In his first comments to the press about the impeachment inquiry launched this week, Speaker Kevin McCarthy spoke about “a picture of a culture of corruption” painted by House Republican committees investigating Hunter Biden and his father, referencing a handful of allegations dug up over the course of hearings and interviews.
At the heart of Republicans’ allegations are claims that Biden, as vice president, improperly benefitted from his son’s foreign business partners and received millions in secret bribes. Some of the allegations involve reiterations of claims made by Rudy Giuliani during his attempt to dig up dirt on the Biden family — an effort which ultimately led to the first impeachment of Trump.
The impeachment inquiry announced by McCarthy comes after months of investigations by the House Oversight and Judiciary committees into Hunter Biden’s business dealings since Republicans took control of the House in the 2022 midterms. Those inquiries have uncovered a number of thinly-sourced claims about the Bidens, but haven’t yielded much in the way of evidence implicating the then-vice president in any crimes.
Nevertheless, GOP leaders have spent months alleging they can prove Biden is a felonious traitor. “I am committed to ensuring that we uncover the truth about what I believe will prove to be the biggest political corruption and criminal scandal in our nation’s history,” Rep. Elise Stefanik said in the wake of McCarthy’s announcement on Tuesday.
So what are the main claims against the Bidens that are likely to fuel the Republican impeachment push and what’s behind them? Here’s a guide:
What kind of “influence peddling” is Hunter Biden accused of?
Some of the most frequently cited testimony of alleged Biden “influence peddling” cited by House Republicans comes from Devon Archer, a former business partner of Hunter Biden at the private equity firm they co-founded, Rosemont Seneca Partners.
House Oversight Chairman James Comer hailed Archer, who was convicted in 2022 in connection with an unrelated scheme to defraud a Native American tribe, as a potential “hero” of Republicans investigations into the Biden family. His allegations cast the former president in an unflattering light but fell short of expectations he would offer evidence of wrongdoing.
Archer testified before the Oversight Committee in July, claiming that a “key component” of Hunter Biden’s involvement with foreign companies like Ukraine’s Burisma Holdings, where he sat on the board, was using his family name as a “signal” and a “brand” to potential business partners that helped with “opening doors.”
Archer also told Republicans on the committee that while Joe Biden was vice president he attended dinners with Hunter’s Russian and Kazakh business partners in Washington, D.C., and that Hunter would sometimes call his father on speakerphone while attending dinners with business associates.
In other words: Hunter Biden was selling access to Joe. And through his calls and drop-bys, the then-VP tacitly endorsed his son’s play.
The problem for Comer and Republicans is that Archer testified that Hunter’s use of his family name and proximity to his vice president father never resulted in any official actions taken on their behalf. Pressed repeatedly by House Democrats, Archer said he knew of no instances in which the vice president discussed business with his son or took any official actions on behalf of his associates. Conversations between Biden and his son’s associates, Archer claimed, were limited to anodyne small talk.
Under questioning from Democrats, Archer also testified that Hunter and his father spoke more frequently at this time, following Beau Biden’s cancer diagnosis and death in 2015.
Who says Biden took bribes?
The most serious allegation levied by Republicans, that then-Vice President Joe Biden received a $5 million bribe from Burima, is also among the most thinly sourced, coming from a tipster who reiterated claims dug up by Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine.
In 2020, a confidential human source told the FBI that Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky had claimed that the Bidens coerced him to pay them $10 million in bribes — $5 million to Hunter Biden and $5 million to his father — in order to get then-Vice President Biden to pressure Ukraine to fire a prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was allegedly investigating the company. The source also claimed that Zlochevsky had made 17 secret recordings of his conversations with the Bidens, two with Joe and 15 with Hunter.
Investigators found a record of the tip in 2020 in the course of investigating allegations against the Biden family brought by Giuliani. Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, says the Justice Department, under Attorney General Bill Barr, investigated the tipster’s claims, “including reviewing suspicious activity reports and interviewing at least one confidential human source,” but closed the investigation eight months later, citing a lack of evidence. Zlochevsky has also denied ever receiving assistance from then Vice President Biden.
Why is a key Republican witness “missing”?
House Republicans have also endorsed allegations by Gal Luft, an Israeli-American businessman who worked for CEFC, a Chinese energy company who engaged in joint ventures with Hunter Biden, netting the vice presidential scion millions of dollars.
Luft claims that the Chinese intelligence-linked officials funneled money to the Biden family and that Hunter Biden had a secret one-eyed FBI mole who provided early warning to CEFC founder Ye Jianming and associate Patrick Ho that they were under investigation by the Bureau. (Ho was subsequently convicted of bribery and money laundering in connection with business ventures in Chad and Uganda).
Rep. Comer has called Luft a “whistleblower” and “a very credible witness,” but Luft is also an international fugitive following an indictment this summer by the Justice Department in July. Federal prosecutors charged Luft with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China, arms trafficking Chinese weapons to Libya, violating U.S. sanctions with Iranian oil deals, and lying to the FBI. Luft was arrested in Cyprus on a U.S. extradition request but fled while out on bail.
Luft claimed to have shared his information about the Bidens in a 2019 meeting with the FBI during an interview in Brussels. Prosecutors charged him with lying to the FBI agents about his knowledge of CEFC’s business dealing with Iran during that same interview. Luft has since claimed that the charges against him are political retaliation for his allegations against the Bidens. Democrats have asked Rep. Comer to investigate whether Luft’s allegations were made in “furtherance of the CCP’s efforts to undermine U.S. security interests and the President of the United States.”
The inquiry comes at a precarious time for McCarthy, who has long faced pressure from the right flank of his caucus to impeach Biden, as well as from former President Trump, who began asking Republicans how many times they planned to impeach Biden on the eve of their 2022 midterm victory.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a persistent critic of McCarthy, argued forcefully for the inquiry but said that the speaker’s decision to move ahead with impeachment won’t affect far-right Republicans’ push to get drastic spending cuts as the federal government faces a potential shutdown over the House’s inability to pass a budget.
But a number of Republicans have expressed unease with the impeachment push. The White House, keen to seize on doubts within the House GOP, issued a memo to the media highlighting quotes from Republican members like Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) who have said that evidence justifying impeachment “doesn’t exist right now.”
Despite those evidentiary concerns, members in vulnerable districts appear to be sticking by McCarthy’s impeachment crusade.