Looking at claims about Hunter Biden, and the Senate GOP report that helped fuel them
Hunter Biden, the youngest son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, has become a familiar name in the 2020 presidential campaign. His ties to Burisma, a Ukraninan energy company, have inspired regular attacks from President Donald Trump and his allies. But there's a lot we don't know.Posted — Updated
Hunter Biden, the youngest son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, has become a familiar name in the 2020 presidential campaign. His ties to Burisma, a Ukraninan energy company, have inspired regular attacks from President Donald Trump and his allies.
But there’s a lot we don’t know.
We wanted to take a closer look at the report and some of the claims it has generated.
Background on Hunter Biden and Burisma
A report from Senate Republicans
However, the report also says that "the extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear." The report characterizes at length what it calls the "awkwardness" created by Hunter Biden’s connection to Burisma and its potential for conflict of interest for the vice president. However, the report is also peppered with allegations that rely on what it says are undisclosed, confidential documents.
"The report leans heavily on 100 citations from 14 ‘confidential documents in lengthy passages detailing Hunter Biden’s financial connections to foreign nationals," Politico said. "The documents are actually Suspicious Activity Reports kept by the Treasury Department, in which financial institutions flag transactions but don’t verify whether any wrongdoing has occurred."
Democrats have accused Johnson and Grassley of spreading Russian disinformation and using the investigation, which started in 2019, to counter the House’s impeachment of Trump.
The claim: Hunter Biden got $3.5 million from wife of Moscow ex-mayor
"Feb. 14, 2014, Baturina wired $3.5 million to a Rosemont Seneca Thornton bank account for a ‘Consultancy Agreement,’" the report says. "Rosemont Seneca Thornton is an investment firm co-founded by Hunter Biden."
The report also said that Rosemont Seneca Thorton served as a pass-through for Baturina’s investments in a Chinese-based tech start-up in Buffalo, N.Y.
Hunter Biden’s lawyer George Mesires said Biden did not get $3.5 million.
"Hunter Biden had no interest in and was not a co-founder of Rosemont Seneca Thornton, so the claim that he was paid $3.5 million is false," Mesires said in an email. He did not respond to a request for documents showing that Hunter Biden was not a co-founder. Republican Senate staffers similarly did not respond to requests for proof that Biden had a stake in Rosemont Seneca Thornton.
The claim: Hunter Biden has been linked to a sex trafficking ring
Among the Senate report’s key findings is the suggestion that Hunter Biden paid women involved in a prostitution or human trafficking ring.
"Hunter Biden paid nonresident women who were nationals of Russia or other Eastern European countries and who appear to be linked to an ‘Eastern European prostitution or human trafficking ring,’" the report says.
Like the previous claim about Hunter Biden collecting $3.5 million from the wife of a former Russian mayor, this one is underpinned by undisclosed documents, and the authors of the Senate report lean heavily on language that couches the allegation in language like "appear to be," "alleged," "possible" and "potential."
The report cites "questionable financial transactions involving Hunter Biden, other members of the Biden family, and their associations with foreign nationals" from questionable backgrounds "that have been identified as being consistent with a range of criminal activities, including but not limited to organized prostitution and/or human trafficking."
There is a footnote at this point in the report that says "there is extensive reporting concerning Hunter Biden’s alleged involvement with prostitution services."
However, the report then says that "records on file with the committee do not directly confirm or refute these individual reports."
"They do confirm that Hunter Biden sent thousands of dollars to individuals who have either: 1) been involved in transactions consistent with possible human trafficking; 2) an association with the adult entertainment industry; or 3) potential association with prostitution," the report says. "Some recipients of those funds are Ukraninan and Russian citizens. The records note that it is a documented fact that Hunter Biden has sent funds to non-resident alien women in the United States who are citizens of Russia or Ukraine. The records also note that some of these transactions are linked to what ‘appears to be an Eastern European prostitution or human trafficking ring.’"
It’s not clear whom or what records the report is quoting here.
The report makes no other mentions of human trafficking or prostitution.
We asked the homeland security committee to show us the records cited in the report but did not receive a response. Biden’s campaign also did not respond to a request for comment.
Asked about the human trafficking allegations on a radio show on Sept. 23, Johnson didn’t provide further evidence to support the report’s claims.
"We don’t have a great deal of information on it," he said.
News coverage of the report varied.
"The GOP report did not link (Hunter) Biden in any way to trafficking but suggested that he potentially paid prostitutes, presumably without knowledge, who may have stemmed from such rings," Fox said.
The claim: Hunter Biden introduced Joe Biden to a Ukrainian businessman
The article relies on information from a computer hard drive that the tabloid said it received from Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Also according to the New York Post, a computer repair shop owner in Delaware said he copied the hard drive from a water damaged laptop that was brought into his shop and never retrieved.
The Senate report also doesn’t mention such a meeting.
"They never had a meeting," a spokesman for the campaign told PolitiFact.
On Oct. 18, the New York Times reported that some New York Post reporters withheld their byline from the story over concerns about the article’s credibility.
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