While vice president of the United States, Joe Biden allegedly used an alternate email account, and now, House Republicans want to read all his old messages.
Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, requested Thursday that the National Archives and Records Administration turn over a tranche of emails from President Biden’s time as vice president. More specifically, Comer wants “all unredacted documents and communications” to and from the then-vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, and his son's business associates.
Republicans have been scouring records for months as part of their investigation of Hunter Biden. The newest wrinkle: a pseudonym that the vice president used to set up an obscure but official government email account, a practice not uncommon among cabinet secretaries at the time.
Biden went by “Robert L. Peters” and, as vice president, could be reached at “Robert.L.Peters@pci.gov.”
“Joe Biden has stated there was ‘an absolute wall’ between his family’s foreign business schemes and his duties as Vice President, but evidence reveals that access was wide open for his family’s influence peddling,” Comer said in a statement.
The records request to the Archives comes after the Department of Justice appointed a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden when a plea deal between the government and the president’s son, stemming from two misdemeanor tax charges and a felony gun possession charge, fell apart. Republicans have long argued that the Biden family leveraged their political connections for personal gain and sought to connect the president directly to his son’s business dealings.
White House officials, meanwhile, deny any wrongdoing on the president’s behalf. The administration has alternately said that the president “never discussed” business and was “never in business” with his son.
But the emails House Republicans want completely unredacted show, at a bare minimum, that Vice President Biden’s team looped Hunter Biden into his official schedule, and they point to two emails sent on May 26, 2016, and June 14, 2016.
The May email cited by Comer in his letter was sent by John Flynn, a personal assistant to the vice president, and included a rundown of that day’s schedule. It details how Biden was to call then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at 9 a.m. before traveling to Rhode Island in the afternoon and eventually returning to the “Lake House” in Delaware.
Hunter Biden was copied on that email via an address associated with his consulting firm Rosemont Seneca. He was also present at an event that weekend with the rest of the Biden family as they gathered in Delaware to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the passing of Beau Biden.
Hunter Biden was also copied on the second email from June, which included a rundown of the vice president’s schedule for then-Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman’s visit to the White House.
The president’s son served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings from 2014 until 2019, earning a monthly salary of $83,000 despite having no experience in the natural gas industry. Republicans have noted this fact and pointed to a now infamous clip from December 2015 of Biden bragging about threatening to withhold billions in U.S. aid to Ukraine unless a prosecutor investigating Burisma was removed.
“I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,” Biden later recalled of his conversations with the Poroshenko government. “Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.”
The prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was removed at the end of March 2016, two months before Biden’s call with the Ukrainian president, according to the emailed schedule.
Redacted versions of those emails were previously released under the Freedom of Information Act, and Archives made them publicly available. They are cataloged online under the subhead, “Email Messages To and/or From Vice President Biden and Hunter Biden related to Burisma and Ukraine.” They correspond with emails contained on the laptop which the president’s son abandoned at a repair shop.
The only redaction: Archives appears to have omitted the phone number of Biden’s personal aide. The messages still, however, raise questions about why the president’s son, whom the White House refers to as “a private citizen,” was looped into an hour-by-hour official White House schedule.
Comer has also requested that Archives turn over “any document or communication” which included Hunter Biden or his business associates Eric Schwerin or Devon Archer.
Schwerin previously testified before the House Oversight Committee that he “was not aware” of any involvement by then-Vice President Biden in “the financial conduct” of his son’s business. Archer also testified that he was similarly unaware of any conversations between the vice president and his son.
Archer also testified that Hunter Biden had put his father on speakerphone as many as 20 times during meetings with business associates and that the former vice president met with a Chinese business associate of his son for coffee in Beijing.
Republicans believe that during his time as vice president, Biden used at least three pseudonyms, including Robert Peters, Robin Ware, and JRB Ware, revelations first reported by the New York Post. They are expected to pull at that string in the coming weeks and months. Comer has already requested that Archives turn over any documentation associated with those names as well.
The Associated Press reported that Obama administration officials were in the habit of using “secret government email accounts” to keep their inboxes from overflowing with spam. Then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed that characterization at the time, noting that even when officials used pseudonyms, their email correspondence was still archived.
“There’s nothing secret,” Carney said. “It's about having a public email address, as well as one for internal, you know, workings. But they're all available for when FOIA requests are made and congressional inquiries are conducted.”