US Treasury tells Republican committee request needed for Hunter Biden data

U.S. President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden leave Holy Spirit Catholic Church after attending mass on St. Johns Island, South Carolina, U.S., August 13, 2022. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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WASHINGTON, Sept 3 (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury on Friday issued a formal response to a Republican lawmaker seeking “suspicious activity reports” on President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, saying he would only review official requests from the relevant Congress committees. .

Democrats control Congress and its committees, making such a demand from Republicans virtually impossible, although midterm congressional elections could change control. The request to the Treasury was made under the Bank Secrecy Act, which aims to help prevent money laundering.

Representative James Comer of Kentucky, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has accused the Treasury to change the rules to protect Hunter Biden’s business dealings with foreign companies.

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Former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress made Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China and Ukraine a line of attack against the elder Biden during the 2020 election campaign. Hunter Biden has denied any wrongdoing .

In July, Comer said Treasury officials told Republican committee staff that the department would not provide access to suspicious activity reports unless Democrats joined the request.

Suspicious activity reports are filed by financial institutions when customers make large cash transactions or transfers over $5,000 that could signal money laundering or other crimes, although many this guy are legit.

In a letter to Comer seen by Reuters, the Treasury said such reports are normally kept confidential but it complies with applicable laws and regulations on providing requested information to Congress. Such access would require written requests from the committees, but Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has the final say.

“Under applicable regulations, the Secretary may make information about the BSA available to Congress, or any committee or subcommittee thereof, upon written request indicating the particular information desired, criminal purposes, tax or regulatory matters for which the information is sought, and the official need for the information,” the Treasury wrote. “These decisions are left to the discretion of the Secretary.”

Comer said in a statement that it was “unacceptable” for the Treasury to withhold the reports and added that the department was “providing cover” for the Biden family.

“We need more information about these transactions and whether Joe Biden benefited financially from his family’s relationships with foreign adversaries,” Comer said. “The Republicans will use the power of the hammer in the next Congress to get them.”

While currently-minority House Republicans lack the power to make formal commission requests for such reports, including for Hunter Biden, the tide could change if they win control of the House in the presidential election. November Congress.

The Treasury said a requesting committee should provide a detailed statement of the purpose of seeking information to ensure it meets the objectives of the Bank Secrecy Act and to protect investigations from security forces. order.

“This is not a political process,” a Treasury official said in a statement. “Since the beginning of this administration, the Treasury has made SARs available in response to authorized requests from the committee and continues to engage in the process with all individual members seeking information.”

Similar notices have already been sent to Democratic lawmakers requesting suspicious activity reports.

The Treasury said that when it approves requests for Bank Secrecy Act information from any authorized party, it is only provided in secure reading rooms designed to keep the information confidential.

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Reporting by David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis, William Mallard and Lisa Shumaker

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