through thousands of pages of a private citizen’s bank records, they have again turned up zero evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden — and that’s because there is none,” Sams said.