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President Joe Biden’s brother Jim admitted to using US government contacts to help find potential projects for Chinese partner oil giant CEFC during Congressional hearing

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The president’s brother Jim Biden admitted to contacting top US government officials over a New York infrastructure contract for a Chinese government-linked company, in testimony to Congress last month. 

The admission could potentially implicate Jim in being charged with violating foreign lobbying laws – a topic he was grilled on in the meeting.

The 74-year-old gave a deposition to the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees on February 21. A transcript of the hearing was released on Friday.

In a fiery exchange, Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz grilled Jim on his partnership with Chinese government-linked oil giant CEFC – including a 2017 email he sent about getting the company infrastructure contracts with the help of US government officials.

Andrew Cuomo

In his testimony to the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees Congress on February 21, Joe Biden’s younger brother Jim, 75, (left) admitted that he had reached out to then New York governor Andrew Cuomo about a potential infrastructure contract for Chinese oil giant CEFC in 2017

A May 15, 2017 email showed Jim sent a memo to Hunter and their CEFC business partners listing politicians and government officials - including Cuomo - that could be of help

A May 15, 2017 email showed Jim sent a memo to Hunter and their CEFC business partners listing politicians and government officials – including Cuomo – that could be of help

One of the projects Jim was eyeing up for CEFC was the replacement of New York's Tappan Zee Bridge and the redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport

One of the projects Jim was eyeing up for CEFC was the replacement of New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge and the redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport

During his testimony, Jim confirmed that he spoke to then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo about potential jobs for the Chinese government-linked company.

The outreach could put him dangerously close to violating foreign lobbying laws.

On May 15, 2017, the president’s brother sent a memo to Hunter and their CEFC business partners James Gilliar, Rob Walker and Tony Bobulinski, titled ‘key phase one domestic contacts’, listing politicians and government officials that could be useful for their work with the Chinese company.

It included Cuomo, New York Department of Economic Development Commissioner Howard Zemsky, senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, then-New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and other governors and senators.

Jim told congressional investigators that CEFC was ‘looking to get involved in major infrastructure projects in the United States’, and that he focused on government officials because ‘It was my assumption that they would be involved.’

One of the projects Jim was eyeing up for CEFC was the replacement of New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge and the redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport.

‘I had a personal relationship with Cuomo, who referred me to Howard Zemsky, who I met with and would be the appropriate person,’ Jim said. 

Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz grilled Jim on his partnership with Chinese government-linked oil giant CEFC during a deposition hearing by the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees on February 21

Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz grilled Jim on his partnership with Chinese government-linked oil giant CEFC during a deposition hearing by the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees on February 21

When asked by investigators: ‘if CEFC is not contacting these government officials, are you contacting them?’ Jim said: ‘yes’.

Gaetz leapt on the admissions, asking Jim if he was aware of his obligation to file with the Department of Justice if he was working as a lobbyist for a foreign government-affiliated company.

‘I am not a lobbyist. I was simply making an inquiry in terms of projects that were in the newspaper,’ Jim protested.

‘I was simply identifying that there were projects that would be going on in these different locations, and that I wanted a further understanding through any operative of these principals in terms of what the qualifications were and the scope of the – scope of the projects.’

Gaetz asked him: ‘You were never concerned that the relationship development here on behalf of CEFC with U.S. policymakers converted you to an agent of a foreign government?’

‘That is not what I said I was doing,’ Jim answered, ‘I was dealing with a private company.’

‘And you were trying to develop relationships for them, weren’t you?’ Gaetz asked. ‘For the private company? Yes,’ Jim replied.

Jim Biden

The president's brother told Congress that one of the projects he was eyeing up for CEFC was the replacement of New York's Tappan Zee Bridge and the redevelopment of La Guardia Airport

The president’s brother told Congress that one of the projects he was eyeing up for CEFC was the replacement of New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge and the redevelopment of La Guardia Airport

Hunter Biden's business partner who has since turned on him, Tony Bobulinski (pictured) was included in Jim's email about using 'domestic contacts' to help their Chinese counterparts

Hunter Biden’s business partner who has since turned on him, Tony Bobulinski (pictured) was included in Jim’s email about using ‘domestic contacts’ to help their Chinese counterparts 

The exchange could land the president’s brother in legal hot water, if federal investigators determined that he was advocating to US government officials on behalf of not just a ‘private company’, but a foreign government-affiliated company, without notifying the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Based on previous prosecutions, the Justice Department may view CEFC as a ‘foreign principal’, which could require lobbyists for the firm to register under FARA.

A former CEFC consultant, Gal Luft, was indicted for a ‘violation of FARA’ after recruiting ex-CIA chief James Woolsey to publicly support policies favorable to China, in a scheme funded by CEFC executives.

And Patrick Ho, the secretary-general of CEFC nonprofit arm, was convicted in 2018 of bribing African government officials for the Chinese oil giant. During the prosecution, the DoJ accused CEFC of backing the corrupt foreign influence scheme.

However, CEFC is not currently listed among the foreign principals on the DoJ’s FARA website.

Later in his testimony to Congress, in response to Democrats’ questioning, Jim added that he didn’t meet with Cuomo, only Zemsky.

‘I wanted to know what projects in their judgment that I had longstanding relationships with, of what projects were really viable, not inside information,’ he said.

‘And that’s why I didn’t meet with Cuomo. I met with the person that really had firsthand knowledge of projects that were realistically going to be started within the next 10 years.’

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