As President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration day approaches, the Republican resistance machine will need some new fuel. The foreign business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter, an old story that was recently given new life, thanks to the revelation this month that there is an ongoing Justice Department investigation into his tax affairs, has the makings of becoming that fuel.
Whether it is January 6, when Congress is set to certify Biden’s Electoral College victory, or January 20, when he is sworn in as president, the “rigged” election narrative will decompose very quickly among the remainder of Republicans not named Donald Trump or Rudy Giuliani.
At that point, elected Republicans will be faced with the reality that their party will be out of the White House for at least the next four years, and they will undoubtedly not be looking to make friends with the incoming Democratic president.
Enter Hunter Biden.
Questions about Hunter Biden’s personal and professional lives have followed Joe Biden for years, especially in the past two as Trump has tried to elevate Hunter Biden into a political scandal. In the final weeks of the campaign, Trump and his allies focused on Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China and Ukraine, hoping to connect Joe Biden to what Trump said was “corrupt” behaviour.
On Election Day, Trump fell short – not only in the presidential race but in making the questions surrounding Hunter Biden into a full-blown scandal.
But the surprise announcement on December 10, when Hunter Biden announced his “tax affairs” were under federal investigation, brought the questions surrounding his foreign business dealings back into the spotlight.
Joe Biden, who reportedly is not a subject of the investigation, has downplayed it, saying he is “proud of” his son and he is “confident” Hunter Biden did nothing wrong. Joe Biden wrote the whole thing off as simply Republicans highlighting Russian disinformation, telling CBS’s Stephen Colbert last week: “I think it’s kind of foul play, but look, it is what it is.”
What it is is a major complication for Biden as he looks to nominate an attorney general who will oversee the Justice Department and, in turn, the investigations into Hunter Biden.
Biden’s incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki told Fox News on Sunday: “He will not be discussing an investigation of his son with any attorney general candidates.”
“He will not be discussing it with anyone he is considering for the role and he will not be discussing it with a future attorney general,” Psaki continued.
Biden added on Tuesday: “I will appoint someone who I expect to enforce the law as written. Not guided by me.”
When asked specifically about Hunter, the elder Biden said:
“I promise you, my Justice Department will be totally on its own in making its judgments about how they should proceed.”
Despite the fact that Trump’s children have been in the crosshairs of scrutiny and accused of serious ethical, if not legal, breaches, Republicans are already making hay of the Hunter Biden federal investigation.
Senator Chuck Grassley, the incoming top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will vet Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee, said on the Senate floor last week, “based on all the facts known to date, Joe Biden has a lot of explaining to do,” and promised to “continue to look into the Biden family matters”.
NEW → Yesterday on the Senate floor, @ChuckGrassley explained the Democratic cover-up of the Hunter Biden investigation.
Check out more here: https://t.co/MdsiFdytU4
— Sen. Grassley Press (@GrassleyPress) December 15, 2020
Senator Lindsey Graham, whose tenure as the chairman of the judiciary committee is ending, told Fox News on Monday: “Hunter Biden’s had all kinds of problems, but I can promise you that what I’m asking for needs to be done. We’re not gonna give the Democrats a pass.”
Some investigative body needs to take a broader view beyond the tax issue.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 21, 2020
There are also no fewer than half a dozen Republican senators who are considered to be potential presidential candidates in 2024, all of whom will be looking to play to the party’s base as well as attempt to pick up where Trump leaves off politically.
“I want to know is Joe Biden involved? … There’s going to be a lot of questions that need to be answered here,” Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, who is considered a possible future White House contender, said after the federal investigation came to light.
Another potential presidential hopeful, Florida Senator Rick Scott, told Fox News last week: “We’ve got to understand, number one: What was Hunter Biden doing in the Ukraine? What was he doing in China? How was Joe Biden involved in these things?”
“Americans deserve the facts,” Scott added. “Whatever the facts are, the facts are. If there’s nothing wrong, then that’s great. But put the facts out there and people can make a decision about it.”
It is not uncommon for a president to be forced to deal with members of the opposite party snowballing a perceived scandal into an avalanche.
The Whitewater scandal dogged Bill Clinton, Barack Obama took heat for Benghazi, and Trump had his Russia investigation. In each case, allegations about each president regarding those controversies became years-long political obsessions by the opposing party, turning previously unknown members of Congress into household names and resulting, at least in the cases of Clinton and Trump, in their impeachments.
With friendly television media – including Fox News for Republicans and MSNBC for Democrats – having an outlet to help fan the flames of “scandal” helps politicians speak to their zealous political bases and raise boatloads of campaign cash. And playing off of politically-attuned viewers’ interest, the networks go wall-to-wall with their coverage of those scandals.
Hunter Biden’s affairs offer that for Republican politicians and pro-Republican media, virtually ensuring he will be a major topic of conversation for Biden’s foes.
The peril for Joe Biden is that the Hunter Biden investigation and political machinations surrounding it become such large distractions they wind up affecting the president-elect as he works to put his agenda into place.
And if that is the way things develop for Joe Biden in the coming months, the questions surrounding his son will certainly turn out to be a lot more than “it is what it is”.