Hunter Biden is prime target if Republicans win Congress

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 in 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.

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

As Republicans prepare for an eventual return to power amid growing hopes of winning the House and Senate in the November elections, they are laying the groundwork to make Hunter Biden and his business connections a central target of their lobbying efforts. investigation and monitoring.

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 attorneys and former Justice Department officials to help with the investigations, the people said.

The White House, in turn, is gearing up to defend the 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 in office. keys in the campaign or in the White House.

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 membership on the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company and his efforts to strike deals in China have a long history. raised questions about whether he’s traded on his dad’s public 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.

Republican leaders see Hunter Biden as a unifying force who can bring together different GOP factions 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.

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.

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 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 Trump’s reference to “laptop from hell,” said “there are 50 former national intelligence people who said that what he told me accused is a Russian factory”. This statement went further than the letter, although it was immediately and widely reported to have called the laptop misinformation. Trump and many Republicans have accused Biden of invoking Russia to avoid scrutiny of his son.

No evidence has emerged from 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, GOP Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who in 2020 published a report on Hunter Biden and his work on behalf of Ukrainian gas company Burisma, recently made a presentation to the Senate setting out allegations they believe the media ignored. , but the Justice Department and Congress need to 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 already reassigned communications staff to prepare to respond to GOP inquiries into Hunter Biden and other likely targets, including the origins of the coronavirus and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Democrats should argue that Hunter Biden is ultimately a distraction for most voters preoccupied with national issues. The House’s current 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.”

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Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.

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