Treasury hands Hunter Biden records over to GOP after refusing to release Trump tax returns

"A blatant double standard"

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published February 7, 2020 5:08PM (EST)

Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and Donald Trump (Getty Images/Salon)
Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and Donald Trump (Getty Images/Salon)

The Treasury Department turned over Hunter Biden's confidential financial records to Republican senators despite refusing to release President Donald Trump's tax returns as required by law.

Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., announced that they will investigate Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, and "his associates during the Obama administration" just one hour after the Senate voted to acquit Trump in an impeachment trial with no new witnesses or documents sparked by the president's push to investigate his political rivals. There is no evidence nor credible allegations that either Hunter or Joe Biden did anything illegal.

The senators said the Senate Finance and Homeland Security Committees will investigate Biden's work in China and Ukraine. They announced the investigation in a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray, asking for information about "the protective detail that Hunter Biden received while his father was Vice President," as well as a "list of all dates and locations of travel, international and domestic, for Hunter Biden."

A spokesperson for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, told Yahoo News, which first reported the story, that the Treasury Department had already complied with the Republicans' request for documents related to Hunter Biden and Burisma, the Ukrainian gas firm as the heart of Trump's conspiracy theories.

The Treasury Department has refused to comply with a similar request for Trump's tax records. The IRS, which is part of the department, is required by law to turn over the tax returns of any American if requested by the chair of the House Appropriations Committee. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has flouted the law, refusing to turn over the tax returns and arguing that the request "lacks a legitimate purpose."

"Applying a blatant double standard, Trump administration agencies like the Treasury Department are rapidly complying with Senate Republican requests — no subpoenas necessary — and producing 'evidence' of questionable origin," Wyden spokesperson Ashley Schapitl told Yahoo. "The administration told House Democrats to go pound sand when their oversight authority was mandatory while voluntarily cooperating with the Senate Republicans' sideshow at lightning speed."

A source familiar with the matter told the outlet that the Treasury began turning over Biden's documents less than two months after Grassley and Johnson sent a request in November. The "rapid" production of such confidential materials is "uncommon," the outlet noted.

Shortly after the request was sent, Wyden and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, complained to the department that "information requests from Congress, including legitimate Committee oversight requests related to Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), often take months to process, and we understand that certain such requests have yet to be answered at all."

Schapitl told the outlet Yahoo News that the warning was "spurred by concern that the agency would prioritize Republican requests over Democratic requests."

Republicans argued that Grassley first raised concerns that a Democratic National Committee staffer may be coordinating with Ukraine in 2017. But Schapitl pointed out that the scrutiny of Biden "ramped up just as the House impeachment investigation ramped up, providing an avenue for them to pursue the trumped-up investigation President Zelensky did not announce in the face of President Trump's extortion scheme."

"Republicans are turning the Senate into an arm of the president's political campaign, pursuing an investigation designed to further President Trump's favorite conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and smear Vice President Biden," Schapitl added.

Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy accused Democrats of trying to interfere in their oversight by complaining that their requests were not returned.

"As a matter of routine, we don't discuss sensitive third-party material during ongoing investigations," he told CNN. "It's unfortunate that Democrats, whom we've kept in the loop on our investigations, would recklessly seek to interfere with legitimate government oversight."

But some Republicans pushed back on the plan to investigate Biden.

"I know there's been some discussion about the Judiciary Committee taking a look at that. I think what I would like to see happen around here is a return to normalcy," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told The Hill. "People just kind of put their spears down. And let's get back to work and focus on, I think, what most people in the country think we ought to be doing."

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., argued that the public was not interested in hearing more about the Bidens.

"They are talking about . . . the cost of their insulin. They're talking about the fact that the roads need to be built," he told the outlet. "That's what they're concerned about. I think we need to speak to the American people's concerns."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., added that Senate committees are not the place to litigate the Bidens' finances.

"I think an election is the best way to handle that," he said.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate Donald Trump Hunter Biden Joe Biden Politics Ron Wyden Steven Mnuchin