News Thursday of payments from a Chinese Communist Party-linked company to members of President Joe Biden’s family amounts to a potential case for bribery, an impeachable offense under the Constitution.
The House Oversight Committee revealed that in 2017, China’s State Energy HK Limited sent $3 million to a company controlled by family associate Robert Walker, who in turn distributed funds to members of Biden’s family: his surviving son, Hunter; his brother, James; his daughter-in-law, Hallie; and an unknown “Biden.”
State Energy HK Limited was linked to CEFC China Energy, whose chairman, Ye Jianming, did business with Hunter Biden. CEFC was also involved in an abandoned joint venture with the Biden family in which someone referred to as the “big guy,” and presumed to be then-former Vice President Biden, was to have a 10% stake.
It is not clear what goods or services, if any, were provided in exchange for these payments.
Hunter Biden’s legal team issued a statement, claiming that he had engaged in a “legitimate” private business venture with a Chinese company: “As part of that joint venture, Hunter received his portion of good faith seed funds which he shared with his uncle, James Biden, and Hallie Biden, with whom he was involved with at the time, and sharing expenses.”
It was not clear what, exactly, that “joint venture” was, or how it was arranged.
Hunter Biden’s overseas business ventures had been recognized as early as 2015 as a potential conflict of interest for his father. Diplomats and journalists questioned Hunter Biden’s appointment to the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, where he earned $83,333 per month, despite lacking relevant expertise, while his father was in office.
Those concerns were brushed aside, however, by the vice president’s office, and the issue was never resolved. Hunter Biden also connected other foreign business associates with his father, including Chinese associates.
The criminal statute of bribery describes giving “anything of value” to an official to “influence” him or her in performing any “official act.” The fact that the “thing of value” might have flowed to Biden’s friends and family, rather than to Biden himself, would not absolve him — and there is evidence that the senior Biden benefited from his family’s gains.
China’s desire to “influence” is clear; it is less clear what “act” Biden did, or did not do.
However, as Democrats reminded us again and again, throughout both Trump impeachment investigations and trials, it is not necessary that a criminal statute be violated for the president to be impeached and removed.
Many scholars say that a president can be impeached only for acts committed after taking office. But Democrats undermined that standard — not only by arguing that Trump could be impeached for “emoluments” as soon as he took office, but also by holding a second Senate trial for Trump even after he had left office in 2021.
And in this case, it could well be argued that Biden’s foreign policy is an ongoing act affected by past financial benefit.
Bribery is one of two acts — the other is treason — mentioned explicitly by the Constitution as impeachable offenses.
Prior to Thursday, the evidence existed on Hunter Biden’s laptop. Now, however, evidence has emerged from the U.S. Treasury.
The House Oversight Committee should turn its investigation into a full impeachment inquiry, with a congressional vote and all attending subpoena powers. No one is above the law.