Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said that the people who benefited from Joe Biden’s political career “are his family members, not the American people.”
Her speech at the Republican National Convention has roots in the January impeachment trial where she defended President Trump.
Business dealings by Biden’s younger son, Hunter, have raised many ethical questions. However, Bondi’s attack misleads by omitting key context about father and son. (And it’s worth noting that ethical questions have been raised about Trump family members and their roles in the government, the campaign and the family business.)
Let’s look at her attacks about the Bidens:
“A corrupt Ukrainian oligarch put Hunter on the board of his gas company, even though he had no experience in Ukraine — or in the energy sector. None. Yet he was paid millions to do nothing.”
Bondi has a point that Hunter had no experience in Ukraine or the energy sector.
Despite the lack of expertise, he joined the board of Burisma beginning in 2014 when his father as vice president was publicly representing U.S. policy on the country, which had become the center of a tug-of-war between Russia and the West.
Most of the criticism we’ve found focused on the conflict of interest Hunter Biden created by accepting the position. We found no evidence to suggest Joe Biden did anything wrong or inappropriate in his official capacity as vice president.
Hunter Biden’s work attracted attention at the time. The oligarch behind the firm, Mykola Zlochevsky, faced investigations for money laundering and tax evasion. (Zlochevsky and the company have denied the allegations.)
Staff at the State Department said they expressed concerns in 2015 when Hunter Biden started serving on the board of Burisma.
The details of what Hunter did have been mysterious. Reuters, using unnamed sources, reported that Hunter weighed in during scheduled meetings but did little of substance. The report suggests he was compensated for contributing his high-profile name.
Exactly how much Hunter Biden was paid remains unclear. As a director, Biden made up to $50,000 per month some months, according to the New York Times. He left Burisma in spring 2019, around the time that the elder Biden announced his 2020 presidential run.
In 2019, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump for withholding aid to Ukraine while asking the government there to look into the Bidens’ activities.
We found no evidence that Hunter Biden himself was investigated by Ukrainian or American authorities for his role as a board member of Burisma.
“That very same company was being investigated by a Ukrainian prosecutor. Joe Biden — the vice president of the United States — threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine unless that same prosecutor was fired. And then he was fired.”
It’s true that Vice President Biden called for Ukraine to fire Viktor Shokin, the prosecutor general, but so did many other major world leaders and institutions, because of Shokin’s slowness in addressing corruption. There is no evidence that Biden’s position on Shokin had anything to do with his son.
Biden assumed a lead role in U.S. diplomacy toward Ukraine after a popular revolution in early 2014 that led to pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country. Shokin became top prosecutor in 2015, after Yanukovych went into exile.
A frustrated Biden in December 2015 threatened to withhold $1 billion unless Shokin was fired, in hopes that a new prosecutor would do more to enforce the law. According to Biden, it worked. His actions were in line with the Obama administration’s foreign policy priorities.
“Fact: Joe Biden flew to China on Air Force Two with Hunter along for the ride. ... Ten days later, those Chinese communist bankers approved millions to go to Hunter’s firm. ... To this day, Hunter controls a 10% stake in that firm.”
This needs context. Bondi is drawing from the book by Peter Schweizer, a conservative author, in his 2019 book, "Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends."
In 2008, the younger Biden joined a string of investment and consulting firms. One of these efforts led to business activities in China.
“In 2013, then-Vice President Biden and his son Hunter flew aboard Air Force Two to China,” Schweizer wrote in a summary of his findings on FoxNews.com. “Ten days later, Hunter Biden’s firm scored a $1.5 billion deal with a subsidiary of the Chinese government’s Bank of China.”
Schweizer wrote that “Rosemont Seneca (one of Hunter Biden’s firms) and the Bank of China created an investment fund called Bohai Harvest RST,” or BHR.
We looked in detail at Hunter’s China dealings in May. We found that BHR has been involved in several large deals since 2014, but solid information on the fund’s money flow is hard to pin down.
Hunter’s attorney George Mesires told PolitiFact in 2019 that Hunter Biden was an unpaid board member until October 2017, at which point he did take a financial stake in BHR.
“In October 2017, after his father left government service, Hunter acquired a 10% interest in BHR,” Mesires said. As of October 2019, he added, “Hunter’s capital commitment for such interest is approximately $420,000.”
Overall, we found no indication that the younger Biden did anything illegal. Other relatives of politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, have had dealings with Chinese businesses.
The Biden arrangement appears to be a “normal deal that I expect from Chinese businessmen,” said Zhiguo He, a finance professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
“And Joe Biden has done more than look the other way on China. He’s said, ‘The Chinese aren’t our competition. Come on man, they’re not bad folks.’”
This attack lacks the context of Biden’s full remarks and omits that he was putting down China, not praising it. During a campaign stop in May 2019, Biden argued that China was no competition for the United States.
“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,” Biden said. “They can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the east, I mean in the west. They can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.”