It’s not every day that a House minority calls its investigative shots months before a likely takeover of power. Then again, Hunter Biden is no ordinary oversight target.
Top House Republicans are vowing to dig into the overseas business dealings of the president’s son if they claim the majority next year, as is expected — picking a battle with the Justice Department and Democratic lawmakers centered around some of the same themes that defined the Trump administration’s tempestuous relationship with Congress.
The younger Biden’s connections to a Chinese energy company are already under the DOJ’s microscope, with a grand jury hearing testimony earlier this year as part of an investigation into his tax dealings and possible violations of foreign lobbying laws.
But a federal inquiry isn’t deterring Republicans from pursuing broader allegations against Hunter Biden. The House GOP’s eagerness promises to test whether next year’s likely new majority can conduct legitimate oversight without falling down a rabbit hole of politically motivated allegations that have a murky provenance. Russian disinformation touching on Hunter Biden's business dealings, for example, emerged during former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment.
“The House Oversight Committee is going to be all over Hunter Biden,” said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who is slated to become chair of that powerful panel if Republicans win the majority in November.
“We’re going to focus on Hunter Biden not for political reasons,” Comer added, “but because we feel he’s a national security threat.”
While there’s a broad recognition on Capitol Hill that Hunter Biden’s financial moves are worthy of further investigation, the House GOP is all but telegraphing a do-over of the party's 2020 election cycle efforts. And it has signoff from the chamber’s top Republican.
“I know the grand jury is looking now, but I think there's a real need to understand what was always said, what other countries are paying him in the process,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a brief interview Tuesday. “I think it is definitely something we should look at.”
Comer said he hopes DOJ doesn’t indict Hunter Biden before Republicans come into power because it would give him a reason to ignore a congressional subpoena, setting up a high-profile fight with DOJ. And on Tuesday, House Republicans on the Oversight panel previewed their push by seeking a subpoena for the presidential son at a committee hearing centering on electric vehicles.
In recent years, GOP lawmakers indulged a number of questionably sourced claims about Hunter Biden's work with foreign companies that critics said were more intended to politically damage his father than to pursue genuine conflicts of interest. No evidence has emerged to show or suggest that Hunter Biden’s business deals have affected his father’s decision-making as president, though new reports about financial details found on a laptop that he left with a Delaware repair shop have resurrected Republican interest in finding smoking-gun proof.
Democrats are preemptively smacking down the Republican revival of Hunter Biden’s affairs. In private, they tend to seethe at what they see as GOP hypocrisy for trying to weaponize Biden's son when Trump repeatedly blurred lines between his business, family members and the government he ran for four years.
In public, Democrats simply argue that the GOP has no standing to look into the Biden family when it dismissed and downplayed the Trump family's behavior.
“Hunter Biden has never been in office and isn’t seeking office. Donald Trump led a failed coup against his government,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence and Judiciary committees. “The Republicans are obsessed with investigating Hunter Biden and have no interest in guarding against another Trump coup.”
What may well result next year is a constitutional clash with the DOJ as well as Democrats on one side, and Republicans with investigative ambitions on the other. And not just in the House — Senate Republicans are also intensifying their focus on Hunter Biden.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who has pursued the first son since 2019 even amid warnings from his fellow Republicans that his actions were aiding Russian disinformation campaigns, said this is “information the American people ought to have.”
“These are investigations within the political realm where we’re talking about things that rise above just mere crimes — things that might not even be crimes — but that could in this case present such significant conflicts of interest that it could compromise a potential president,” Johnson said in a brief interview.
When Democrats sought to investigate Trump’s children who were involved in his administration, Republicans almost unanimously shrugged off evidence that the then-president's finances were replete with foreign entanglements and international deals that could have influenced official U.S. government policy during his time in office. Democrats investigated many of those leads anyway.
When it comes to Hunter Biden, the Biden presidential campaign was heavily involved in pushing back on some of the allegations that came out in 2020. But since Joe Biden took office, the White House has mostly ignored the controversy aside from emphasizing DOJ’s independence.
The president’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, said Sunday on ABC that Biden “is confident that his family did the right thing,” adding: “They’re private matters. They don’t involve the president.”
Republicans, however, have pointed to recent news stories about Hunter Biden's laptop to contend that their 2020 campaign claims that he conducted suspicious business dealings are now not only legitimized but redeemed.
A visibly frustrated Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), a member of the Trump-allied Freedom Caucus, argued that the laptop was starved of public attention in the past thanks to a conspiracy between big tech and corporate media.
“Even media bias does not possibly cover the unanimous decision of all corporate media to spike this story,” Bishop said in an interview. “The American people will never get the square story from this American media. They will get the story only if a majority-Republican Congress uncovers it, otherwise it'll disappear forever.”
Other Republicans cite Democrats’ investigative pursuits targeting Trump’s adult children as justification for looking into Biden’s son — even though they rejected those efforts at the time. And some lawmakers with bipartisan predilections are also contending that the media would’ve treated Hunter Biden differently if his father were of a different party.
“To me, a lot of mainstream media refused to cover it and now suddenly it's legitimate,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a moderate who’s a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus. “If that had been a Trump kid, I guarantee you that there would have been 24/7 news coverage on that.”
Both Johnson and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) received significant pushback from their colleagues when they ramped up their Biden investigations in 2020, with some Republicans even suggesting it was politically motivated. Some Democratic senators even confronted Johnson about it during a classified briefing earlier that year, noting that Russian disinformation campaigns were focusing on Hunter Biden.
Given the recent reports about Hunter Biden’s business entanglements, Grassley said this week that he’s owed an apology.
“They ought to know that they ought to trust my investigation in the first place because of my reputation for investigations,” Grassley said in a brief interview. “But no, they tried to make it look like we were a tool of Russian disinformation. It’s just not right. They ought to be apologizing to Johnson and me.”