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Hunter's Years of Personal Grief, Public Missteps Are Focus of House Impeachment Probe

Tuesday, 27 February 2024 06:28 PM EST

As his father stood in the Rose Garden at the White House in the fall of 2015 and announced he would not run for president, Hunter Biden was facing his own crossroads.

It was a deeply emotional and traumatic time for Joe Biden and his close-knit family, still reeling from the death of his oldest son, Beau, that spring, as Donald Trump was making his unexpected entry into U.S. presidential politics.

In deciding to forgo a White House run, then-Vice President Biden was preparing to enter private life for the first time in his long political career, potentially teaching or launching a policy center. Hunter, who had recently agreed to a lucrative position on the board of Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, was working to stay sober, mend his marriage and rebuild from devastating grief.

"As horrible as I feel, I have a feeling of real purpose," he said after his brother's funeral.

It would not last for long. Hunter Biden descended quickly into a Christmas-time relapse in his battle with addiction, his father watched Democrats hand over the White House to Trump after the 2016 election and the family that had built a political legacy in Washington drifted uneasily to an uncertain new chapter.

This fragile period — playing out over several years of very public missteps and private misfortunes — in the business, political and personal life of Hunter Biden and his family is the focus of the U.S. House's long-running, Republican-led Biden impeachment inquiry.

Hunter Biden is expected Wednesday to appear behind closed doors for a private deposition with the House committees leading the probe, apparently eager to fight back against allegations of influence peddling of the family “brand” in his business dealings.

It's a high-profile moment for the president's son, but also for the impeachment inquiry itself, which has been on the hunt for direct evidence of wrongdoing by the president that has remained elusive despite months of probing. Even some Republican lawmakers are backing away from impeaching Joe Biden.

This account of Hunter Biden and his family during this period is drawn from publicly available material, including transcripts of congressional hearing interviews and his memoir — a page-turning account of a family in turmoil and the grip of drug addiction.

At times, it all reads like a movie — a camera crew has documented some of Hunter Biden's visits to Capitol Hill. His lawyer and friend, the Hollywood attorney Kevin Morris, testified in his interview with the House committees that the footage is being made for legal purposes, and any commercial movie-making has not been decided.

“When I first met Hunter, he was emerging from the lowest point in his life,” Morris testified last month, detailing some $5 million in loans he has made since their meeting in 2019 to help pay rent, a car loan, security and other needs for the client he now considers a brother.

A Yale-educated lawyer, Hunter never expected to practice high-powered corporate law. He had met his first wife in college at a Jesuit volunteer program, and only after facing down $160,000 in student loans, a mortgage and their growing young family did he realize, “I had to make money.”

But when his father joined the Obama presidential ticket in 2008, Hunter Biden was forced to abruptly change course, dropping his firm's lobbying clients over political concerns and launching a consulting firm.

“My world was upended,” he wrote in his memoir. “I had to find new work.”

In 2014, Hunter Biden received an enticing offer to serve on the board of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm, that offered a steady check at a time when his work was slipping as he helped care for Beau. It involved global travel — one board meeting was in Norway, another in Monte Carlo.

“Did I make a mistake by taking a seat on the board of Ukrainian gas company? No.” he writes in his memoir. “Would I do it again? No.”

Burisma would become a central counter-argument to Trump's first impeachment in 2019 after Trump disclosed that summer he had asked for “a favor” during a phone call with the new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

House Democrats impeached Trump amid claims his administration had withheld U.S.-approved military aid to Ukraine, which was needed at the time to counter Russian aggression, all while pressuring Zelenskyy to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, a political rival in the 2020 election. Trump was acquitted by the Senate.

At the time, Trump's team led by attorney Rudy Giuliani floated a counter theory that it was Joe Biden who was corrupted by actions he took, including the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor, allegedly to favor his son's work on the Burisma board.

Those claims, which became central to the House GOP's decision to investigate the Bidens, did not progress far largely because the Obama administration and other Western countries made no secret of wanting the prosecutor fired as part of an effort to clean up corruption in Ukraine.

The Burisma claims were further thrown into disarray this month with the arrest of Alexander Smirnov, an FBI informant who had claimed executives associated with Burisma paid $5 million each to Joe and Hunter Biden during that period. Federal prosecutors say Smirnov's allegation was a lie.(Some in the GOP have openly questioned the timing of the latest Smirnov developments.)

The charges against Smirnov were filed by Justice Department special counsel David Weiss, who has separately charged Hunter Biden with firearm and tax violations.

While Hunter Biden's five years at Burisma once figured prominently in the House investigation, the Republicans have veered to other aspects of his business career, interviewing a half-dozen associates including the president's brother, Jim Biden, for potential links to Joe Biden.

In the most explicit testimony, Tony Bobulinski, a former business partner of Hunter Biden, testified two weeks ago that what the Bidens were selling was “the brand” — meaning Joe Biden.

Bobulinksi has been making his claims for years, including voluntarily to the FBI and at a press conference ahead of the second Trump-Biden presidential debate in 2020. He produced for the committee emails and text messages he claims back up his interactions with the Biden family.

Chief among them is a 2017 email in which another associate suggested an equity stake breakdown for the firm Hunter Biden, Bobulinksi and others were starting with a Chinese energy conglomerate. It proposed the equity would be split to include 10% “held for H for the big guy” — with a question mark at the end — an apparent reference to Joe Biden.

The allegations go on, as the committees probe bank records, wire transfers and other aspects of Hunter Biden's business dealings searching for links to his father.

Hunter Biden is remarried now, a father again to a young son, Beau, and working on his sobriety and his paintings. Morris, an avid art enthusiast, testified he has purchased various pieces for more than $875,000.

The Biden impeachment inquiry is continuing, against the backdrop of the 2024 presidential election, in which Biden and Trump are likely heading toward a rematch, and with Russia’s continued threat to the U.S. political process.

Russia intervened in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections in favor of Trump, according to the findings of the U.S. intelligence community and the Justice Department, and did so again in 2020.

While Trump has pushed Republicans to impeach Biden, the House GOP leadership has not said whether they will go through with it.

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer, says he will “continue to follow the facts” intending to "propose legislation to reform federal ethics laws and to determine whether articles of impeachment are warranted.”

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

As his father stood in the Rose Garden at the White House in the fall of 2015 and announced he would not run for president, Hunter Biden was facing his own crossroads.It was a deeply emotional and traumatic time for Joe Biden and his close-knit family, still reeling from...
Hunter Biden impeachment investigation congress testimony republicans
Tuesday, 27 February 2024 06:28 PM
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