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Analysis | Parsing GOP claims about Hunter Biden deals allegedly involving his father

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“To be clear, Joe Biden is the ‘big man’. This evidence raises troubling questions about whether President Biden poses a national security risk and whether he has been compromised by foreign governments.”

– Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee, at a news conference, Nov. 17

Shortly after claiming control of the House during the upcoming Congress, Republicans announced they would launch an investigation into the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the president’s son, with the aim of proving that the president was involved in some of those deals was involved. The House Republicans press conference and accompanying report relied heavily on material found on a hard drive copy of the laptop that Hunter Biden allegedly left for repair at a Delaware store in April 2019.

The laptop has been a source of important coverage of Hunter Biden’s personal and business life, but many news organizations have treated the content with trepidation because it emerged late in the 2020 presidential campaign and failed to verify its authenticity at the time .

Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani provided material from the laptop to the New York Post, but refused to share a copy of the hard drive with The Washington Post and other news organizations. In 2021, The Washington Post received 217 gigabytes of data from a Republican activist, who said he got it from Giuliani. The Washington Post asked two security experts to examine the data, and they found nearly 22,000 emails among those files with cryptographic signatures that could be verified using technology that would be difficult for even the most sophisticated hackers to forge.

The vast majority of the data — and most of the nearly 129,000 emails it contained — could not be verified, the security experts said. But The Washington Post also found financial documents on the hard drive copy that matched documents and information found in other documents. The New York Times separately said it verified a cache of emails on the laptop about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and with a Chinese company. CBS news, in a report that aired Mondaysaid it obtained a copy of the hard drive directly from a repair shop lawyer and that the security experts found “no evidence that it is fake or tampered with”.

When asked if GOP committee staff had verified the laptop’s hard drive themselves, spokeswoman Jessica Collins said, “The authenticity of the laptop has been confirmed by several forensic analysts,” specifically noting the CBS report.

At several points, Comer referred to a deal Hunter Biden was trying to make with CEFC China Energy, an energy conglomerate. Many aspects of his financial arrangements have been scrutinized by news organizations, including The Washington Post. But at a press conference, Comer made claims that have not been proven, are questioned, or appear false. Any possible connection between Joe Biden and his son’s business dealings has been particularly tense so far.

Here’s a guide to some of the claims made at the press conference.

“One of these deals involves the sale of US natural gas to China. There are indications that Joe Biden had a 10% equity interest through his son.”

— Comer, at the press conference

The phrase “evidence suggests” does a lot of work here. Comer refers to a single email – dated May 13, 2017 – the meaning of which is disputed. In the laptop hard drive copy obtained by The Washington Post, the email lacked verifiable digital information with which to authenticate it.

The Washington Post in its reporting only quotes material from the laptop that the security experts were able to verify or confirm elsewhere. Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger said in his 2021 book “The Bidens” that the email had been verified as authentic by “a person with independent access to Hunter’s emails.”

The 2017 email described possible ownership interests for five partners, including Hunter Biden and his uncle Jim Biden, in a planned venture with CEFC, the Chinese firm. The entity would be called Oneida Holdings LLC.

James Gillar, a business partner who has the allocation of equity in Oneida Holdings LLC. In summary, wrote in the email how four partners would get 20 percent each, except for Jim Biden, who would get 10 percent. He added a question: “Kept 10 by H for the big man?” One of the recipients of the mail, Anthony Bobulinski, has said that the “big man” referred to Joe Biden and that “H” referred to Hunter. Bobulinski was a guest with Trump during one of the 2020 presidential debates.

But Gillar told the Wall Street Journal in 2020, “I would like to clear up any speculation that former Vice President Biden was involved in the 2017 discussions about our potential corporate structure. I am not aware of any involvement of the former vice president. The activity in question has never generated project revenue.”

Three days after the email was sent, a draft agreement establishing Oneida was circulated. It shows that each partner would receive 20 percent, including Jim Biden. There is no mention of Joe Biden. The company agreement signed on May 22, 2017 had the same assignment. Oneida would be 50 percent owned by another legal entity called SinoHawk. Neither Gillar nor James Biden responded to requests for comment.

The Wall Street Journal said it looked at company data and found no role for Joe Biden. the Washington Post, in a comprehensive report on the CEFC transactions, also found no evidence that Joe Biden personally benefited from or knew any details about the CEFC transactions. The Biden campaign denied at the time that he had any role.

Comer says this deal was for natural gas, but he appears to be referring to another transaction, described below. There is no evidence that this particular deal involved natural gas.

Collins said Comer had made no mistake. “The Committee Republicans have evidence that the Bidens’ deal with CEFC – a company closely affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party – was changed when the Bidens removed their western partners from SinoHawk to keep the company in the family,” she said. Asked to provide the evidence, she would say only that it was “based on whistleblower information provided to Committee Republicans.”

In an Oct. 13 letter to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said an FBI summary of an interview with Bobulinski revealed that the deal was designed to pay the partners for deals that “ intentionally remained uncompensated while Joe Biden was vice president.” The venture failed, but in a separate agreement, Hunter and Jim Biden received nearly $5 million from CEFC, Grassley noted.

“At a time when Americans are facing high energy prices because of this administration’s terrible energy policies, we found evidence that Hunter Biden and Joe Biden were involved in a scheme to try and get China to buy liquefied natural gas.”

— Comer, at the press conference

Hunter Biden said he discussed a $4 million joint venture in which CEFC would produce liquefied natural gas in Louisiana. But the deal fell through when Ye Jianming, the founder and chairman of the Chinese company, was detained in mid-February 2018. The reasons for the arrest were unclear, although Reuters reported that it was related to suspected economic crimes.

In any case, the natural gas deal appears to be separate from Oneida; it involved a Hunter Biden company known as Hudson West III LLC. Joe Biden’s alleged involvement has never been proven.

“Hunter has raised millions of dollars from entities associated with the Chinese government with this deal. In emails obtained by Republicans on the committee, Hunter wanted keys made for Joe Biden and Jill Biden, his office mate. He gave Joe Biden’s personal cell number and called him his partner.”

— Comer, at the press conference

Comer mixes documented facts with innuendo here. The Washington Post found through government records, court documents and bank statements that CEFC and its executives paid $4.8 million to entities controlled by Hunter and Jim Biden. But the purported connection of these deals to Joe Biden remains tenuous. It again depends on a single email – also a description of something that didn’t happen.

In the fall of 2017, Hunter Biden wrote to a building manager from the House of Sweden where he rented office space. “Please have keys made for new office mates,” he wrote, listing Joe Biden, Jill Biden, Jim Biden and Gongwen Dong, whom he called CEFC “envoy.” He also requested that the signage be updated to read “Biden Foundation” and “Hudson West (CEFC US)”.

The email was on the laptop’s hard drive, but was also confirmed by public records released by the Swedish government and first reported in 2021 by Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

But a Biden Foundation representative told The Washington Post that the House of Sweden was never considered as a venue. A spokeswoman for the Swedish authority overseeing the property said the four keys were available, as requested, but Hunter Biden never retrieved them. The sign on the door had not been changed, she said.

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