The morning after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden over his son's business dealings, the White House released a 16-page memo explaining why the inquiry was groundless.
"Virtually every single allegation that House Republicans have suggested would be the basis for pursuing impeachment have been refuted," Ian Sams, a senior advisor to the President and spokesperson for the White House Counsel’s Office, wrote in the memo.
Yet to some prominent Democrats who intend to spend the coming months defending Biden against the impeachment effort, there is another point worth making: what about Jared Kushner?
Former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, who served as a senior adviser during his administration, has drawn increased scrutiny since, months after leaving the White House, his private equity firm secured a $2 billion investment from a fund led by the Saudi crown prince, a close ally during the Trump administration. It’s an issue that many Biden supporters argue is far more concerning than the questions Republicans have raised about whether the President might have profited off deals negotiated by Hunter Biden.
“Some colleagues from across the aisle have explicitly said that the Kushner family has engaged in business dealings that may have crossed the ethical line, and I agree, yet they refuse to act,” Rep. Robert Garcia, a California Democrat and member of the Oversight Committee, said on the House floor Tuesday. “Is this the same party that’s obsessed with President Biden’s family?”
The call to investigate Kusher is not new in Congress, but it appeared to receive new life after House Republican leadership launched its impeachment inquiry on Tuesday. Last year, while Democrats still controlled the House, the Oversight Committee began investigating Kushner to uncover more information about the Saudi government’s investment in his firm. The investigation, while ongoing, has shown little activity since Republicans took control of the House this year.
But that hasn’t stopped some Democratic lawmakers from using this moment to connect the Biden impeachment inquiry with calls to investigate Kushner. “The reason why we’re turning up the heat is the hypocrisy,” Garcia tells TIME. While he stressed that his push to investigate Kushner is not in direct response to the Biden impeachment inquiry, he also didn’t avoid connecting the two issues. “I mean, this is a Speaker in the House majority that wants to impeach the President for absolutely no reason when there’s zero link to any sort of wrongdoing… yet they’re not willing to investigate a grift that’s right in front of us. And so I think that’s just really hypocritical.”
Kushner has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and his office disputes the comparison to Hunter Biden. “Jared was a successful businessman before entering politics, achieved historic peace and trade agreements, and like many before him, he re-entered business after serving for free in the White House, where he fully complied with the Office of Government Ethics rules,” a Kushner spokesperson says. The chief legal officer for Kushner’s investment firm, Affinity Partners, Chad Mizelle says, “No one has ever pointed to a specific legal or ethical guideline that Jared or Affinity has violated.”
The efforts to compare corruption claims against Biden’s family to those of Trump’s are all but certain to continue over the coming months. But it may not come from the White House or Democratic leaders, who have been laser-focused this week on the argument that Republicans are trying to make Biden only the fourth president to be impeached without evidence to back up their claims. The White House did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Leslie Dach, a senior adviser to the Congressional Integrity Project, a group founded to push back on House Republicans’ investigations, says Democrats’ strategy in addressing the inquiry should largely continue to center on calling out House Republicans’ lack of evidence against Biden. But he also thinks there’s room to highlight their hypocrisy.
Asked what Democrats need to do to respond most effectively to the inquiry, Dach says, “What they are doing, which is to repeatedly point out the lies that these accusations are built on, which are now obvious. And also to remind voters that this is not what they want their elected representatives to do. They want their elected representatives to address their real problems.”
On Wednesday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy appeared to defend the impeachment inquiry on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, writing that Americans deserved to know “that the federal government is not being used to cover up the actions of a politically-connected family.” Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, was among the many on the social network who cited McCarthy’s post to raise questions about Kushner’s business dealings.
When asked if he thinks Democrats should continue to respond to the Biden impeachment inquiry by calling out Kushner, Beyer clarified to TIME that “the most important point” Democrats should make is that Republicans “have not found any evidence that President Biden did anything wrong.”
“Nine months of hearings, witness interviews, subpoenaed documents and bank records—not to mention a five-year Department of Justice investigation begun under President Trump—tell a consistent story: the Republicans’ wild claims of misconduct are baseless and false,” Beyer says.
During his time in the White House, Kushner had helped broker $110 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia over 10 years, despite objections from Congress over the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the humanitarian catastrophe created by the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. In a memoir published last year, Kushner detailed his frequent efforts to engage with the Saudi crown prince regarding significant U.S. foreign policy matters, such as oil prices. These overtures by Kushner generated significant discord within the Trump administration, leading to allegations from then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the President's son-in-law was undermining his authority.
Some Republicans have criticized Kushner, but an investigation into the former president’s son-in-law appears all but dead in Washington for now. Rep. James Comer, the Kentucky Republican who chairs the Oversight Committee and is tasked with co-leading the impeachment inquiry into Biden, has continued to push allegations that the current president is the mastermind of the “Biden crime family” and the recipient of bribes from foreign oligarchs, despite a lack of evidence showing Biden profited from his family’s business dealings.
For several months, Democrats have been urging Comer to subpoena Kushner’s investment firm for key documents regarding his receipt of billions of dollars from Gulf monarchies, hoping to fight fire with fire and investigate Trump’s son-in-law while Biden’s son is being investigated.
“I do not for a minute expect the Republicans to investigate the Trump family or Jared Kushner’s inappropriate financial relationship with the Saudis,” Beyer says. “But Republicans’ decision to kill the Oversight Committee’s investigation into that relationship shows that nothing the Republicans are doing is really about accountability or corruption—it’s just partisan politics at its worst.”
Comer acknowledged in an interview with CNN last August that Kushner “crossed the line of ethics” by accepting $2 billion from the Saudi government in his private investment firm after leaving his White House position, but has not committed to an investigation.
"It happened after he left office, and Jared Kushner actually has a legitimate business,” Comer added. “This money [to] the Bidens happened while Joe Biden was vice president while he was flying to those countries.”
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a sharp Trump critic who is running a long-shot bid for the GOP presidential nomination, joined the calls to investigate Trump’s family on Tuesday when asked about the Biden impeachment inquiry. “Look, the last two presidencies have been, what appears to the American people to be, in some respects, kind of an ongoing grift,” Christie said at a SiriusXM town hall in New Hampshire. “I mean, you know, you’ve got Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump making 40-plus million dollars a year while they’re serving in the White House. And then Jared leaves the White House and gets $3 billion — $2 billion from the Saudis, and a half-a-billion each from the Qataris and the Emiratis, after the president had put him in a major role on Middle East negotiations.”
The efforts to redirect the impeachment question to Trump from others is contrasted with the White House and top Democratic leaders, who maintained that their key argument was that House Republicans have launched an impeachment inquiry against the President despite finding no wrongdoing against him.
“After nearly 9 months of investigating, House Republicans haven’t been able to turn up any
evidence of the President doing anything wrong,” Sams wrote in his memo to reporters. “But House Republicans led by Marjorie Taylor Greene are nonetheless opening a baseless impeachment inquiry of President Biden—despite many House Republicans openly admitting there is no evidence on which to support it.”
Asked about Garcia raising an investigation into Kushner, Dach says, “What it shows is the hypocrisy of McCarthy and his crew. First, of course, McCarthy's hypocrisy of plowing ahead without a vote, which he spent months yelling about only a few years ago, but also his hypocrisy in ignoring quite clear violations and ethical indiscretions by the Trump family and the President himself. But, you know, this is not a comparison. What they're doing is built on conspiracy theories, lies, and there's not a shred of evidence of any high crime or any sort of misdemeanor by the President.”
—With reporting by Mini Racker
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