I Did Not Have Interactions with Those People – JONATHAN TURLEY

Below is my column in The Messenger on President Joe Biden continuing his claim of having no knowledge or interaction with the business associates of his son and brothers. With the formal vote on an impeachment inquiry planned for this coming week, the absurd denial shows that the President is now trapped in the amber of this corruption scandal — unable to acknowledge the obvious falsity of his past statements.

Here is the column:

With a formal House vote on an impeachment inquiry expected next week, President Joe Biden was confronted this week about his knowledge and involvement in alleged influence peddling by his son and brothers. An irate Biden seemed to morph into Bill Clinton and — echoing his predecessor’s “I did not have sex with that woman” denial of an earlier scandal — effectively declared that he did not have relations with “those people.”

As with Clinton, the denial was absurd, even insulting. Roughly 70% of voters (including 40% of Democrats) believe Biden has acted either unlawfully or unethically in the overseas business dealings of his family. More importantly, the House has interviews, documents, photos and even audiotapes contradicting Biden’s continuing denial of having any knowledge of his son’s financial dealings.

This includes testimony from Hunter Biden’s associates that Joe Biden called in as many as 20 times (and was put on speakerphone) at dinners and meetings with Hunter’s associates. It also includes sworn testimony from figures like Hunter’s ex-associate, Tony Bobulinski, that he discussed dealings directly with Joe Biden. And it includes a statement by Devon Archer, Hunter’s close friend and business partner, that the president’s denials of knowledge were “categorically false.”

Yet, according to the president, it is all lies, lies, lies.

When finally confronted this week about interacting with these associates, Biden barked back, “I did not and it’s just a bunch of lies. They’re lies. I did not. They’re lies.”

It may become Biden’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” moment, a line that is likely to be repeated with the same frequency as Clinton’s denial before being impeached in 1998. In the face of a formal vote for an impeachment inquiry, Biden is sticking with the same rhetorical chest-poking done by his predecessor.

Despite the photos of Clinton with Lewinsky and his long history of womanizing, Clinton expected the media and the public to ignore their lying eyes. The Starr investigation and impeachment forced his hand in eventually admitting the obvious.

The Bidens have their own vices, of course, but it seems the family signature has been influence peddling. It appears to have been, as I have written previously, virtually a family business.

Like Clinton, however, Biden is in a bind. He spent the last election categorically denying any knowledge or involvement in Hunter’s business dealings. He continues those denials despite evidence that Hunter discussed these dealings with his father and used Air Force 2 as transport to work on foreign clients during official trips with his father.

For years, much of the media refused to acknowledge the authenticity of the emails on Hunter’s abandoned laptop. Yet, in the last year, many have reached the limit of plausible deniability and now acknowledge that Hunter was involved in a multimillion-dollar influence-peddling scheme. The final line of defense has become that Joe Biden did not directly benefit.

Even now, some are frantically joining Biden in calls for blind denials. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) has even doggedly maintained that the laptop may really be Russian disinformation, despite confirmation of its content by witnesses, government investigators, and several media organizations.

It won’t work. Biden clearly lied when he denied knowledge of his son’s business operations, and he has continued to lie during his presidency. Moreover, besides the benefits to his family (which would legally constitute benefits in criminal cases), there are references in Hunter’s emails to giving his father income, paying bills, and using shared accounts and credit cards.

Now, the National Archives is finally turning over tens of thousands of emails, including many in which Joe Biden reportedly used false names in communicating with Hunter’s associates. And various key figures, including Hunter, face testimony or contempt proceedings.

Thus, Biden is caught in a trap of his own making.

Bill Clinton eventually gave a redemptive-sinner speech and effectively confessed to being a cad. Yet for Biden, after years of categorical denials, it will be a bit more difficult to reveal himself or his family as being corrupt. Some people may forgive perjury over sex with an intern as impulsive, or immaterial. But, as shown by the overwhelming poll numbers, it is harder to pretend that knowledge of or involvement in influence peddling is simply an indiscretion.

The evidence is overwhelming that the president surely knew of his family’s influence peddling and foreign interests. The United States has pushed international agreements targeting influence peddling as criminal corruption in other countries. Knowledge that your family has engaged in such corruption is all the more serious when you facilitate or enable these efforts through meetings, dinners and calls.

There is another difference between Biden’s and Clinton’s denials.

I testified at the Clinton impeachment that perjury is an impeachable offense for a president, regardless of the subject. However, many witnesses and observers argued that even a criminal act is not impeachable if it does not compromise one’s office.

Influence peddling is different, though. It involves the selling of access to or influence on one’s public office. Even if you claim the money did not influence your decisions, knowledge of or interaction with such corruption undermines both the office and the public trust.

The vote this coming week in the House not only will bring a moment of truth for Biden but for his party. House Democrats will have to decide whether, despite the extensive evidence of influence peddling and the president’s apparent lies, they will not support even an inquiry into allegations of corruption. This is the same party which used a “snap impeachment” for the last president without holding a single hearing.

It does not have to be this way, where not a single Democrat will support the investigation — despite 40% of their party viewing Biden as either criminal or corrupt or both. If members truly oppose the corruption that saturates this city, they can take a stand by voting in favor of this inquiry and against influence peddling.

Jonathan Turley, an attorney, constitutional law scholar and legal analyst, is the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at The George Washington University Law School.


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