After years of convoluted attempts by Republicans and right-wing media to somehow prove that China had compromised President Joe Biden via his son Hunter Biden’s business interests, Democrats revealed on Wednesday that China directed millions of dollars straight to Donald Trump’s businesses while he was serving as president.
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee detailed the transactions in an extensive new report titled “White House for Sale: How Princes, Prime Ministers, and Premiers Paid Off President Trump.” Based on records obtained through litigation, the report finds that the government of China and two state-owned entities spent at least $5,572,548 at Trump Tower in New York City and the Trump International Hotels in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, Nevada.
The report also finds that “the ability of Trump family businesses to secure trademarks in China improved markedly and rapidly after Trump entered office,” describes these payments and similar ones to Trump-owned businesses from other countries as unconstitutional “foreign emoluments,” and links the payments to how “Mr. Trump inexplicably took positions favorable to specific Chinese interests” as president.
As The New York Timesnoted in its writeup, “the transactions … offer concrete evidence that the former president engaged in the kind of conduct that House Republicans have labored, so far unsuccessfully, to prove that President Biden did as they work to build an impeachment case against him.”
Indeed, the right has tried to damage Biden’s political standing by suggesting that he had been compromised by foreign payments to his son’s businesses since at least 2018, when conservative activist Peter Schweizer tried to repeat his success in damaging Hillary Clinton’s campaign. While such claims have collapsed time and time again, they’ve nonetheless become the heart of Republicans’ ludicrous push to impeach Joe Biden.
They’ve also led right-wing media figures to offer comments that seem comically detached from reality given the direct payments detailed in the Democratic report. Commentators have cited payments to Hunter Biden’s businesses as evidence of “the real Biden crimes, potentially treasonous corruption charges after years of selling Joe Biden's power all over the world, including places like China,” said that “we have to know why and where is the president compromised” given that “more money is flowing into the Bidens' bank accounts from China than all the other countries,” and argued that if Joe Biden “can be compromised by the likes of China,” that would make “Watergate look like a smash-and-grab.”
The right’s inept efforts to paint Joe Biden as compromised by China
The insinuations in Schweizer’s book spawned major lines of attack from Rudy Giuliani, John Solomon, Sean Hannity, and other Trumpists that revolved around the bogus conspiracy theory that Joe Biden had taken corrupt action in Ukraine when he was vice president due to his son’s position with a Ukrainian company. Trump’s obsession with this falsehood led him to try to leverage U.S. military aid to Ukraine to get that country’s president to announce an investigation into the Bidens, yielding Trump’s first impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in 2019.
The attacks took on new urgency and refocused on Hunter Biden’s business interests in China in the waning days of the 2020 presidential campaign, when Trump and Fox tried to turn disgruntled former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski into a household name. Bobulinski had alleged that Joe Biden had met with him in 2017 as part of a joint business venture involving Bobulinski, Hunter Biden, and Chinese oil company CEFC China Energy Co.
Right-wing outlets desperately trumpeted the Bobulinski story even as less credulous reporting revealed that the venture reportedly “never received proposed funds from the Chinese company or completed any deals” and corporate records “show no role for Joe Biden,” who denied any role in the business and was in any case neither in public office nor running for one at the time. And Bobulinski himself acknowledged that when they met, Joe Biden did not ask about the proposed deal.
The right’s Hunter Biden push failed to lift Trump to victory in 2020. But they responded with more of the same, spending the first years of Joe Biden’s administration trying to damage his political standing with similar attacks. And when Republicans won the House in 2022, they pledged to follow through with investigations into what Trumpists like Hannity termed the “Biden Crime Family.”
The House Republican investigations produced a series of reports detailing tangential issues to smear Joe Biden that soared on right-wing media outlets and crashed everywhere else.
In one particularly farcical case, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer alleged that a Hunter Biden business entity “made direct monthly payments to Joe Biden” after it “received payments from Chinese-state linked companies & other shady entities,” which purportedly proved that “Joe Biden knew & benefitted from his family's business schemes."
Fox host Jesse Watters, over onscreen text that read “China Paid Hunter’s Company, Who Then Paid Joe,” said this showed that “China, after being threatened by Hunter, wired millions of dollars to him, and then Hunter started sending his dad payments.” For Hannity, Comer had revealed that “not only did Joe Biden discuss his son's business ventures, but he also received direct payments from one of Hunter's corporations.”
In reality, Joe Biden took over many of his son’s expenses during a period when Hunter was in the depths of drug addiction and Joe Biden was out of office. That included buying his son a truck to use. Hunter Biden made three payments, each for $1,380, to repay his father for the initial payments on the truck before taking over future payments directly.
This was happening at the same time the Chinese government was trying to curry favor with Trump — the sitting president — by making payments directly to the companies he owned and that his sons oversaw. And those revelations from the House Democratic report are the tip of the iceberg as far as corruption during Trump’s presidency is concerned.
While Fox shills like Watters have been contorting the facts to declare Joe Biden is “a money laundering operation for foreign nationals,” they’ve curiously missed the massive influence peddling that happened right before their eyes. I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to change — as of posting, Fox had not mentioned the Democratic report.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.