By Zachary Stieber
President Joe Biden’s administration is refusing a request from a top lawmaker for records of Biden family financial activity flagged as suspicious.
An official with the U.S. Department of Treasury told Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) that his request would not be filled because it was not made by a committee.
“The Department responds to requests for BSA information from congressional committees of appropriate jurisdiction in a manner consistent with the statute and its implementing regulations, which mandate protection of highly sensitive reports from the risk of unauthorized use and disclosure,” Jonathan Davidson, the department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, said in a Sept. 2 missive.
BSA stands for the Bank Secrecy Act.
Comer, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, has been trying for months to obtain records under the act.
He wrote in May to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a Biden appointee, requesting copies of all Suspicious Activity Reports for Hunter Biden, the president’s son, and James Biden, the president’s brother, after reports emerged that transactions with which they were involved were flagged through such reports, lodged with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
One report said that more than 150 international transactions tied to either Hunter or James Biden were flagged by U.S. banks.
At the time, the Treasury Department told the Wall Street Journal that the department has made the reports “available for every request we’ve received, regardless of party, and will continue to do so.”
A new protocol for members wanting to view reports was developed after Joe Biden took office in 2021, the department also said.
Comer sent another letter in July, saying Treasury officials in a June 13 phone call told Republicans on the Oversight panel that they would not provide the reports being sought.
“Treasury’s actions call for investigation and raise new questions about the degree to which the Biden Administration is using the federal government to provide cover for the Biden family and its associates,” Comer wrote to Yellen.
‘Deeply Respects’ Congress
Davidson, the Treasury official, said Friday that the department “deeply respects the critical oversight role of Congress and remains committed to responding to appropriate requests from committees of jurisdiction” but that the agency must safeguard BSA information.
“Law enforcement relies on this information to help identify, stop, and apprehend criminal actors. Thus, it is critical that the Executive Branch continue to receive the information and keep it confidential. Unauthorized use or disclosure of confidential information—whether intentional or inadvertent—can also undermine potential or ongoing investigations or proceedings,” he said.
The act bars disclosure with exceptions for members of the intelligence community and state, local, and foreign governments, if requests are made in compliance with the law.
The department in 1987 amended how it made information available. Under the change, which is still in place, the Treasury secretary may let Congress “or any committee or subcommittee thereof” see the information. However, the decisions “are entrusted to the Secretary’s discretion,” Davidson said.
“It is important that a requesting committee provide a detailed statement of its purpose in seeking to obtain the requested information and the use it intends to make of it so that the Secretary can make a determination as to whether the disclosure is consistent with the purposes of the BSA and longstanding Executive Branch interests like the protection of ongoing law enforcement investigations,” he said.
Democrats control all congressional committees because the party enjoys majorities in both congressional chambers.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) chairs the Oversight panel. She has not yet suggested any support for Comer’s request. Spokespersons for the panel majority did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“It’s unacceptable that the Treasury Department continues to run cover for the Biden family and possibly hide information about whether Joe Biden benefited financially from his family’s business transactions,” Comer said on Saturday. “We need more information about these transactions and if Joe Biden has benefited financially from his family’s dealings with foreign adversaries. It is a matter of national security to know if President Biden is compromised. The American people deserve answers, and Republicans will use the power of the gavel next Congress to get them.”