WASHINGTON - The curtain goes up on House Republican investigations into President Joe Biden and his family with a hearing Wednesday about how Twitter blocked messages about Hunter Biden's laptop.
The House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing will open the panel's door on investigations into Hunter Biden and potential attempts to influence his father's politics through business deals in Ukraine or China, or through high-price sales of his own paintings.
"We're going to start with the hard drive because there's a lot of evidence on the hard drive that suggests Joe Biden knew very well what his family was involved in," Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the Oversight chairman, told reporters last month. "We want to make sure that our national security isn't compromised because China is an adversary right now."
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Joe Biden has denied discussing business or benefiting from his son's deals. Hunter Biden's lawyers have asked the Justice Department and Delaware attorney general to investigate the distribution of information from the laptop for possible criminal prosecution.
The Oversight hearing, coming the day after Biden's State of the Union speech, offers a showcase of Republican investigations into the Democratic president. But Democratic lawmakers blasted the inquiry as "hyper-partisan" conspiracy theories that have been debunked.
Here's what we know about the committee investigation so far:
Hunter Biden's laptop: What does it have to do with Trump, Giuliani and the 2020 election?
The laptop has become a focal point of Republican investigations because it contains a trove of documents and pictures of Hunter Biden.
A computer repairman, John Paul Mac Isaac, gave the laptop to former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, after Hunter Biden failed to pick up the MacBook Pro following repairs in April 2019. Giuliani gave the laptop to local police, who passed it along to the FBI for investigation, and shared the contents with reporters.
The New York Post reported in October 2020 - weeks before the presidential election - on emails about Hunter Biden's business dealings in Ukraine and possible links to his father.
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The story described 2015 emails indicating then-Vice President Joe Biden met with a high-ranking official at Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company whose board employed Hunter Biden. The meeting would have come at a time when Biden was pressuring Ukraine to fire its prosecutor general, who was investigating the company.
But Biden's campaign said, "No meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place."
When Trump raised questions about the laptop at a presidential debate, Biden replied that it was Russian disinformation. The laptop's legitimacy has since been confirmed by CBS News, but the contents remain under investigation.
Hunter Biden asks DOJ, Delaware attorney general to investigate distribution of laptop information
Hunter Biden's lawyers sent letters Wednesday asking the Justice Department and Delaware's attorney general to investigate who accessed, copied and disseminated information from the laptop.
Abbe Lowell, one of Hunter Biden's lawyers, said the actions taken with the laptop "more than merit a full investigation and, depending on the resulting facts, may merit prosecution under various statutes."
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The committee seeks Treasury documents about 'suspicious' Hunter Biden banking transactions
The committee asked the Treasury Department for documents about 150 alerts from U.S. banks about suspicious transactions involving Hunter Biden and James Biden, the president's brother. The committee also asked the Prewitt Mahler Tucker Private Wealth Management Group about its management of Hunter Biden's finances including "questionable business dealings."
The suspicious transaction reports don't necessarily flag wrongdoing because they generally cover transactions greater than $5,000 and the department received 3.6 million reports last year.
Comer said documents suggest Hunter Biden was paid $80,000 per month by Burisma and benefitted from a $5 million deal in China, which was wire-transferred through corporate intermediaries. Comer said he would like to find out what Hunter Biden provided in exchange.
Comer argued the payments were "influence peddling," and acknowledged there might be nothing to the suspicious reports, but he wants to review them.
Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson for oversight, called the request for banking records a political stunt driven by the most extreme members of the Republican conference.
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Joe Biden denies profiting from son
Joe Biden denied repeatedly he received any benefit from his son's business deals. But Republicans questioned his truthfulness.
"I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings," Biden said in 2019.
But Comer labeled the claim "false" because of documentation of meetings from Hunter Biden's personal calendar and White House visitor records.
Joe Biden earlier denied receiving foreign payments during a 2020 presidential debate.
"I have not taken a penny from any foreign source at any point in my life," Biden said.
What do the Secret Service and FBI know?
The committee is also investigating how federal agencies such as the Secret Service and the FBI have dealt with Hunter Biden.
The panel asked who had access to Joe Biden's former office and his home, where classified documents from his time as vice president were discovered in November and December.
Ron Klain, Biden's chief of staff, told the panel the White House doesn't maintain visitor logs for the house. But the Secret Service generates law enforcement records for people who visit, so Comer asked the agency for those records from when Biden left the Obama administration in January 2017.
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The committee asked the FBI for information about Hunter Biden's relationship with JiaQi "Jackie" Bao, whom lawmakers identified as having ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Bao helped Hunter Biden broker a 2017 deal for a U.S. purchase of liquefied natural gas through CEFC China Energy, according to the committee.
But the deal collapsed in 2019 when CEFC's leaders were arrested in the U.S. and charged with corruption for projects in Africa, according to the committee.
Previous Senate investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing
Republicans on a pair of Senate committees investigated the laptop and found in September 2020 no evidence of wrongdoing or corrupt actions by Joe Biden in connection with his son's dealings in Ukraine.
The 87-page report found Hunter Biden's role at the Ukrainian energy company Burisma "problematic" but said it was "unclear" whether he influenced U.S. foreign policy while Joe Biden was vice president.
But Republicans serving in the minority didn't have the authority to subpoena witnesses, which Comer now has.
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Who is testifying from Twitter?
Republicans have accused social media companies such as Twitter of suppressing information about Hunter Biden's laptop in the weeks before the 2020 election.
Jack Dorsey, Twitter's CEO at the time, said later that blocking the article with "zero context" was "unacceptable."
The committee called former Twitter executives as witnesses for the hearing: Yoel Roth, former global head of trust and safety; Vijaya Gadde, former chief legal officer and James Baker, former general counsel.
Baker is a former general counsel for the FBI, an agency lawmakers accused of encouraging social media companies to suppress stories before the election because of concerns about hacking. Gadde explained at the time how Twitter revised its policy allowing tweets about the laptop after suppressing them for days.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hunter Biden investigation hearing: GOP to take on laptop, China deals