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Bill Straub: Jamie ‘Hee-Haw’ Comer just can’t walk away from Hunter Biden ‘investigation’; about John Y.

Like Ali Baba chanting “Open Sesame” to enter the mouth of a cave holding great treasures, Rep. James Comer has taken to using “Hunter Biden” as an incantation, reciting it over and over again, praying it will result in the sort of untold riches – of the political variety, of course — the 40 thieves could only dream about.

Comer, R-Tompkinsville, or Frankfort, or DC, or wherever he thinks it will work to his political advantage, is making quite a name for himself in radical right-wing political circles these days, pursuing Hunter Biden, President Biden’s woebegone son, like Eliot Ness dogging Al Capone.

Making constant references to the “Biden crime family,” as if the folks he’s been harassing for months smoke black cigars and wear diamond pinky rings (nice touch, though, don’t you think?), Comer is on the verge of becoming chair of the House Oversight Committee once Republicans assume control of the House in January, and he intends to make Hunter Biden and his overseas business dealings his top priority, with the hope of snaring the father through the son.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

Make no mistake, our boy Jamie is out for big game, announcing at a recent press conference that, “This is an investigation of Joe Biden. I think we’ve laid out the evidence as to why we feel it’s important, and we’re going to move forward with that.”

Comer, the congressman most likely to be mistaken for a cast member from “Hee Haw,” said the president was actually “the chairman of the board” when it came to his son’s business activities and that family members sold access for profit around the world to the detriment of American interests.

“If President Biden is compromised by deals with foreign adversaries and they are impacting his decision making, this is a threat to national security,” Comer said. “The American people deserve transparency and accountability about the Biden family’s influence peddling.”

It should be noted right off the bat that President Biden maintains he has taken a hands-off approach to his son’s commercial interests. If you’re wondering how Comer hopped, skipped and jumped to the conclusion that Biden was somehow “compromised,” forced into playing patty-cake with the Chinese Communist government because of a lucrative family business deal, and that Hunter Biden is somehow a threat to national security despite his lack of any official portfolio or any information that might make Xi Jinping so much as breathe heavy, you’re not alone.

But our boy Jamie is having a high old time playing the rube for his fellow Trump idolaters, raising Cain even though he’s having problems getting anyone to listen. In his press conference disparaging the Bidens, he was instead riddled with questions regarding whether the infamous Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol wouldn’t make a more appropriate topic for his committee to investigate than Hunter Biden.

He was not amused.

“If we could keep it about Hunter Biden,” Comer whined to reporters. “This is kind of a big deal we think. If we can keep it about Hunter Biden that would be great.”

Okay, then, let’s keep it about Hunter Biden.

The young Biden has a troubled past. His drug usage and unorthodox sexual proclivities are well documented. He was, in technical terms, a bloody mess and his father urged him to get help.

Hunter, and I’ll use his first name to differentiate him from the president, finally hunkered down to assume a career in business. He was appointed to the board of Burisma, a natural gas company in Ukraine, probably on the strength of his family’s name. That relationship caused all sorts of problems for his old man since, serving as vice president at the time, he had a hand in directing Ukraine policy for the Obama administration. Then-President Trump faced his first impeachment by pressuring Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to initiate an investigation into Hunter’s business interests and further maintained that the elder Biden improperly helped his son.

Ultimately Hunter resigned from the board and nothing came of the incident. No evidence was produced indicating Biden altered policy in any way for Hunter’s benefit.

But the hullabaloo over Ukraine is definitely minor league compared to Hunter’s complicated ventures in China.

According to various reports, Hunter first became involved in China in 2013 when he was appointed to the board of directors of a newly formed private equity fund called BHR Partners while his father was vice president, raising anew conflict of interest concerns. But the real come-to-Jesus moment arrived in 2017 — at a time Hunter was experiencing excruciating financial woes — when he became involved with CEFC China Energy, a huge firm with ties to the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army, involved in oil and gas holdings while also dealing with financial services.

Over the course of about 14 months, according to The Washington Post and other outlets, entities controlled by Hunter and his uncle, James Biden, received $4.8 million from the Chinese conglomerate. Accounts linked to Hunter received at least $3.79 million in payments from CEFC through consulting contracts, even though none of the projects he was involved in came to fruition.
That gravy train finally crashed and burned in 2018 when CEFC defaulted on loans totaling about 450 million Euros, leading to bankruptcy.

Now, obviously, that’s the CliffsNotes version of Hunter’s Chinese financial entanglements. The scenario, as you might imagine, is a huge mess. It has led to an investigation by U.S. Attorney David Weiss, of Delaware, a Trump appointee, amid claims that Hunter may have failed to pay taxes on the Chinese income and other potential issues of wrongdoing.

The venture that has Comer strutting around like a peacock involves President Biden’s alleged involvement in his son’s enterprises. Biden states he has “never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.” But an email dated May 13, 2017, on a laptop Hunter abandoned at a Wilmington, DE computer repair shop indicated a person known as “the big guy,” presumably President Biden, was due 10 percent of the money realized through the CEFC deal. And Tony Bobulinski (not to be confused with Bo Belinski, the pride of Trenton, NJ, a southpaw for the Los Angeles Angels who tossed a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles in May 1962), a Hunter business partner, who said he met with Joe Biden in 2017 and was convinced he was involved in Hunter’s business dealings.

As chair of the House Oversight Committee, Comer is free to investigate anything he and his Trumpster pals desire, including whether the moon is made of green cheese. But several things point to the conclusion that this is little more than political theater aimed at waylaying the president’s initiatives as opposed to, as Jamie says, holding the president accountable.

There is no law prohibiting Americans from doing business with Chinese corporations. Furthermore, as noted by Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute, in an op-ed for The New York Times, while the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits U.S.-owned companies from hiring the children of foreign government officials “in the hopes of currying favor with their powerful parents,” it is not a violation if a foreign company hires or does business with the family members of American politicians.
What Biden did, Schweizer concluded, is legal.

Then check the dates. Hunter’s relationship with CEFC began in 2017, after Biden’s tenure as vice president drew to a close, making him a private citizen. The company declared bankruptcy in April 2020, So Biden didn’t hold any high public office during his son’s relationship with CEFC.

That, it seems, would absolve Biden of any potential quid pro quo with the company. And it would seem impossible for him to be involved in any influence peddling since, as a private citizen, he had little influence to peddle under a Republican White House and a 115th Congress that was in GOP hands in 2017 and 2018.

There are few folks with less influence than a former vice president during a time when the opposing party is in charge. It should further be noted that Biden’s tax returns reveal no payments from Hunter’s Chinese deals, 10 percent or otherwise.

Hunter is already in Dutch with the feds, who continue to peruse his financial activities. There’s absolutely no reason for Comer to glom things up, at least until a grand jury has a say.

So, Jamie Comer can chant “open sesame’’ all he wants. The door ain’t opening.

John Y. Brown

Permit me to ride on a point of personal privilege.

Whatever you think about former Gov. John Y. Brown, who died earlier this week at age 88, things were always interesting while he was around.

Brown was probably the most unorthodox governor in the Commonwealth’s history, often tinkering with matters into the early morning hours and arriving in the first floor of the Capitol whenever it suited him. Another former governor, Paul Patton, recalled in the Lexington Herald-Leader receiving a phone call from him at 3 a.m. urging him the join the state’s Democratic leadership.

He wanted government to run like a business – one of the first to express that intention – let the General Assembly forge its own way and brought professionalism to the cabinets.

And he did it with flair, often accompanied by his then wife, the late Phyllis George-Brown, greeted everywhere as a celebrity instead of a politician.

And he was fun. I was headed to Frankfort on U.S. 60 too many years ago when a car pulled up beside me. It was John Y. – everyone called him John Y. – and urged me to pull over. We talked for about a half hour on the side of the road – John Y. smoking cigarettes and me laughing.

He was one of a kind. The Commonwealth is poorer for his departure.

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One Comment

  1. Ruth Bamberger says:

    An Oversight Committee investigates problems with the purpose of formulating legislative proposals that address options for mitigating or eliminating a problem; in Biden’s case, it would be a matter of constructing some kind of policy to minimize a conflict of interest, I don’t see Comer as having any such purpose. His aim is pure raw partisanship…. We already know everything there is to know about Hunter Biden’s business ventures and that his dad had no direct connection to them. I’m afraid Comer has become KY’s Jim Jordan, M.T. Greene, Louie Gohmert, etc.!

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