WASHINGTON — House Republicans demanded Thursday that President Joe Biden prove he loaned his brother money five years ago, a display of how broad their impeachment inquiry has become and how little it’s found so far.
Money transfers between James and Joe Biden have no obvious connection to the main corruption allegation Republicans have pursued this year about the president’s son Hunter Biden’s controversial work for the Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
Republicans haven’t turned up any direct evidence of Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s controversial business dealings, but the check allows them to say they have at last found a “direct payment” to Joe Biden, even if its relevance is unclear.
After obtaining years of bank records through a subpoena, last week the House Oversight Committee homed in on a $200,000 check from James to Joe Biden in March 2018. The check was marked as “loan repayment,” and the White House said that’s all it was.
Even though records suggest an account connected to Joe Biden had previously sent James Biden the same amount of money, committee chair James Comer (R-Ky.) wants more proof of the loan, saying in a letter to the White House on Thursday that no records in the committee’s possession “state that Joe Biden made a large loan payment to his brother.”
Check images and a spreadsheet reflecting wire transfer payments, as HuffPost reported earlier this week, indicate that a fiduciary account used by Joe Biden sent $200,000 to James Biden in January 2018. As Comer noted in his letter on Thursday, however, the records do not “state,” specifically, that the payment was a loan from Joe Biden
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the Oversight Committee’s top Democrat, said in a letter of his own on Thursday that the records are “clear evidence that this transaction was a short-term, interest-free loan between brothers” and accused Comer of running a “baseless and voyeuristic fishing expedition” against the president.
An attorney for James Biden said in a statement on Monday that the check repaid a $200,000 interest-free loan from his brother, but Comer insists he needs more documentary proof.
“If Joe Biden did personally loan James Biden an amount that was later repaid by the $200,000 check, please provide the loan documents, including the loan payment, loan agreement, and any other supporting loan documentation,” Comer wrote Thursday.
White House spokesman Ian Sams told HuffPost Friday that Comer “apparently needs to read the very documents he has in his possession,” citing Raskin’s letter.
Even if it turns out Joe Biden did loan his brother $200,000, Comer said, he contends that the arrangement was still corrupt because James Biden only repaid his brother after receiving a loan for the same sum on the same day from a struggling company that hired him on the basis of his family name and connections.
“Whether it was a loan or not, James Biden’s March 1, 2018, check to Joe Biden aptly demonstrates one way he personally benefited from his family’s shady influence peddling of his name and their access to him,” Comer said.
Comer’s letter also notes that if Joe Biden gave his brother an interest-free loan, it likely would have counted as a gift that has to be reported to the IRS. Joe and Jill Biden’s tax returns for 2018, which showed they earned more than $4 million that year, did not include a gift tax form.
“The current lack of documentation leaves reason to doubt claims that this transaction was repayment for a legal loan,” Comer said.