Biden’s concerns about 2020 were quickly realized. Trumpworld latched on to Hunter Biden as a vulnerability ripe for exploitation. One of the people driving the attacks: the president’s oldest son. In an appearance on Axios on HBO this week, Trump Jr. said he wants to debate Hunter Biden and offered to release his tax returns if the younger Biden did the same, to show “who profited off of whose public service.” (The president has famously refused to disclose his own tax filings.)
As Joe Biden cemented his status as the Democratic front-runner in recent weeks, the Republican-controlled Senate’s investigative machinery began to whir. Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told reporters on March 4—one day after Biden’s resounding Super Tuesday victories—that he planned to put out a report centered on Hunter’s work for Burisma.
“These are questions that Joe Biden has not adequately answered,” Johnson said. “And if I were a Democrat primary voter, I’d want these questions satisfactorily answered before I cast my final vote.”
Sparing Trump’s children is more than some Democrats will tolerate. The party isn’t powerless here; Democrats control the House, which has investigative muscle all its own. But whether lawmakers will have the appetite to use it is an open question.
A starting point, Lockhart suggested, might be for House Democrats to open an inquiry into the hotel fees that the Secret Service pays when agents stay at Trump properties. The Washington Post reported last week that Trump’s company is charging higher rates than it’s claimed, all at taxpayers’ expense. The paper quoted Eric Trump as saying that the Secret Service was billed “at cost.”
“Subpoena the two boys to come in and talk about it. And then, once at the hearing, there are lots of things you can ask them,” Lockhart said. (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office could not be reached for comment.)
Priorities USA, a top Democratic super PAC, plans to sink money into advertising devoted to the business dealings of Trump’s children. “I don’t think there’s any question that it will be some part of our media operation,” Guy Cecil, the group’s chairman, told me.
A wild card is one of the world’s richest people. Following his withdrawal from the race, New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg started an independent-expenditure bid to defeat Trump in November. Bloomberg hasn’t yet laid out his spending plans, but his team seems to be signaling that it’d be willing to showcase the Trump children’s business dealings.
Peter Beinart: Why Trump supporters believe he is not corrupt
“If the Republicans really want to make an issue out of Hunter Biden, which is very low-hanging fruit that I don’t think most Democratic voters care about anyway, there is going to be a scorched-earth response aimed at all of the Trump children that is unlike anything they’ve experienced thus far in the media,” Timothy O’Brien, a Bloomberg adviser, said last weekend on MSNBC.