One of the deeply rooted ironies of the Republican effort to use President Biden’s son Hunter as a vector for impugning the president is that the circumstantial evidence they cite often also applies to their party’s most likely 2024 presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
Oh, Hunter Biden set up various corporations — “shell companies,” to use the preferred pejorative — as part of his consulting business? Allow me to introduce you to “THC Rio Managing Member Corp” and the hundreds of other corporate entities Trump reported in his federal filings.
You are incensed that Hunter Biden was taking money from foreign interests while his father was vice president? Well, I have some unhappy news for you about the Trump Organization and Donald Trump’s kids.
This is not to excuse Hunter Biden’s engagements, certainly, particularly should significant evidence emerge (which it has not yet) that Joe Biden was intentionally leveraging his power to aid his son or himself financially. It is instead to note that Republicans are far more willing to criticize Biden than Trump for comparable actions.
Well, most Republicans are more willing to do so. On Tuesday, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie became a vocal exception.
Christie, himself a long-(long-)shot candidate for the 2024 GOP nomination, was being interviewed by SiriusXM’s Steve Scully during an event in New Hampshire. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had announced that his caucus would launch an impeachment inquiry into Biden, prompting Scully to ask Christie his opinion.
“I think there should be an inquiry made about what has gone on with the Bidens’ business situations,” Christie said, “but I think they can do that through their oversight function.” He noted that U.S. Attorney David Weiss had been elevated to special counsel, affording another avenue for questioning Hunter Biden’s actions and any overlap with his father.
“If it got to the point where, as vice president, he anyway shared in the money that went along with” Hunter’s efforts, Christie said. “I think that would be a really significant problem.”
“Impeachable?” Scully prompted.
“Yeah, I think so,” Christie answered. And then he drew a comparison.
“Look, the last two presidencies have been, what appears to the American people to be, in some respects, kind of an ongoing grift,” Christie continued. “I mean, you know, you’ve got Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump making 40-plus million dollars a year while they’re serving in the White House. And then Jared leaves the White House and gets $3 billion — $2 billion from the Saudis, and a half-a-billion each from the Qataris and the Emiratis, after the president had put him in a major role on Middle East negotiations.”
He noted that Kushner was “somebody who had no experience in foreign policy of any kind” — another parallel to criticisms of Hunter Biden — “who was essentially the son of a real estate developer in New Jersey — a family I’ve gotten to know really well over the years.”
That last bit was a harder punch than some in the audience might have realized. Christie, himself a former U.S. attorney, successfully prosecuted Jared Kushner’s father for fraud. Trump would later pardon the elder Kushner as he was on his way out of the White House.
Christie outlined other unusual activities by Trump that benefited his family, prompting Scully to ask him to put a fine point on his argument.
“Are you saying that the Trump family is corrupt?” the host asked.
“Yes,” Christie replied. “Sure.”
“I mean, when you pay your son’s girlfriend 60 grand out of campaign money to give a three-minute speech” — during Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021 rally — “you’re using money … donated by people who wanted to fund him to fight the ‘stolen election,’” Christie said. “When they donated that money, they didn’t think 60 grand was going to Kimberly Guilfoyle to give a three-minute speech. They didn’t think $208,000 was going to Melania’s stylist. Right? So I don’t know what you would call it other than corrupt.”
YouGov polling conducted for Yahoo News last month found that most Americans agree with Christie. A majority of Americans see Trump and his family as corrupt. Just under half say the same of the Bidens.
Concluding his assessment, Christie again pointed to the billions of dollars Jared Kushner had taken in after transitioning out of the White House.
“That looks like corruption to me, Steve,” he said.
When Republicans took over control of the House in January, McCarthy handed the reins of the House Oversight Committee to Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.). He’s been at the forefront of elevating allegations against Biden, often in hyperbolic or erroneous terms. He also quietly killed an ongoing probe into ways that Donald Trump might have directly profited from serving as president. That probe had determined, among its findings, that foreign officials from six countries had spent more than $750,000 at Trump’s D.C. hotel while hoping to influence his administration.
But that wasn’t the evidence of corruption that Republicans were hoping to focus on — Chris Christie excepted.