US House Republicans request documents in Biden family probe

The requests come a day after a House oversight committee questioned Twitter executives over a story about Biden’s son.

Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden (right), son of US President Joe Biden (left), has a received a formal letter from a House oversight committee requesting documents in his possession [File: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo]

Republicans in the United States House of Representatives have continued their investigation into the family of Democratic President Joe Biden, making their first official requests for documents related to his son’s and brother’s foreign business pursuits.

“If President Biden is compromised by deals with foreign adversaries and they are impacting his decision making, this is a threat to national security,” James Comer, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, said in a statement on Thursday.

Accusing the Biden family of “influence peddling”, Comer, a Republican from Kentucky, issued formal letters to son Hunter Biden and his business partner Eric Schwerin.

A third was also sent to the president’s brother James Biden, with all three letters requesting a broad range of materials, from financial activity and scheduling documents to communications with specified individuals.

The requests also asked that James and Hunter Biden turn over any materials “designated classified“.

A lawyer for Hunter Biden pushed back against the scope of the investigation in a letter to the committee on Thursday, calling the requests “a sweeping attempt to collect an expansive array of documents and communications from President Biden and his family”.

The lawyer, Abbe Lowell, also questioned whether the committee had “a legitimate legislative purpose” for investigating a “private citizen” like Hunter Biden. He dismissed Comer’s accusations as “inaccurate and baseless conclusions under the guise of a real investigation”.

In the statement accompanying Thursday’s document requests, Comer had accused members of the family of having “attempted to sell access” to Biden’s political career and connections.

Comer claimed to have evidence that family members engaged with “individuals who were connected to the Chinese Communist Party”, though none was provided with Thursday’s statement.

The requests come a day after the House Oversight and Accountability Committee questioned former executives from the social media company Twitter over a decision to temporarily block a story about Hunter Biden from being shared on the platform.

The article was published by the New York Post in October 2020, mere weeks before voters were set to cast their ballots in a heated presidential race between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Biden, a former vice president.

It detailed emails allegedly retrieved from Hunter Biden’s laptop, showing communication between the president’s son and an adviser to a Ukrainian energy company he had previously worked with.

Republicans took the emails to be evidence of corruption on the part of the younger Biden, with the Post story suggesting a possible conflict of interest.

Twitter initially took steps to prevent users from posting the story on its platform or spreading it via direct message, saying the emails in the article could run afoul of its policy on sharing hacked materials. The story was also unverified at the time, leading other platforms, including Facebook, to likewise limit its distribution.

But Twitter’s reaction sparked a backlash among Republicans, who considered the limitations akin to censorship. Twitter ultimately reversed its policy, with then-CEO Jack Dorsey later tweeting that blocking the article with “zero context” was “unacceptable”.

“You exercised an amazing amount of clout and power over the entire American electorate by even holding [the article] hostage for 24 hours and then reversing your policy,” Arizona Representative Andy Biggs told the former Twitter executives on Wednesday.

All three were subpoenaed to appear before the committee. They included Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety; Vijaya Gadde, the platform’s former chief legal officer; and James Baker, its ex-deputy general counsel.

Roth admitted that “Twitter erred in this case”, saying the company had hoped to “avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016”, when Russian hackers allegedly attempted to interfere with the US elections, including through the spread of misinformation.

Democrats, meanwhile, called their own witness: Anika Collier Navaroli, who used to work on Twitter’s content moderation team. She had previously testified before the now-disbanded January 6 committee, which investigated the deadly 2021 Capitol attack.

On Wednesday, Navaroli told the hearing that Twitter had altered its own policies to accommodate the Republican-led Trump White House.

“Twitter’s leadership bent and broke their own rules in order to protect some of the most dangerous speech on the platform,” Navaroli said. She also alleged that the Trump White House had reached out about deleting a tweet from model Chrissy Teigen, after she insulted the Republican leader on the platform.

The White House under Biden has called the Republican investigations into the president’s family a “political stunt”.

But with Republicans newly in control of the House of Representatives as of last month, GOP leaders continue to investigate the Biden family, as well as allegations of bias against conservatives, both on social media and in the government itself.

Thursday marked the inaugural public meeting of a House committee dedicated to probing claims about the “weaponisation” of the federal government against Republicans.

Led by Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, the committee revisited claims of partisan bias, citing incidents that unfolded during the previous administration, including “anti-Trump” text messages sent by agents in the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Democrats, however, responded that it was the Republican party itself that was weaponising government for partisan aims.

“A serious bipartisan committee focused on the weaponisation of the government would zero in quickly on the Trump administration itself, which brought weaponisation to frightening new levels across the board,” Democrat Jamie Raskin remarked.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies