ex-jim-biden-business-partner-disputes-loan-testimony-before-congress

Ex-Jim Biden business partner disputes loan testimony before Congress

A former business partner of Jim Biden’s is disputing an account the president’s brother gave to Congress about hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans his company received.

Biden told congressional investigators that fund manager Michael Lewitt forgave $225,000 in loans to Biden’s firm, according to a transcript of his Feb. 21 testimony released Friday.

But Lewitt, who previously worked with Jim Biden to finance a hospital chain, told POLITICO that he did not forgive the loans. Instead, he said, a third party, which he declined to name, assumed Jim Biden’s debt. Lewitt said he believes the loan assumption occurred in early 2020.

Lewitt’s statements imply that Jim Biden’s company received a six-figure bailout from an unnamed benefactor while his brother was running for president.

It comes on the heels of a POLITICO investigation that found Jim Biden invoked his brother’s name to advance his work with the hospital chain, which has since been accused by the federal government of participating in a massive conspiracy to defraud Medicare.

A lawyer for Jim Biden reaffirmed his original testimony about the loans.

“Jim’s understanding remains that the loans from Michael Lewitt were forgiven,” Paul Fishman, a partner at Arnold & Porter, said in a statement to POLITICO. “He is unaware of any notice to the contrary.”

Investigators from the Republican-led House Oversight and Judiciary committees, which are pursuing an impeachment inquiry focused on the first family’s business dealings, zeroed in on Americore and Lewitt during last month’s interview of Jim Biden.

Lewitt’s Third Friday Fund transferred $225,000 to Jim Biden’s company, Lion Hall Group, over the course of several months in 2019, according to bank records cited in the interview transcript. Jim Biden told investigators that his wife Sara Biden is his partner in Lion Hall, according to the transcript.

He described the transfers as loans, according to the transcript, and said Lewitt forgave the loans, though he said he could not recall when.

Asked about the transfers, Lewitt contradicted Jim Biden’s testimony. “I can confirm my fund made those loans,” he wrote in an email, “but they were not forgiven they were assumed by a third party and will be repaid to my fund.”

Lewitt declined to name the third party, saying its identity was “private.” Asked about documentation of the loan assumption, he responded, “Can’t say it was documented.”

The transfers, which were disclosed for the first time in Friday’s transcript release, came amid a yearslong association between Jim Biden and Lewitt that has come under growing scrutiny in recent months.

Beginning around 2017, Jim Biden, Lewitt and Florida businessperson Amer Rustom, who has boasted of ties to officials in the Middle East, began pursuing business opportunities together.

The group set out to secure funding, including from sources in Qatar, for a variety of health care and other ventures.

One of those ventures was Americore, an operator of rural hospitals that has since collapsed and been accused by the federal government of sprawling Medicare fraud.

Jim Biden was asked to square his statements with a 2018 email to the CEO of a medical firm being courted for a licensing deal with Americore, in which he offered to “expose my brother's team to your protocol.”

Jim Biden helped arrange loans from Lewitt’s fund to Americore, beginning in early 2018.

Questions about whether Jim Biden has received financial support from people seeking favor with his brother have dogged him since he received loans to start a Delaware nightclub during President Joe Biden’s first Senate term in the 1970s.

POLITICO’s investigation of Americore, published last month, included accounts from several people involved in the venture who said that Jim Biden invoked his brother’s clout to advance the business or raised the prospect that Joe Biden would involve himself in the company.

At the time, representatives for Jim Biden declined to respond to POLITICO’s questions about the matter, but in his congressional interview, Jim Biden disputed each of those accounts.

“I may have mentioned my brother’s name on occasion, but I never did it in the, you know — what you’re inferring is that I tried to use it as a lever or influence,” he said, according to the transcript.

Jim Biden was asked to square his statements with a 2018 email to the CEO of a medical firm being courted for a licensing deal with Americore, in which he offered to “expose my brother’s team to your protocol.”

Jim Biden suggested that the email recipient might have brought up Joe Biden first.

“They may have queried me, ‘Is he your brother?’ And I’d say, you know, ‘Yes, he’s my brother,’” he said, according to the transcript. “I’m very proud of my brother, and I’m proud of his public service.”

Jim Biden cut ties with Americore in mid-2018 and told congressional investigators that the firm’s CEO hid details of its finances from him.

In 2022, a Florida businessperson, Daniel Hurt, pleaded guilty in federal court in Pennsylvania to his role in a vast Medicare fraud in which he admitted to receiving kickbacks from an Americore hospital outside of Pittsburgh. POLITICO reported last month that the case remains open.

It is one of several ongoing legal proceedings related to the hospital chain, which filed for bankruptcy in 2019.

Last September, the SEC sued Lewitt for fraud, alleging that his loans to the company violated his fund’s policies. Lewitt has denied wrongdoing, and the case remains ongoing. In December, House Republicans sent a letter seeking testimony to Lewitt, who previously told POLITICO he plans to reveal to Congress “everything I know.”

No interview date has been announced.