Commentary by Philip Wegmann originally published by RealClearPolitics and RealClearWire
A business associate of Hunter Biden exchanged and reviewed talking points with the office of then-Vice President Biden during the closing days of the Obama administration, a practice that Republicans now point to as “evidence of collusion” between the two camps as they attempted “to spin media stories.”
House Oversight Chairman James Comer sent a letter to the National Archives and Records Administration Wednesday requesting “unrestricted special access” to documents relating to communication between the VP’s office and his son’s business partners.
“Joe Biden never built an ‘absolute wall’ between his family’s business dealings and his official government work,” Comer said in a statement. “His office doors were wide open to Hunter Biden’s associates.”
The wall in question is a reference to President Biden’s promise to keep the private interests of his family and his official government duties separate. But emails between Eric Schwerin, the managing director of Hunter Biden’s consulting firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners, and Kate Bedingfield, a longtime Biden aide, reflect something closer to coordination.
“Will you call me when you get a chance,” Schwerin wrote Bedingfield in the afternoon of Dec. 5, 2015, after passing along a quote attributable to “a Hunter Biden spokesman” to the vice president’s office. Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times were working on stories about the Biden family’s business ties to Ukraine.
“VP signed off on this,” Bedingfield, then communications director for the VP, replied before adding, “will give this quote to both reporters in my name shortly.”
The statement that followed read like so many of the subsequent denials now offered by the Biden White House. It stressed that Hunter Biden was “a private citizen” and that his father Biden had “no involvement” in the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma. It also contained a typo.
“Ah! Thank you,” Bedingfield replied after Schwerin noted the mistake in grammar. Half an hour later, the vice president’s spokeswoman sent an email to the New York Times with the corrected quote – sans typo. Two days later, the vice president was en route to Kyiv.
The emails were first brought to light after America First Legal, a conservative nonprofit started by former Trump aide Stephen Miller, sued Archives for the records. Some of the now-public emails remain redacted, however. Hence the Oversight Committee’s request for full records.
“There is evidence of collusion in the efforts to spin media stories about Burisma’s corruption while Vice President Biden was publicly pushing an anti-corruption agenda in Ukraine,” Comer said in a statement.
“Suspiciously, Hunter Biden’s associate had a media statement on Burisma approved by Vice President Biden himself the same day Hunter Biden ‘called D.C.’ for help with the government pressure facing Burisma,” the Kentucky Republican added in reference to testimony from Devon Archer, a former business associate of Hunter Biden.
It is the latest in the ongoing probe of how the younger Biden made millions of dollars overseas and whether his father, the current president, improperly benefited from those dealings. For months, Republicans have searched for a connection tying the two men together.
The White House has alternately insisted that President Biden never discussed business with his son and also that he was never in a business relationship with him. And there is not yet evidence that the president either profited from Hunter Biden’s overseas business activity or took actions in his official capacity because they would benefit the Bidens.
Whenever asked about the president’s son, the current White House notably and consistently declines to comment, noting that Hunter Biden is a private citizen. Behind the scenes, though, at least during the Obama administration, emails reveal a willingness to work with representatives of the younger Biden to shape press coverage.
And back then, Biden World seemed confident that the issue was contained. “Not a pleasant story,” Bedingfield wrote to colleagues after the New York Times report was published, “but nothing substantively different from the WSJ piece – a couple of voices in Ukraine saying the optics here aren’t good, but no allegations of any wrongdoing.”
Bedingfield later served as White House communications director departing earlier this year as the Oversight Committee’s probe of the president began in earnest.
By Philip Wegmann – This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire