Biden impeachment: How to understand Hunter Biden's role

Democrats admit that the president’s son acted unethically but say his father was never involved.

Joe Biden with his son Hunter Biden
Then-Vice President Biden and his son Hunter at a basketball game between Georgetown University and Duke University in 2010. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Hunter Biden, the president’s son, is at the center of the Republican effort to impeach President Biden.

Republicans allege, but have yet to prove, that the president was involved in his son's foreign business deals.

Democrats now admit that Hunter Biden acted unethically in using his family name to make millions, but insist that his father was not involved, did not profit, and that Joe Biden did not change U.S. policy to help his son during his time as vice president.

Here’s what we know so far about what Hunter Biden did, what Republicans are alleging and what evidence there is for the GOP’s claims.

Allegations that President Biden lied about his son

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in announcing the impeachment inquiry Tuesday, claimed that President Biden “did lie to the American people about his own knowledge of his family's foreign business dealings.”

This is in reference to comments Biden made in each of the two presidential debates he had with then-President Donald Trump in the fall of 2020.

In the first debate, on Sept. 29, 2020, Trump said to Biden: “Once you became vice president, he [Hunter Biden] made a fortune in Ukraine, in China, in Moscow and various other places.”

“That is simply not true,” Biden said. “My son ... like a lot of people we know at home, had a drug problem. He’s overtaken it. He’s, he’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.”

Donald Trump and Joe Biden
Donald Trump and Joe Biden in their final presidential debate, Oct. 22, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Rueters)

“But why was he given tens of millions of dollars?” Trump asked.

“He wasn’t given tens of millions of dollars,” Biden said. “That was totally discredited.”

Read more on Yahoo News: Biden struggled as plea deal for son fell apart, via Deseret News

Biden referred to comments by Sen. Mitt Romney a week prior, in which the Utah Republican dismissed a Senate Republican investigation into Hunter Biden as “a political exercise” that was “not the legitimate role of government or Congress.”

A central claim of that Republican report was that Russian billionaire Elena Baturina had paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in 2014. Devon Archer, Hunter’s former business partner, told Congress recently that the younger Biden was not involved in that transaction.

Nonetheless, in the second debate, on Oct. 22, 2020, Biden was asked by moderator Kristen Welker whether Hunter’s work “in China and for a Ukrainian energy company when you were vice president” might have been “inappropriate or unethical.”

“Nothing was unethical,” Biden responded. “My son has not made money in terms of this thing about — what are you talking about — China. I have not had it. The only guy that made money from China is this guy [Donald Trump]. He’s the only one. Nobody else has made money from China.”

But the Washington Post reported in 2022 that a Chinese energy conglomerate, CEFC, paid entities controlled by Hunter Biden $4.8 million between 2017 and 2018, after Joe Biden left the vice presidency, for consulting and legal advice.

Vice President Joe Biden with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden and son Hunter Biden
Vice President Joe Biden with his granddaughter Finnegan and son Hunter at the airport in Beijing in 2013. (Ng Han Guan/Reuters/Pool)

In court this past July, Hunter Biden acknowledged making roughly this sum of money in deals with business partners in China and Ukraine, and these figures were included in his plea deal agreement.

That plea deal fell apart, and Hunter is now facing the likelihood of criminal prosecution for tax evasion and felony gun charges.

Asked about President Biden’s inaccurate statements regarding his son’s income, a Biden aide told the Post that in 2020, Joe Biden was “addressing a barrage of false attacks by Donald Trump who repeatedly lied about the Bidens.”

McCarthy claims a ‘culture of corruption’

McCarthy on Tuesday decried a “culture of corruption” around President Biden.

So far, however, the only examples of possible corruption have involved Hunter Biden.

McCarthy cited a $20 million figure, and said “Biden family members and associates” received that much in foreign deals. Closer examinations of bank records have indicated that Hunter Biden was paid about $7 million overall, with some money going to James Biden, the president’s younger brother, and Hallie Biden, the widow of the president’s late son, Beau.

McCarthy mentioned two small dinners in D.C., in 2014 and 2015, that Joe Biden attended with Hunter and a few of Hunter’s business partners. One dinner was attended by an official with Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that hired Hunter to its board.

Republicans have for years put forward the theory that when the then vice president pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, it was intended to help Burisma avoid a corruption investigation.

Read more on Yahoo News: McCarthy’s impeachment effort wins over reluctant Republicans, via Associated Press

But the evidence has consistently pointed the other direction, to the conclusion that Shokin was not investigating corruption, that Biden was implementing the policy view of the broader U.S. and international view that he needed to go because of this shortcoming, and that getting rid of Shokin increased the chances that Burisma would be investigated.

Archer testified to Congress that Hunter Biden was selling the “illusion of access” to his business partners, and that he never heard Joe Biden discuss business with his son or with any of Hunter’s business partners.

A bribe?

McCarthy also mentioned allegations by a “trusted FBI informant” who has claimed there was a bribe of $5 million for Joe Biden and $5 million for Hunter Biden by Burisma co-founder Mykola Zlochevsky.

House Republicans leaked a form showing such an allegation. But House Democrats have said the FBI closed the investigation due to insufficient evidence.

Read more on Yahoo News: White House calls impeachment inquiry baseless, via Reuters

Zlochevsky, in 2019, said that “no one from Burisma ever had any contacts with VP Biden or people working for him” during Hunter Biden’s time on the Burisma board.

Archer also poured cold water on the bribery allegation.

“If someone were to conclude from this that this is evidence, this Form 1023, is evidence that Joe Biden was bribed by Mykola Zlochevsky, would you disagree with that conclusion?” Archer was asked during his congressional deposition.

“Yeah, I would,” Archer said.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., an Oversight and Accountability Committee member, arrives for a deposition of Devon Archer, July 31. (Kevin Wurm/Reuters)