'It's going to be dirty': Republicans prepare to attack Hunter Biden

House Republicans are determined to make the president's perceived wayward son a staple of the news cycle

When Borat – aka British actor Sacha Baron Cohen – told a raunchy joke about Donald Trump and anti-Semitism at last month's Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, Joe Biden wasn't the only one laughing on the red velvet-lined balcony.

Sitting behind the US president is Hunter Biden who wears a black tie and a broad smile that mirrors his father's.

The image captures the intimacy between the men, but also Hunter's sometimes awkward status as an ordinary citizen and the privileged son of the president. It's a dichotomy that is likely to come under a harsh public scrutiny this year as Republican members of Congress begin to make Hunter a household name and a staple of news cycles.

“The right wing licks its flesh at the opportunity to go after it,” said Joshua Kendall, author of First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama. “The poison level will be over the top and completely filthy. Republican rhetoric may get so heated it detracts from some of the actual behavior.”

Republicans have been waiting for this moment for a long time. After regaining control of the House in the midterm elections last November, they used their first press conference to promise to investigate the Biden administration and, in particular, the president's alleged guilty son.

Hunter has long faced questions about whether he was trading his father's political career for profit, including attempts to strike a deal in China and reported references in his emails to "big men".

Hunter joined the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma in 2014, around the time Joe Biden, then vice president, was helping implement Barack Obama's foreign policy with Ukraine. Hunter earned over $50,000 a month over a five year period.

Senate Republicans claimed that his appointment might create a conflict of interest. Last year more than 30 of them called for prosecutors to be given special counsel powers to conduct investigations into alleged "tax fraud, money laundering and foreign lobbying offences". But they have not provided evidence that it influenced US policy or that Joe Biden did anything wrong.

House Republicans and their staff have studied messages and financial transactions found on a laptop belonging to the now infamous Hunter. Having secured a majority, they now have the power to issue subpoenas against foreign entities with which they do business.

Richard Painter, who was the chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W Bush administration, believes Joe Biden should withdraw from matters relating to Ukraine. “Ukrainian gas companies want to curry favor with Joe Biden so they put his son on the board,” he said.

“It's pretty clear what's going on there but the missing link that Republicans are looking for – but I don't think they're going to find – is kind of a quid pro quo, Joe Biden for the Ukrainian gas companies. Still, it would be better if Joe Biden said: 'Look, my son is going to be on this board, maybe the secretary of state or someone else can handle Ukraine,' and he would step aside.”

Hunter taxes and foreign business employment have been under federal investigation with a grand jury in Delaware hearing testimony in recent months. There is no indication that this involved the president, who insists he never spoke to Hunter about his overseas business arrangements.

Republicans pulled another strand. Ethics experts accuse Hunter of cashing in on his father's name as he pursues a career as an artist. He is represented by the Georges Bergès Gallery in New York, which reportedly reached an agreement with the White House to set a price for the art and did not disclose who bid or bought it.

Bergès said in an Instagram post in November that Republicans on the House oversight committee had written to him with "certain requests" and then debated on Twitter with Painter about money and influence in art. Bergès wrote: "If you are going to research a profession, then research any and every position that the sons of Congress take in D.C. and elsewhere."

Painter said in an interview: “I don't think there's anything corrupt about the White House or anything corrupt about President Biden. But keeping the identity of the art buyer a secret is a bad idea. This raised suspicions that people were circulating money under the table. It's hard to keep who's buying the art a secret in the intimate world of Hunter Biden's friends or Hunter Biden himself, so secrecy is a bad idea.

Fox News and other far-right media outlets may relish the opportunity to demonize the president's son ahead of the 2024 election. But Republicans are in danger of overreaching. Trump's attempt to get Ukraine to look into Hunter's business dealings led to his first impeachment. His attempt to weaponize Hunter's issue in the 2020 presidential election failed.

David Brock, a veteran political agent and president of Fact First USA, a new group formed to fight congressional investigations, said: “What we will see in hearings is the recycling and repetition of old, discredited stories and conspiracies. theory. They do it for political reasons. [Congressman] Jim Jordan on record said that all the investigation is about 2024 and electing Donald Trump again. Those were his own words, not mine.”

Hunter's 2021 memoir, Beautiful Things, evokes sympathy in some quarters for a 50-year-old man last month who survived a car crash that killed his mother and sister and who was candid about his struggles with alcoholism and drug abuse. Brock believes that the new Republican offensive will backfire.

"Pursuing someone who has an addiction and has a mental health problem is sadistic politics and I don't think it will work with Americans," he added. “There are so many people who have family members who are suffering in one way or another and will identify with Hunter; they will not identify with the attacker. The Hunter-hating narrative has been circulating for three years. It hasn't really gained traction beyond the right wing and I don't think it will.

Republicans could also lose credibility by focusing on Hunter and other retreads of the past instead of advancing plans for domestic issues like inflation, jobs and taxes.

Kurt Bardella, a Democratic strategist who served as a senior adviser to Republicans on the House oversight committee from 2009 to 2013, said: dollar, they want to act more responsibly with legislative power, okay, but how does investigating Hunter Biden do anything to help the American people?

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