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Fact check: Evidence supports Democrats’ case that Joe Biden made a personal loan to his brother

On October 20, House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. James Comer released a video raising questions about a 2018 personal check to Joe Biden from his brother James Biden and James’ wife Sara Biden, which had the words “loan repayment” written on the front. Comer said he would view the $200,000 check to Joe Biden as “troubling” even if it was a loan repayment, since it came on the same day that James Biden received $200,000 from a struggling health company he did business with.

Then Comer went further.

In a series of interviews with conservative media outlets, Comer, a Republican, repeatedly said he did not “believe” that Joe Biden had actually made a loan to his brother. And when Democratic members of the committee and a lawyer for James Biden said that Comer’s committee has documents that show there had indeed been a $200,000 loan from Joe Biden to James Biden, less than two months prior to the $200,000 check from James Biden and his wife to Joe Biden that said “loan repayment,” Comer declared that the Democrats were “lying” – saying that “at the end of the day, there’s no document that shows there was a loan.”

But banking records reviewed by CNN, which Comer’s committee possesses, provide substantial evidence in support of the Democrats’ assertions that there was indeed a $200,000 loan from Joe Biden to James Biden less than two months before the James Biden “loan repayment” check to Joe Biden for the same amount.

The evidence CNN has reviewed is almost certainly only a fraction of the evidence Comer’s Republican-controlled committee has obtained, given that the committee subpoenaed years of financial records; the fraction CNN has seen does not prove with absolute certainty that there was a loan. But even this small batch of evidence clearly shows that the Democrats have documents at least partially substantiating their assertions about the check – and that Comer has not yet released some documents that undercut his efforts to raise public suspicions about the Bidens.

What the evidence shows

A source with direct access to the documents Comer’s committee has obtained via subpoena provided CNN with copies of some of the James Biden banking records the committee obtained as part of its broader investigation into the finances of members of the president’s family.

Comer’s team does not dispute that these banking records show that James Biden was sent a $200,000 wire transfer on January 12, 2018, less than two months before James Biden and Sara Biden wrote Joe Biden the March 1, 2018, “loan repayment” check for $200,000.

So why, given the matching amounts and the “loan repayment” text on the check, does Comer not “believe” that Joe Biden ever made the loan? A Republican aide on Comer’s committee argued to CNN that there are reasons for doubt that the $200,000 wire transfer to James Biden was actually from Joe Biden.

We’ll get into the aide’s arguments later in this article. But the evidence reviewed by CNN supports Democrats’ assertions that Joe Biden was the person behind the $200,000 wire transfer to his brother.

Here’s why.

The banking records reviewed by CNN show that the $200,000 wire transfer was sent from an attorney trust account (an account used by a lawyer to hold a client’s money) at a Wilmington, Delaware, law firm that Joe Biden co-founded decades ago and that still has his longtime friend Melvyn Monzack as a partner.

The banking records reviewed by CNN do not show Joe Biden’s name anywhere on the wire transfer. But Comer’s committee possesses an additional piece of evidence that appears to clearly link Joe Biden to the attorney trust account the wire was from.

The evidence is a copy of another check, for $40,000, that was written by James Biden and his wife to Joe Biden in September 2017. On the back of that check, there is handwriting – with the president’s name Joseph R. Biden Jr., then a notation identifying Melvyn Monzack as Biden’s attorney-in-fact (which generally means a person who has been granted the right to act on behalf of someone else), then a stamp saying the money was deposited in an attorney trust account with a particular account number.

Though that account number was partially redacted by the source for privacy reasons, CNN was permitted to view four digits. Here’s the key: those four digits are the same as four digits on the account that sent the $200,000 wire transfer to James Biden in early 2018.

In other words, the evidence suggests that the $200,000 that was sent to James Biden in January 2018 came from an account that belonged to Joe Biden.

In a letter to Comer on Thursday, the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jamie Raskin, wrote that there is “clear evidence that this transaction was a short-term, interest-free loan between brothers, which occurred while President Biden was also a private citizen.” (Joe Biden was neither a government official nor a political candidate in 2018.)

Raskin wrote that “the bank records provided to the Committee clearly show that President Biden had $200,000 wired to his brother on January 12, 2018. Despite this clear evidence that James Biden received a loan from his brother on January 12, 2018, and paid him back 48 days later with a check for the same amount marked ‘loan repayment,’ you continue to misrepresent the facts.”

Comer has made other points. He has emphasized that on the same day that James Biden wrote the $200,000 check to Joe Biden, James Biden received $200,000 from Americore Health, a financially troubled firm with which he had a business relationship; Comer has accused James Biden of engaging in “shady influence peddling” trading on the Biden name. But Comer has presented no evidence that Joe Biden was involved in his brother’s transactions with the company, let alone that Joe Biden undertook any official acts during his vice presidency or presidency to benefit his brother.

James Biden has not been charged with any offense, and his lawyer Paul Fishman said in an email: “At no time did Jim involve his brother in any of his business relationships.” White House spokesperson Ian Sams said in an email that Comer’s committee has “again turned up zero evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden – and that’s because there is none.”

The response from Comer’s committee

Last week, CNN sent an explanation of the evidence outlined in this article to an aide for the Republican majority on Comer’s committee. The aide responded by making a detailed argument that it remains unclear that Joe Biden was the one who sent the $200,000 to James Biden in January 2018.

Again, CNN can’t say with complete certainty that there was a loan. But there are significant holes in the aide’s argument. Let’s walk through them.

The Republican committee aide said that the attorney trust account number on the back of the 2017 check to Joe Biden is illegible except for the last two digits. Again, CNN has seen four digits, including those last two, that match four digits on the 2018 wire transfer to James Biden.

The Republican committee aide also said that other members of the Biden family have had dealings with Monzack’s Delaware law firm, and that the banking records the committee possesses don’t make clear that the attorney trust account number is Joe Biden’s – “rather than a more generic account the firm could have used to mask the true identity of client transactions.” But the committee has provided zero indication that Monzack somehow deceptively used this account or that the account was used to hold money for anyone other than Joe Biden. (Monzack didn’t respond to voicemail messages requesting comment.)

Next, the aide said that Joe Biden deposited the $200,000 check from his brother in a different bank account, not the attorney trust account. But that’s irrelevant to the question of whether the attorney trust account is his. Many Americans have more than one bank account. Joe Biden depositing a check into a second account doesn’t show that he isn’t tied to the first account.

On Thursday, Comer issued a letter to the White House calling for the release of any documents about the loan, such as a loan agreement, “if” there was indeed a loan; Comer also reiterated his position that “no records in the Committee’s possession state that Joe Biden made a large loan payment to his brother.” On Monday, Raskin issued a letter to Comer again accusing the chairman of misrepresenting the facts and again saying the bank records clearly show Joe Biden had made a $200,000 loan.

CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.

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