Rep. James Comer, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, held a press conference on Wednesday to detail the latest updates in his investigation of Hunter Biden’s business dealings. The evidence so far does not directly implicate President Biden, but does suggest his son may have profited off of his famous name.
Records of Hunter Biden’s activities also echo the foreign business dealings of the family members of another President. While in office, former President Trump remained connected to the Trump Organization, even as he passed control of the company to his two sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. Though Trump’s team said the business would not enter any new overseas deals during his term, his family members continued to engage in business abroad. Meanwhile, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, continued to pursue financial interests in foreign countries.
“We’re going to look at everything,” Comer said Wednesday when asked if he was also investigating the foreign business dealings of Trump and his family. “Former President Trump’s son-in-law had some business deals, right? … I’m not saying whether I agreed with what he did or not, but I actually know what his businesses are. What are the Biden businesses?”
Here’s what to know about the conflict-of-interest questions that have been raised by the foreign business dealings of Trump family members, and how they compare to what’s known about Hunter Biden’s ventures:
Donald Trump Jr.
When Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, he said he would leave his real estate business, the Trump Organization, to be run by others, primarily his sons, Donald Jr., and Eric. Throughout his four years in office, Trump’s continued connection to the Trump Organization drew outrage and scrutiny from Democrats and ethics watchdogs, who argued he was violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution that prohibits a president from illegally profiting from his business while in office.
While his father was in office, Trump Jr. traveled to Asia to promote the Trump Organization’s projects. On a business trip to India in 2018, he appeared with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and flirted with giving a policy speech, but ultimately decided not to as his father faced criticisms that his family’s business dealings overseas could affect his foreign policy approach.
On a trip to Indonesia in 2019 to tout two planned Trump-branded luxury resorts, Trump Jr. defended his continued involvement in the family business amid allegations of conflicts of interest. A year before, the conglomerate of his business partner, Hary Tanoesoedibjo, had announced it was receiving half a billion dollars from an arm of the Chinese government to build a theme park. Tanoesoedibjo, himself the leader of an Indonesian political party, said the Trump resorts were unconnected and not backed by Chinese funding.
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Even before his father was elected President, Donald Trump Jr. was a focus of controversy for his decision to take part in an infamous meeting with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower, which Donald Trump later admitted was intended to help the campaign get dirt on Hillary Clinton. It is illegal for campaigns to accept help from a foreign government or from foreign nationals. Special counsel Robert Mueller later investigated that meeting, and wrote in his report on his investigation that “the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful.”
Eric Trump served alongside his brother as a Trump Organization executive while his father was in office and while both men sometimes attended campaign and official events. As allegations about Hunter Biden swirled in 2019, Eric Trump said his family “got out of all international business.” That wasn’t true, however. The same year, he issued a celebratory tweet for a “new phase of development” at a Trump property in Scotland.
Ivanka Trump served as an adviser to the president during her father’s administration and had a West Wing office. Yet she continued to own her own clothing brand for a year and a half while serving in the White House before shutting it down in 2018. The company depended on a foreign workforce, with production done in countries like China and Indonesia.
That decision came after she received several trademarks for businesses in China around the same time her father said he was working to help protect jobs at a Chinese telecommunications company. Experts told the New York Times in 2018 that the timing did not seem to be unusual, but suggested that her famous name may have benefitted her in the process.
Like his wife, Ivanka, Jared Kushner also served as a senior adviser to Donald Trump during his presidency. Trump’s son-in-law was deeply involved in the administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East, befriending the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and attempting to broker peace in the region.
But Kushner was also involved in business deals in the region during this period. In 2017, his family’s real estate company got $30 million from Menora Mivtachim, one of Israel’s largest financial institutions. It was just one of the deals the company made with connections to the region. The same year, Kushner’s sister promoted her family’s New Jersey building while in Beijing, touting special investment visas to Chinese potential investors.
The next summer, Brookfield Asset Management made a deal to pay 99 years of rent on a Manhattan skyscraper that Kushner’s family’s real estate company owned. One of Brookfield’s investors was the Qatar Investment Authority. The company said Qatar did not know about the deal before it was made public. Kushner’s family had previously sought a deal on the building with a Chinese firm.
Kushner’s business in the Middle East continued after the Trump presidency. Soon after he departed the White House, a fund led by the Saudi crown prince invested $2 billion in Kushner’s private equity firm, while funds in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar invested hundreds of millions of dollars. Another company partly owned by Kushner received Saudi funds as well. The deals have drawn criticism for, at minimum, creating the appearance of Kushner receiving potential payback for his efforts while in the White House.
Like Donald Trump Jr., Kushner’s meetings with Russian contacts before the election also came under scrutiny. In addition to participating in the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Trump Jr., Kushner also spoke multiple times to the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign.
President Joe Biden’s son Hunter has worked as a lawyer, a lobbyist and investor. His business connections and history of drug addiction are fodder for cable news appearances and committee investigations now that Republicans hold the gavel in the House. Hunter Biden served on the board of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings from 2014 to 2019 and struck multimillion-dollar deals with a Chinese company. There’s no public information directly linking Joe Biden to Hunter Biden’s business transactions.
What is known about Hunter Biden’s business deals with Ukrainian and Chinese companies creates an impression that he was making a lot of money off the prestige of being Joe Biden’s son, but there isn’t evidence that Hunter Biden’s business transactions have influenced decisions that Joe Biden made as Vice President or as President. There is also no clear evidence that money from Hunter Biden’s business dealings ever made their way to Joe Biden’s accounts. House Republicans are promising to continue their investigation through additional subpoenas.
Hunter Biden is also reportedly the subject of criminal investigations into his tax filings and a statement he made on a form to purchase a handgun. If prosecutors charge Hunter Biden with tax evasion or filing a false return, he could face fines and jail time.
—Brian Bennett contributed reporting
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