The House Oversight Committee on Jan. 25 requested information pertaining to several high-profile art sales made by President Joe Biden’s son.
The request to George Bergès, the owner of a New York City art gallery where Hunter Biden has sold his art, was sent in a Jan. 25 letter from Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) (pdf). Specifically, the letter requests information about the sales of Biden’s works as well as about an agreement reached with the intervention of the White House that kept the identities of the buyers secret.
The request for information is one of the first salvos in a series of expected investigations into the Bidens’ business dealings, which Republicans have long promised to pursue when they regained control of the congressional subpoena power.
“The Committee on Oversight and Accountability is investigating President Joe Biden and his family’s foreign and domestic influence peddling schemes,” the letter opens.
Comer noted that during the last Congress, when Democrats controlled both chambers, Republicans also requested information and documents from Bergès. The art gallery owner ignored the request and afterward proceeded to host another sale for Biden.
Now in control of the subpoena power, Comer said, “The Committee is reiterating its request for documents related to the Committee’s investigation of the Biden family and is requesting you appear for a transcribed interview.”
Addressing Bergès, Comer continued, “Your arrangement with Hunter Biden raises serious ethics concerns and calls into question whether the Biden family is again selling access and influence.”
Citing a New York Times article from September 2021 discussing the upcoming sale, Comer noted that despite being a “novice,” Biden’s artwork had sold for “exorbitant” amounts of money. In the report, The New York Times said that Bergès estimated that some of the pieces could sell for as much as $500,000.
To this day, Comer continued, “the buyers’ identities remain unknown.” Bergès, he said, “[appears] to be the sole record keeper of these lucrative transactions.”
In the letter, Oversight Republicans warned of the possibility that these buyers were foreign, potentially raising an ethical red flag.
“It is concerning that President Biden’s son is the recipient of anonymous, high-dollar transactions—potentially from foreign buyers—with no accountability or oversight (other than you),” they wrote. “The American people deserve transparency regarding certain details about Hunter Biden’s expensive art transactions.”
Republicans then wrote out a laundry list of demands for documents and info, including all of Bergès’ communications between himself, his gallery, the White House, and Hunter Biden, any contracts or agreements the gallery signed with Biden, documents pertaining to the prices of each of Biden’s works of art, and information about all who attended Biden’s shows or purchased his art.
In addition to these documents, the Oversight Committee requested that Bergès plan to make an appearance before the committee on Feb. 15.
Bergès did not reply to a request to comment on the letter.
Republicans have long pointed out possible ethical concerns in the Bidens’ business dealings.
Just weeks before the 2020 election, the New York Post published a report documenting findings from Hunter Biden’s laptop, which had reportedly been forgotten at a computer repair shop.
When the owner investigated the contents of the laptop, he was reportedly so disgusted that he felt obligated to share what he found with law enforcement.
The FBI seized the laptop and has since told Congress that it does not know where it currently is.
“Where is [the laptop]?” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) asked Bryan Vorndran, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Security wing, during a March 2022 House hearing.
Initially, Vorndran deflected the question, saying he was not there to talk about Biden’s laptop.
Pressed by Gaetz, Vorndran finally claimed, “Sir, I don’t know that answer.”
Had the FBI been the sole possessors of the contents of the laptop, it seems likely that they would never have been made public knowledge. However, prior to handing the laptop over to the FBI, the computer shop owner made a copy of the contents of the hard drive, which he passed on to Republican Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani then gave the story to the New York Post.
The laptop, which has since been authenticated, raises several questions about the Bidens’ business dealings.
For instance, the emails revealed that while he was still the vice president, Biden had been introduced to a top executive at the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma.
“Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” reads an April 17, 2015 email allegedly sent from Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi to the younger Biden.
Later the same year, in December 2015, as Joe Biden candidly admitted to the Council on Foreign Relations in 2018, Biden threatened to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee from Ukraine if a prosecutor looking into Burisma was not removed from his post. This threat came around eight months after Pozharskyi allegedly met the elder Biden.
“I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,” Biden said of the affair in 2018.
“Well, son of a [expletive],” Biden continued. “He got fired.”
If true, this would mean that Biden’s oft-repeated claim that he has had no role in his son’s business dealings is false.
Other emails obtained by the New York Post suggested the elder Biden’s involvement as well.
‘Don’t Mention Joe Being Involved’
James Gilliar, one of the younger Biden’s business partners, allegedly told fellow partner Tony Bobulinski in a May 20, 2017 email not to mention “Joe being involved.”
“Don’t mention Joe being involved, it’s only when u [sic] are face to face, I know u [sic] know that but they are paranoid,” Gilliar told Bobulinski.
Bobulinski, who confirmed the authenticity of the emails in a later statement, replied at the time, “OK they should be paranoid about things.”
Another email relayed from Gilliar to the younger Biden, Bobulinski, and a fourth business partner on May 13, 2017, described the breakdown of each member’s shares in a Chinese business venture dubbed Sino-Hawk.
“Sino for the Chinese side, Hawk for Hunter’s brother Beau’s favorite animal,” Bobulinski later explained.
Gilliar suggested each of the primary business partners would receive 20 percent. Another participant, called “Jim” by Gilliar, and likely referring to Joe Biden’s brother, apparently was to receive 10 percent. Finally, the other 10 percent would be “held by H for the big guy.”
Bobulinski Tells All
On Oct. 22, 2020, Bobulinski made a public statement confirming that “the big guy” was indeed a reference to the elder Biden.
“I am making this statement to set the record straight about the involvement of the Biden family—Vice President Biden, his brother Jim Biden, and his son Hunter Biden—in dealings with the Chinese,” Bobulinski began.
“I have heard Joe Biden say he has never discussed business with Hunter,” Bobulinski said. “That is false.”
Before moving into his claims about Biden’s business dealings, Bobulinski insisted that he could corroborate everything he was saying. To demonstrate the point, Bobulinski gestured to several of his old cell phones spanning the 2010s, which Bobulinski said had never been held by anyone but him.
“I’m a patriot and a veteran,” Bobulinski said. “To protect my family name and my business reputation, I need to ensure that the true facts are out there.”
Bobulinski then relayed the details of his years-long involvement with the Bidens, which he said began in 2015 when he was approached by Gilliar about getting involved in a business deal concerning the Chinese firm CEFC Energy. Bobulinski was told at the time, when Biden was still the sitting vice president, that other partners would include members of “one of the most prominent families in the United States.”
“On May 2, 2017 … I was introduced to Joe Biden by Jim Biden and Hunter Biden,” Bobulinski said.
During their hours-long conversation that night, Bobulinski reported, the elder Biden demonstrated a strong familiarity “at a high level” with the younger Biden’s business dealings.
Bobulinski then turned to the May 13, 2017, email referencing “the big guy.”
“In that email there’s no question—the ‘H’ stands for ‘Hunter Biden,’ ‘the big guy’ for his father,” Bobulinski confirmed.
Bobulinski also indicated that the elder Biden was aware of the potential ethical concerns in being involved and said that he quickly learned that Joe Biden was not to be mentioned in writing or on the phone but only during face-to-face meetings.
Following this statement, Bobulinski turned his documents and communications with the Bidens over to the FBI. However, at the time of publication, no charges have been pursued against the president or his son.
Republicans have long waited for the chance to look into these issues with the backing of subpoena power.
Because Republicans are now in control of this power, they could send a criminal referral to the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress, the same crime for which Steve Bannon was convicted after refusing a summons from the House Jan. 6 panel during the last Congress, should Bergès or others refuse a request.
Now back in possession of the subpoena, Republicans, particularly those on the Oversight Committee, are likely to continue to seek information from associates of the Bidens.
Republicans could also establish a new select committee to investigate the Bidens’ business dealings, as many Republicans have pushed for.
During the battle for the speakership earlier this month, when Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was faced with strong opposition from within his party, many of his conservative critics asked for the creation of such a panel.
“It needs to be targeted the right way,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), one of McCarthy’s critics who later switched his vote in favor, said about potential investigations. “You don’t get many bites at the apple. You’ve got to get it done right.”
On the other hand, the new GOP majority has a lot on their plate already, with the creation of new subcommittees like the Subcommittee on the Chinese Communist Party, the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, and proposed committees to investigate the treatment of those detained for offenses related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach.
McCarthy has been mum on the creation of a dedicated subcommittee on the Bidens.
In October 2022, McCarthy indicated his opposition to efforts to impeach Biden.
“We will uphold the law. We will not play politics with it,” McCarthy said.
On the other hand, McCarthy has in the past threatened to subpoena the dozens of intelligence officials who, in October 2020, dismissed Hunter Biden’s laptop as Russian disinformation.
Thus, it remains to be seen how McCarthy will use the subpoena power.
Still, it would be left to the discretion of Attorney General Merrick Garland, a Biden appointee, to choose whether or not to pursue charges for refusing a subpoena, and it is unclear how Garland would respond to such a referral in connection to an investigation of the Bidens.