When Joe Biden was Vice President, he used multiple email addresses. While members of the public might have guessed they could reach Barack Obama's running mate at, say, firstname.lastname@example.org, he often used email accounts under aliases like Robert Peters and JRB Ware. Biden was following a common practice among senior government officials hoping to thwart hackers, as well as prevent spammers from guessing their address and clogging their inbox, according to a White House official.
Now House Republicans, who have spent months trying and failing to show that Joe Biden was involved in his son Hunter Biden's overseas business dealings, want the National Archives to hand over more than 5,000 messages from Biden's vice presidency that relate to those email addresses, thinking those messages might reveal something new.
On Aug. 17, Rep. James Comer, the Kentucky Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee, wrote to the head of the National Archives, Colleen Shogan, to ask her to give the committee any documents where Joe Biden corresponded using the names Robert Peters, Robin Ware and JRB Ware. In that letter, Comer said that the committee wants the information to "craft legislative solutions aimed at deficiencies it has identified in the current legal framework regarding ethics laws and disclosure of financial interests related to the immediate family members of Vice Presidents and Presidents."
Comer's demands pile on to a two-year-old request from Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson asking the National Archives for communications where Biden used such aliases.
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In addition, a conservative legal group, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, which filed a Freedom of Information Request for such emails in 2022, sued the National Archives on Aug. 28, for disclosure of the records. That suit in particular has sparked intense speculation in conservative circles about Biden’s alias email accounts.
Why did Joe Biden use an alias to send emails when he was Vice President?
Joe Biden used Gmail addresses with the name "robinware456" and "JRBWare" during his time as Vice President. He also used a government-issued pci.gov account with the name "Robert.L.Peters". The pci.gov domain has been used for emails of officials working in the executive office of the president. The National Archives has retained thousands of emails connected to those accounts in its records from Biden's time as Vice President.
A White House official said that Biden used these alternate names for his email accounts for security reasons, so that hackers and people trying to clog the vice president’s inbox wouldn’t be able to easily guess his email address. “Newsflash: government leaders for decades have used aliases to avoid spam & hacking,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesman, wrote on Aug. 29 on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Have other government officials used aliases?
Yes. It’s not unusual for high-profile government officials to use alternate names in email addresses for security reasons.
Obama White House officials publicly addressed the use of pseudonyms in official government email addresses a decade ago. In 2013, when the Associated Press reported that Obama Administration officials were using email addresses under different names, Jay Carney, who was White House Press Secretary at the time, described it as "a practice consistent with prior administrations of both parties" that makes "eminent sense." If high-profile officials "are inundated in one account with either public emails, or spam or the like, then they can continue to use their other account for normal work," Carney said at the time, according to CBS News.
In 2016, then-White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed that President Barack Obama was using an email address that was intentionally "not easy to predict" as a security measure. "All of the emails that he sends will be archived," Earnest said at the time.
What about that email in 2016 sent to Hunter Biden with Joe Biden's schedule?
Comer, the House Oversight Committee Chairman, has zeroed in on an email dated May 27, 2016, that contains Biden's schedule for that day. The email was sent by a White House aide to both Biden's Robert L. Peters email with the pri.gov domain and to Hunter Biden. Comer has said the email raises concerns that Biden was telling his son about a meeting he was having with Ukraine’s president that could be related to Hunter Biden’s role on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings. “We also know that Hunter Biden and his associates were informed of then-Vice President Biden’s official government duties in countries where they had a financial interest,” said Comer in his Aug. 17 letter to the head of the National Archives.
Biden's vice presidential schedule that day includes a phone call with Ukraine's president at the time, Petro Poroshenko. The call with Poroshenko was described publicly by the White House at the time as discussing the release of a Ukrainian pilot who had been held in Russia.
But the schedule also includes information about Biden’s plans to return to his lake-front home in Wilmington, at a time when the Biden family was planning to gather together around the one-year anniversary of the death of Biden’s other son, Beau Biden.
Joe Biden has repeatedly said that he wasn’t involved in his son’s business dealings. Comer and fellow Republicans in Congress are looking for evidence that’s not true, particularly during the years Biden was vice president.
One of Hunter Biden’s business associates, Devon Archer, testified before Comer’s committee in July that Hunter Biden had been selling the “illusion” of access and profiting off the Biden name brand. Comer has still not produced evidence that Joe Biden himself was part of that effort.
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