US Vice President Joe Biden walks out of Air Force Two with his son Hunter and granddaughter Finnegan Biden on arrival in Beijing on December 4, 2013 (AFP / Ng Han Guan)

Donald Trump’s accusations about Hunter Biden

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President Donald Trump claimed during the first presidential debate that Joe Biden’s son got “millions of dollars” from China, Moscow and Ukraine, in a reprise of corruption allegations with which he has attempted to tar the Democrat’s effort to win the White House.

The mention of Ukraine was a reference to the role that Hunter Biden played on the board of gas company Burisma while his father was vice president.

Trump’s allegations remain unproven, but continue to resonate with his supporters, and to force Biden on the defensive.

 “He made a fortune in Ukraine, in China, in Moscow and various other places,” Trump said of Hunter Biden.

AFP Fact Check examines the claims below.

$183,000 a month

“What did he do with Burisma to deserve $183,000 (a month)?” Trump asked.

Trump’s reference to $183,000 does not match the $50,000 he has previously cited as Hunter Biden’s monthly salary. On another occasion, Trump claimed the amount was $83,000 a month.

Like all Burisma directors, Hunter Biden received compensation for his role on the board, which he left in April 2019, his lawyer George Mesires said on Medium, without giving an amount.

In early 2020, the Bidens were at the center of Trump’s impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The charges -- of which the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted the president -- stemmed from the US withholding military aid to Ukraine in an apparent effort to pressure Kiev into opening a probe of the Bidens. Trump was accused of “seeking dirt” on the Bidens that he could use to damage the former vice president’s White House bid. 

The president has suggested that Biden -- during his time as Barack Obama’s deputy -- acted improperly in firing a prosecutor overseeing a corruption probe at Burisma.

Biden did announce, beginning in late 2015, that Washington would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine unless prosecutor general Viktor Shokin was dismissed, which Ukraine’s parliament voted to do in March 2016.

A House Judiciary Committee investigation report for Trump’s impeachment found there was no basis to claim that Biden behaved improperly. The move furthered official US policy, the Democrat-led report said, referring to “multiple witnesses” who testified that Shokin was corrupt.

Burisma did, however, have a reputation in Ukraine as a corrupt company, and witnesses testified at the impeachment inquiry that Hunter Biden’s position created a potential appearance of conflict of interest.

These potential conflicts were the focus of a separate report released on September 23, 2020 by two Republican Senate committee chairmen, Senators Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley.

Their report alleges that Hunter Biden and a partner made millions of dollars from their association with the “corrupt oligarch” who headed Burisma and that Hunter’s involvement with the firm complicated US policy toward Ukraine.

But the report, whose title focused on “the impact on government policy” of Hunter’s behavior,  did not show that Joe Biden altered US Ukraine policy while he was vice president.

“The extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected US policy toward Ukraine is not clear,” it stated.

The Bidens have not faced any criminal charges related to the gas company.

“My son did nothing wrong at Burisma,” Joe Biden said during the debate, calling Trump’s claims “thoroughly discredited” by everybody.

“By the media, by our allies, by the World Bank,” and even those from Trump’s administration who testified and “said I did my job and I did it very well. I did it honorably,” Biden said.

$3.5 million from Moscow mayor’s wife

“Why is it, just out of curiosity, the mayor of Moscow’s wife gave your son $3.5 million?” Trump asked.

The Johnson/Grassley report, citing a confidential document on Page 69, says that Elena Baturina “wired $3.5 million” on February 14, 2014 to a bank account belonging to an investment firm co-founded by Hunter Biden. This was for a “consultancy agreement,” the report says.

“That’s not true,” Biden responded to Trump’s claim, and Democrats said the Johnson/Grassley investigation was “rooted in a known Russian disinformation effort intended to spur investigations into false allegations of corruption.”

Millions of dollars from China

“China ate your lunch Joe and no wonder, your son goes in and he takes out, he takes out billions of dollars, takes out billions of dollars to manage, he makes millions of dollars,” Trump said.

A similar claim was also made in the Johnson/Grassley report, which said Hunter Biden “made millions,” particularly through his links to Chinese businessman Ye Jianming.

But, as with Ukraine, that report did not show that Joe Biden altered US China policy while he was vice president, and during the debate Biden called Trump’s allegation “simply not true."

Trump’s reference to “billions” could refer to a previous version of the claim in which he said Biden’s son “walked out with $1.5 billion of money to invest” from China.

This is an apparent reference to Hunter Biden’s role with BHR Equity Investment Fund Management Co of Shanghai, where his lawyer Mesires said he served in an unpaid position on the company’s board.

Hunter Biden “has never made money from BHR,” Mesires said in an August 31, 2020 email to AFP.

The Wall Street Journal had reported in July, 2014 that the Chinese-US consortium aimed to raise about $1.5 billion to invest.

On his campaign website, Biden pledges to institute “strict conflict-of-interest and anti-corruption policies” for his administration.

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