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President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during a news conference at the White House, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during a news conference at the White House, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during a news conference at the White House, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg September 29, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • A Republican Senate committee report said a Russian widow sent $3.5 million to a partnership co-founded by Hunter Biden.

  • Biden’s lawyer says he did not co-found the partnership and had no stake in it.

  • Democrats say they reviewed the Republicans’ documentation but did not find a specific link to Hunter Biden. 

President Donald Trump, who himself faces questions about his ties to Russia, hinted at some sort of murky dealings involving the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

"Hunter Biden got three and a half million dollars from the wife of the mayor of Moscow, Trump said Sept. 27 at a press conference. "Why did he get three and a half million dollars?"

Any details or proof about that alleged transaction lie with undisclosed documents cited in a report issued by the Republican majority on the Senate Finance and Homeland Security committees. That report said Biden and his business partner Devon Archer had a financial relationship with Elena Baturina, the widow of a man who had been mayor of Moscow until 2010.

"Feb. 14, 2014, Baturina wired $3.5 million to a Rosemont Seneca Thornton bank account for a ‘Consultancy Agreement,’" the report said. "Rosemont Seneca Thornton is an investment firm co-founded by Hunter Biden."

The report also states that Rosemont Seneca Thorton served as a pass-through for Baturina’s investments in a Chinese-based tech start-up in Buffalo, N.Y.

We reached out to the Trump campaign and they said the Republican committee report was the source for the $3.5 million figure.

The report adds no more details about the significance of any of these transactions, although it notes that Baturina appeared to have benefited from her husband’s allegedly corrupt practices.

Hunter Biden’s lawyer George Mesires said Biden did not get $3.5 million and that the report has a key error.

"Hunter Biden had no interest in and was not a co-founder of Rosemont Seneca Thornton, so the claim that he was paid $3.5 million is false," Mesires said in an email.

We asked Mesire if he could share documents to show that Hunter Biden was not a co-founder, and he did not respond.

We asked Republican Senate staffers if they could show proof that Biden had a stake in Rosemont Seneca Thornton, and they also declined to respond.

The Senate report cites a Oct. 9, 2019, Financial Times story that says Hunter Biden was a co-founder, but the reporters don’t say in the story how they substantiated that — no source is cited. An email query to the Washington-based reporter on the story went unanswered.

Regardless, the Republican report doesn’t fully support Trump’s claim, because it never shows that Biden got the full $3.5 million.

Hunter Biden co-founded a firm called Rosemont Seneca in 2009, but the partnership with Thornton — even though it uses the Rosemont Seneca name — could exist without other partners in Rosemont Seneca having a stake. A business partner could have created this entity on his own. Without the ownership documents of Rosemont Seneca Thornton — which are not public — we simply can’t know.

As part of the committee investigation, Republicans on the Senate committees asked the Treasury Department for suspicious-activity reports. These come from banks and other financial institutions and often involve large sums and foreign transactions.

Democratic staff on the Finance and Homeland Security committees said the Republican paper trail doesn’t lead back to Biden.

"Democratic staff has reviewed all known information on file with the committees, however, including the confidential document cited by the Republicans (in the report), and are aware of no information in the committees’ possession showing Hunter Biden had any financial interest in this entity or transaction," they said in a statement.

We asked Republican staff whether Hunter Biden was named in any suspicious activity report. They did not respond.

If we receive clear evidence in the future, we will revisit this, but at this time, proof that Hunter Biden received money through this transaction is unproven.

PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

 
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Our Sources

Donald Trump, Press conference, Sept. 27, 2020

U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Majority report: Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Corruption: The Impact on U.S. Government Policy and Related Concerns, Sept. 23, 2020

Reuters, U.S. Republican senators ask Treasury for any reports on Hunter Biden, Nov. 22, 2019

U.S Senate Committees on Finance and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Letter to U.S. Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Nov. 15, 2019

U.S. Treasury, Filing instructions: Suspicious Activity Report, accessed Sept. 28, 2020

OpenCorporates, Rosemont Seneca Thornton, LLC, accessed Sept. 28, 2020

OpenCorporates, Rosemont Seneca Partners,  LLC, accessed Sept. 28, 2020

Financial Times, Hunter Biden’s web of interests, Oct. 9, 2019

U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Minority report: Election interference: Majority investigation amplifies Russian attack on 2020 election, Sept. 23, 2020

Politico, Trump sought deals with Moscow mayor, Sept. 28, 2020

Politico, GOP senators’ anti-Biden report repackages old claims, Sept. 23, 2020

Buzzfeed, Republicans’ Hunter Biden Report Is Filled With Old, Unsubstantiated Allegations And Debunked Theories,Sept. 23, 2020

Email exchange, George Mesires, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, Sept. 28, 2020

Senate Finance and Homeland Security Committee Democratic staff, statement, Sept. 28, 2020

Email exchange, Ben Voelkel, communications, Office of Sen. Ron Johnson, Sept. 28, 2020

Email exchange, Zach Parkinson, spokesman, Trump for President, Sept. 28, 2020

 

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