Politics Family tradition: Republicans lack ways to check Biden family access-peddling

15:49  16 february  2021
15:49  16 february  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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After four years of House Democrat-led investigations into former President Donald Trump, congressional Republicans are itching to look deeper into allegations of access-peddling by President Biden's immediate family members. But their options are scant.

a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Washington Examiner

Last Congress, for instance, Senate Republicans released an 87-page report by the Homeland Security and Finance committees into the business dealings of his lobbyist-investor son, Hunter Biden. However, this Congress, it is the Democrats who control the most intensive investigative powers, not just in the House but also in the Senate.

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"We need to understand the extent of the Biden family’s use of its connection to the president to enrich itself and any steps being taken to mitigate future self-dealing," said a Republican spokesperson for the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

The dilemma, for Republicans, is how. That's because life in the minority affords Republicans very few avenues of dissent and inquiry.

"The biggest thing we can do is just ask these questions," said Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, who sits on the Oversight Committee. "And in some respects, we have to rely on reporters, like yourself, to be able to ask these questions as well and try to do some digging. My hope is that the White House doesn't just stonewall us with a 'Come on, man' statement or a weak response by the press secretary."

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Republicans' inability to examine thoroughly whether any member of Biden's family has or stands to benefit personally or financially from their presidential patriarch is one of the first real consequences of the GOP losing two Georgia Senate runoff elections last month. That's because the twin defeats left the upper chamber split 50-50 between the parties, handing control to Democrats thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote.

Republican lawmakers and staffers working on two of Capitol Hill's leading investigative panels, the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, want to pursue, for example, the latest report on the president's potential ethical problems. This time, it's Biden's son-in-law who's alleged to have touted his links to the two-term vice president.

Howard Krein has been married to Ashley Biden since 2012. He's a head and shoulder surgeon, who's also StartUp Health's chief medical adviser. Since Howard Krein co-founded StartUp Health with his brother, Steven, and entrepreneur Unity Stoakes in 2011, the company has injected almost $2 billion into more than 350 ventures. That's an issue after reports this week that a tech firm approached StartUp Health in December for help marketing its coronavirus vaccine distribution software to state and federal agencies.

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StartUp Health spokeswoman Jennifer Hankin told ABC News Krein "does not make investment decisions at StartUp Health nor does he advise or assist companies on obtaining government contracts." StartUp Health, though, has promoted Krein's cancer research facility tours with Joe Biden, an Oval Office meeting with former President Barack Obama, even an excerpt from Joe Biden's memoir. Joe Biden has addressed an annual StartUp Health conference twice as a private citizen too.

The allegations that Krein could be manipulating his proximity to Biden to make money from the pandemic "are deeply concerning," a Republican Oversight Committee spokesperson told the Washington Examiner.

"Unfortunately, this follows numerous reports about President Biden’s family attempting to profit from their access to the White House," the spokesperson said.

As recently as Inauguration Day, Joe Biden's youngest brother Frank, a consultant, was featured in an ad for a law firm, the Berman Law Group, showcasing his ties to the new administration. That's on top of longstanding complications with presidential son Hunter Biden, and the president's middle brother, James Biden.

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When asked, the White House has outlined internal processes involving its counsel's office and family representatives that identifies and deals with possible conflicts of interests. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki was slightly more glib from the briefing podium when she was quizzed on Krein.

"Well, Dr. Krein is his son-in-law," Psaki said. "And I think he was here because the president was inaugurated recently, which is understandable."

"The president has made clear that there will be an absolute wall between him and any businesses connected with his family members," she added, even though incidents keep arising.

Federal employees are legally prohibited from creating even a whiff of unethical speculation, but the rules regulating first and second families are more amorphous.

Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project On Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog organization, told the Washington Examiner this month that "firewalls" had been established in the past to avoid breaches.

"But it really falls on the senior [administration] officials to kind of police that and keep the families in check," Amey said.

Donalds indicated that he supports Congress acting to ensure no public servant or their family members, made money from that senior government officials' position.

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"What you are really seeing is the way Congress has really diluted its power and authority to the executive branch just because they happen to share the same party," he said. "This is not a good place for the country to be. Congress has a responsibility to ask these questions of the president and of the president's family."

Tags: News, Biden, Hunter Biden, Biden Administration, Joe Biden, White House

Original Author: Naomi Lim

Original Location: Family tradition: Republicans lack ways to check Biden family access-peddling

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usr: 1
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