WASHINGTON — A series of Hunter Biden’s former associates have told Republicans they never saw Joe Biden participating in his son’s money-making schemes, undercutting the impeachment inquiry against the president.
On Tuesday, Republicans finally interviewed someone sympathetic to their cause: Tony Bobulinski, a former Hunter Biden business partner who wound up as Donald Trump’s guest during a presidential debate in October 2020.
“Joe Biden was more than a participant in and beneficiary of his family’s business,” Bobulinski said in an opening statement. “He was an enabler, despite being buffered by a complex scheme to maintain plausible deniability.”
Bobulinski said he “personally met with Joe Biden in Los Angeles in May of 2017 multiple times to discuss the broad contours of our business dealings” and that Joe Biden was aware of his son’s financial relationship with a Chinese energy conglomerate.
Democrats said that after an hour of questioning, however, Bobulinski could not substantiate his claims.
“Notwithstanding all of the flowery allegations, on questioning from the Republicans, he said that he had two conversations with President Biden — ever — and neither one of them had anything to do, or any relation, or any discussion of any of these business dealings,” Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) told reporters.
Bobulinski burst onto the political scene in 2020 when he claimed, in a press conference arranged by the Trump campaign, that Joe Biden participated in his son’s work and that an email showed business partners envisioned an equity stake for “the big guy,” meaning Joe Biden.
Contemporaneous reporting by The Wall Street Journal, however, showed that other emails from participants in the scheme did not contemplate a role for the elder Biden, and the author of “the big guy” email told the Journal that Joe Biden wasn’t involved. The deal wound up collapsing.
In an interview with lawmakers last month, another party to the failed deal, Rob Walker, said the email was hypothetical and “was never followed through within any agreement.” Walker said he did not consider Bobulinski credible and that he wouldn’t do business with him again. In an earlier interview with FBI agents that was secretly recorded, in 2020, Walker described Bobulinski as a “a bully and an asshole.”
Goldman said that in addition to being political, Bobulinski is “bitter” and has an “ax to grind” against the Bidens because he was cut out of a separate transaction that paid Hunter Biden millions. In his opening statement, Bobulinski seemed to confirm Goldman’s characterization, saying Hunter Biden and his uncle, James Biden, “knowingly and aggressively defrauded me.”
Bobulinski also complained that federal law enforcement “appears to have been singularly unwilling to speak with me or to hear the facts we will be discussing today,” in an apparent reference to Republican claims that the Justice Department has coddled the president’s son. (Hunter Biden faces federal charges for illegally owning a gun and failing to pay his taxes on time.)
But Bobulinski did speak to federal law enforcement in 2020 when FBI agents interviewed in the bureau’s D.C. office. According to the FBI’s summary of the interview, which Republicans released last year as part of their investigation into the Justice Department’s investigation of Hunter Biden, Bobulinski told the agents he wanted to give them three mobile phones with relevant material. When the agents said they would make copies of the entire contents of the phones, Bobulinski got cold feet, saying he was reluctant to share personal information.
Under questioning from Democrats, Bobulinski described certain FBI agents, The Wall Street Journal, and former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson as “liars,” according to Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.). Hutchinson previously said she recalled seeing Bobulinski, who was wearing a ski mask, meet with former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows at a Trump campaign event.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said Bobulinski had not coordinated with Trump’s campaign, contrary to a line of questioning she said Democrats pursued in the deposition.
“He was not coordinating with the Trump campaign, did not speak to anyone on the campaign, had no idea if he’d ever talked to anyone on the campaign, has only shook hands with President Trump, has not spoken with him, yet this is their narrative they’re trying to pull,” Greene said.
Bobulinski also offered a softer version of the corruption allegation against Joe Biden, one that Republicans have used when not struggling to substantiate a specific bribery claim: He suggested it was inappropriate for family members to trade on their last name, something nonpartisan ethics experts have also said.
“The only reason any of these international business transactions took place — with tens of millions of dollars flowing directly to the Biden family — was because Joe Biden was in high office,” Bobulisnki said. “The Biden family business was Joe Biden, period.”
Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) suggested her Democratic colleagues had been overly polite in their descriptions of Bobulinski.
“He is completely wacky,” Crockett said.