Below is my column in the Hill on the new emerging narrative or defense from the Bidens. It has become increasingly obvious that the Bidens were influence peddling, as now acknowledged by many Democrats and media pundits. The new defense is that Hunter Biden and his uncles may have been selling influence, but that it was “illusory” and not actual. In other words, it was a grift. There is an obvious problem with this effort to portray Hunter as a type of Harald Hill, Music Man, selling marching bands. It is still corruption and the President may have not only known about it but fostered it. If that is the case and we just dismissed it as the natural order of things, as Professor Henry Hill warned, we truly do “have trouble right here in River city.”

As the House of Representatives goes into high gear in its impeachment proceedings (and possible contempt resolution against Hunter Biden), the Biden family legal problems continue to mount. In one week, it was revealed that President Biden’s brother James was caught on an FBI audiotape in a corruption investigation, while Ashley Biden, the president’s daughter, is now also facing demands for unpaid taxes.

James Biden is expected to appear before the House for questioning in the coming weeks. The appearance may solidify a new line of defense for the Bidens: that they are harmless grifters.

After years of denying influence peddling with the help of an obligating media, even some Democrats are now admitting that Hunter and his uncles have been selling influence. Biden associates confirmed that Joe Biden was the brand that they were peddling to foreign clients, who paid millions to the family.

The FBI tape is the latest example of how the Bidens would market their name and access. The surveillance occurred in the bribery investigation into Mississippi trial attorney Richard Scruggs. Like many Biden associates, Scruggs would eventually go to prison while the Bidens remained untouched.

Scruggs forked over $100,000 to James Biden when he was seeking to reinforce support for the massive tobacco legislation and Joe Biden was viewed as skeptical on what some viewed as a windfall for trial lawyers.

Scruggs admitted to the Washington Post that “I probably wouldn’t have hired [James Biden] if he wasn’t the senator’s brother.”

Scruggs was just another shady figure whose business association with the Bidens would ultimately end with a prison stint. As soon as the tape came out, so did the new defense.

James Biden took the money but allegedly did nothing to land his brother.

If that sounds familiar, it should. After Hunter Biden’s former business associate Devon Archer admitted that they were selling the “Biden brand,” the Bidens’ defenders immediately insisted that it was merely “illusory.” In other words, these corrupt figures wanted to buy influence and access, but they were just chumps fleeced by the Bidens.

The idea is to get the public to think less of the coked up Henry Hill in “Goodfellas” and more of the lovable professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man,” the charming rascal ripping off hayseeds by selling marching bands.

It is a curious defense that we are not corrupt because we just ripped off dupes who were corrupt people.

The problem, of course, is that influence peddling is a form of corruption. Indeed, it is a form of corruption that is so damaging to good government that the United States has pushed global agreements to ban influence peddling in other countries.

The question is whether Joe Biden knew about the influence peddling of his brothers and his son. If so, he actively assisted his family in acquiring millions to influence him on public policy or legislation. His family was effectively marketing time shares in a senator, a vice president and now a president.

Whether or not Biden delivered, the family business corrupted the functions of government by converting offices into types of commodities. That is the case regardless of whether or not they delivered. It is akin to an extortionist taking money without any intent to follow through on threats of disclosure or use of damaging material. Even in today’s willfully blind politics, every voter should be able to agree on two simple facts.

First, influence peddling is corruption long opposed by the government and denounced by both parties.

Second, if the president knew that his son and uncles were using him for influence peddling, Joe Biden is also corrupt.

That is why it comes down to knowledge. Under federal case law, money and gifts going to one’s family is often treated as a benefit for the purposes of corruption or bribery. Indeed, many of the current Democratic members previously voted that money going to family members of a judge was impeachable. I represented that judge in the last judicial impeachment tried on the Senate floor.

It is highly implausible that the president did not know about the influence peddling. There were news articles on the allegations, and the Biden family has been accused of influence peddling for decades. It is a virtual family business.

The greater problem facing the White House is that roughly 70 percent of voters (including 40 percent of Democrats) believes that President Biden acted illegally or unethically, or both. Even Hunter’s friend Archer said that the president’s denials of knowledge were “categorically false.” Other witnesses, such as Tony Bobulinski, have stated under oath that they personally spoke to Joe Biden about these dealings.

This is likely why defenders are now failing back on the claim that the Bidens may have been grifting, but not actually selling out. It was an act put on for corrupt marks wanting to buy an advantage. That is why the Biden team immediately said that James Biden took $100,000 but then did nothing to deliver his brother.

But Scruggs later expressed satisfaction for what he got out of the deal, stating “Jim was a help, and Joe gave us some good advice.”

Joe Biden would later join Scruggs at high-profile events, and Scruggs used his private jet to fly Biden to a fundraiser.

These are dealings that will now be pursued by the House. However, the issue remains what the president knew about his family’s influence peddling and when he knew it.

Jonathan Turley is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at the George Washington University Law School.