JFor the political right in America, Joe Biden’s son Hunter has been the gift that keeps on giving, with his public struggles with addiction, his scandalous private life and his tangled professional life. On the left, Hunter’s woes are dismissed as a Republican political obsession and a talking point for tabloid journalism and internet gossip.
But last week, two witnesses called before a federal grand jury sitting in Wilmington, Delaware, which is examining the tax cases of the president’s son, made the subject harder to avoid.
First there was Lunden Roberts, with whom Biden has an unacknowledged three-year-old child. Then Zoe Kestan, an ex-girlfriend and lingerie and textile designer, spent five hours testifying about Biden’s spending, including – apparently – stays at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, where in 2018 , allegedly, Biden was concerned about cooking crack cocaine.
As miserable and salacious as it sounds, much of Hunter Biden’s story, detailed at length in his autobiography Beautiful Things, published last year, points in this direction. “I am not a curiosity or a sideshow at some point in history,” Biden said in his book. “I worked for someone other than my father, [I] got up and fell on his own.
But that’s not how Joe Biden’s political enemies see him.
Donald Trump has tried to challenge Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine, Russia and China, which included high-paying consultants and freebies, and allegations that, as vice president, Joe Biden shaped foreign policy American in Ukraine for the benefit of his son.
For Trump, it backfired, when efforts to uncover information about the Bidens and Ukraine helped trigger his first impeachment. Then came the surface of Hunter Biden’s missing laptop, with its library of decadent images and professional email chains, mysteriously left in a Wilmington repair shop, which found its way to Republican political operatives, including Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon, as well as the right-wing press and the FBI.
On the political front, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the laptop was a “stain” of Russian intelligence, and 50 former intelligence officials said it was was probably Russian disinformation. Now, however, hardly anyone disputes its authenticity.
Hunter Biden confirmed he was under federal investigation over a tax matter in December 2020, days after his father was elected president. Attorney General Bill Barr said he “saw no reason” to appoint a special counsel to oversee the investigations, which include an investigation by a federal securities fraud unit in New York and another in Pennsylvania.
Biden has not been charged with any crime, and David Weiss, a U.S. attorney in Delaware who is overseeing the investigation, is seen as a direct shooter unlikely to be swayed by political pressure. He was nominated by Trump on the recommendation of the two Democratic state senators and was not replaced by Joe Biden.
Weiss, according to Politico, avoided making any decisions that would alert the public to the existence of the investigation ahead of the 2020 presidential election — and a repeat of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. , which could have influenced the outcome of the 2016 contest.
But the larger question — beyond whether Hunter Biden properly fulfilled his tax obligations during a period in which, by his own account, he was paid $50,000 a month by Ukrainian company Burisma — are the ties Biden’s financiers with foreign figures and companies while his father served as Barack Obama’s No. 2.
Illegal lobbying is an issue that has followed Trump throughout his presidency, leading to the conviction of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in 2016 for tax evasion. Manafort later pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (Fara) by providing false statements, laundering money, tampering with witnesses and failing to register as a Ukrainian government official.
Last year, Thomas Barrack, a friend and former adviser to Trump, was arrested on charges that he and others had failed to inform the US government that they were working to influence US foreign policy on behalf of Americans. United Arab Emirates.
Under US law, all persons acting politically or quasi-politically on behalf of foreign entities in the United States must properly disclose their activities.
In addition to Hunter Biden’s ties to Ukraine through gas company Burisma, he served on the boards of BHR Partners, a private equity fund backed by a number of Chinese state entities; a hedge fund, Paradigm; an advisory firm, Seneca Global Advisors; and the financing firm Rosemont Seneca.
Republicans, including Iowa senior senator Chuck Grassley, have asked the Justice Department to assess whether Hunter or Joe Biden’s brother James Biden should have registered as foreign agents for their commercial agreements with the energy company CEFC, supported by the Chinese government.
In 2018, Business Insider reported that Hunter Biden was asking for a $2 million annual retainer to help recover Libyan assets frozen by the Obama administration during Muammar Gaddafi’s rule. The list of charges is growing.
“Influence peddling is a virtual spectator sport in the nation’s capital — protected corruption,” said Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar at George Washington University Law School.
Turley said, “This is how powerful ruling elites make big money, and Congress has never seriously tried to suppress it. The children and spouses of powerful leaders continue to receive windfall payments from foreign corporations and interests, but we’ve never really seen corporations like Hunter Biden. His contracts go beyond anything we’ve seen before.
Joe Biden has long insisted his son did nothing wrong. “There is no one who has indicated that there was a single solitary thing he did that was inappropriate, bad … or anything other than looks,” Biden said a while back. two years.
But if the Delaware panel recommends criminal charges, it could ricochet around the second half of his father’s administration.
Like Barr, current U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland declined to appoint a special counsel. But if Republicans take control of the legislature in November, the pressure to appoint a prosecutor will certainly increase, as was the case with Trump with Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference or with Ken Starr appointed to investigate. on Clinton’s investment dealings in Whitewater.
“I have no doubt that if they [Republicans] can, they will,” said James Carville, architect of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential victory and Democratic Party strategist throughout the 1990s, with a long memory of politically inspired investigations.
“At first you are outraged, then it becomes the standard routine of everyday life. You become battle hardened and immune to it. I think they spent 687 hours investigating the Clinton Christmas card list – a major, major investigation. I can’t tell you how many covers and investigations were done on Whitewater, which was nothing. [And] Travelgate. Then you end up with a consensual sex act and they go, ‘A-ha! We were right all the time!”
But for presidential children, the stakes are different and may have only increased as Washington has become more partisan. “They find themselves in the spotlight, whether they like it or not,” said Nancy Reagan biographer Bob Colacello.
“Lynda Bird Johnson is dating Playboy movie star George Hamilton, Ron Reagan quits Yale to become a ballet dancer, his sister Patti Davis marches with Nuclear Freeze protesters, Chelsea Clinton flop as a TV reporter, the Bush girls are partying in downtown Manhattan clubs … all were storms in teapots over the mess Hunter Biden got himself into with his dodgy business ventures in China and Ukraine.
One problem, says Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, is that financial conflict of interest law doesn’t reach the adult children of elected officials. “There were similar, if not exactly parallel, issues with Donald Trump’s adult children trying to sell condos in India, [trying to] doing business in other countries,” says Clark.
But efforts to investigate the Trump family fail.
Last week, the New York prosecutor’s investigation into whether the Trump Organization – which includes Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr as top executives – inflated asset values to obtain advantageous bank loans, seemed on the verge of collapse when two prosecutors hired for the purpose quit. .
But the Delaware grand jury in the Hunter Biden cases has a bigger reach.
According to Tessa Capeloto, a foreign agent registration law attorney at Wiley Rein, the push to look into influence peddling violations has grown since a 2016 inspector general’s report revealed that Fara was not applied as aggressively as necessary.
“There has been a concerted effort by the DOJ to ensure the law has teeth and is effectively administered and enforced. The law exists for a reason, which is to ensure that certain political and quasi-political activities undertaken on behalf of foreign interests are reported and made transparent.