Comer seeks unredacted emails between Hunter Biden associates and White House aides
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) is expanding his requests of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), seeking more emails and documents from when President Biden was vice president that concerned Hunter Biden and his business associates.
Comer on Tuesday asked the National Archives for unredacted versions of emails that were previously released by the National Archives concerning records on Hunter Biden, the president’s brother James Biden, and their foreign business dealings. In addition, the committee is requesting all emails from specific former Biden aides about Hunter or James Biden; all emails within the Executive Office of the President mentioning various associates of Hunter Biden; and all executive calendars created for Biden during his tenure as vice president.
The letter adds to outstanding requests to the National Archives from the committee. Comer previously requested unredacted versions of another tranche of emails released by the National Archives, with particular interest in emails in which Biden used an alias — reportedly a common practice among high-profile officials.
It also comes as the House GOP has been inching toward opening an impeachment inquiry into Biden over issues related to his family’s business dealings.
In the letter making the new request, Comer focused on particular December 2015 emails between former Biden spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield and Hunter Biden business associate Eric Schwerin discussing how to respond to a New York Times story.
“Joe Biden never built an ‘absolute wall’ between his family’s business dealings and his official government work — his office doors were wide open to Hunter Biden’s associates. 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.
The White House pushed back on Comer.
“If it’s a day that ends in Y, James Comer is lying about President Biden. It’s all part of his months-long effort to waste time and taxpayer resources on an evidence-free wild goose chase that does absolutely nothing to help improve the lives of Americans, which is what Congress should be prioritizing, and is only focused on politically smearing the President,” said Ian Sams, White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations.
The timing of the emails between Bedingfield and Schwein was “concerning,” Comer wrote in the letter, given testimony from former Hunter Biden business associate Devon Archer that Hunter Biden had “called D.C.” on that same day to try to relieve pressure on Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
The New York Times story Bedingfield and Schwerin were working to respond to examined whether the then-vice president’s message about fighting corruption in Ukraine was undermined by Hunter Biden’s membership on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma, whose owner Mykola Zlochevsky had millions of dollars frozen in London as part of an investigation into money laundering.
Schwerin and Bedingfield discussed their responses to the upcoming story in emails on Dec. 4, 2015, the National Archives releases show.
While Comer claimed in the letter that Schwerin provided quotes that the White House should use, the email exchange — first made public months ago — shows Schwerin shared quotes from a “spokesperson for Hunter Biden” and former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski without any other directive.
Bedingfield in an afternoon email that day shared her planned response to Schwerin, noting the “VP signed off on this” — an apparent reference to her statement rather than Schwerin’s, which Comer’s letter did not make clear.
In the statement, she said Biden had no involvement with Hunter Biden’s company and that Joe Biden had pushed for years for Ukraine to investigate and prosecute corruption.
“The timing of this email traffic is concerning to the Committee,” Comer said in the letter, because of Archer’s testimony. He did not specifically allege that any of the White House response to the story was influenced by any phone call from Hunter Biden to “D.C.” or further explain why the timing was concerning.
Archer testified that after a Burisma board meeting on or around Dec. 4 in Dubai, he met up with Hunter Biden at the Four Seasons along with Zlochevsky and Burisma adviser Vadym Pozharskyi.
Archer said Zlochevsky and Pozharskyi asked Hunter Biden to make a phone call to “help them with some of that pressure” they were getting from government investigations into Zlochevsky and more, but did not make a “specific request.”
Archer said Burisma faced “several pressure issues,” including 23 million pounds of capital tied up in London, a U.S. visa denied, and a Mexico visa denied. Archer said Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who Republicans have accused Biden of pressuring Ukraine to fire due to an investigation of Burisma, was not specifically on Archer’s radar as an individual who was targeting Zlochevsky.
“Basically the request is like, can D.C. help?” Archer said.
After that, Hunter Biden made a call to “D.C.,” Archer said. He did not hear Hunter Biden’s call.
“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,” Comer said. “Americans demand accountability for this abuse of government office for the benefit of the Biden family. The Oversight Committee will continue to pursue all evidence to provide much needed transparency to the American people.”
A spokesperson for Oversight Committee Democrats pointed to a 2019 piece by the author of the New York Times story and accused Comer of ignoring “the journalist’s own warnings that Congressional Republicans and the far-right media are just perpetuating debunked conspiracy theories first pushed by former President Trump and Rudy Giuliani to distract from Mr. Trump’s first impeachment.”
“Today’s stunt is just more of the same: Burisma conspiracy 2.0,” the spokesperson added. “Once more, House Republicans are hiding from the fact that after years of probes and conspiracy theories they have no evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden.”
In the letter, Comer pushed back on the National Archives withholding certain information from the committee if deemed to be “personal records” as defined by the Presidential Records Act.
“The Committee has made clear that its investigation involves potential abuse by then-Vice President Biden of his official duties; it cannot be NARA that determines whether certain records “do not relate to or have an effect upon” those duties,” Comer said. “If NARA withholds from the Committee documents responsive to Committee requests, the Committee requests NARA produce a log asserting the basis for withholding the document.”
Comer requested a response by Sept. 20.
The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Updated at 12:18 p.m.