Biden's drive to tap 'earnings potential' led family to China-backed university, energy deal

Memos tell tale of how Hunter Biden and his business associates focused on father's "wealth creation."

Updated: January 16, 2023 - 11:19pm

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Just 18 months into his vice presidency, Joe Biden had a conversation with one of Hunter Biden's business associates that left an indelible impression about his desire to create future wealth.

"Your Dad just called me (about his mortgage) and mentioned he'd be out a lot soon and not really back until Labor Day," Rosemont Seneca executive Eric Schwerin wrote Hunter Biden on July 6, 2010 in an email on a laptop seized by the FBI. "So it dawned on me it might be a good time (also he could use some positive news about his future earnings potential!)."

Schwerin, who worked alongside Hunter Biden at the Rosemont Seneca investment firm and also doubled as a financial and tax adviser to the future president, asked Hunter Biden to consider meeting with his father soon to discuss the issue, according to the email.

"Does it make sense to see if your Dad has some time in the next couple of weeks while you are in DC to talk about it?" he wrote in the email entitled "JRB Future Memo" using the future president's initials as shorthand.

You can read that memo here:

By 2016, as Joe Biden was planning to leave the Obama White House, those conversations with Hunter Biden had graduated to "wealth creation" and the founding of a foreign policy think tank, according to emails that have taken on new significance after the discovery of classified documents in Biden's office and home renewed focus on the first family's foreign business deals.

Buried in a Hunter Biden laptop now in the FBI's possession are a series of emails, documents and messages that explain how America's first family got so deeply intertwined — especially in 2017-18 after he left the Obama White House — with Chinese interests now under federal and congressional investigation.

Matters under scrutiny include the University of Pennsylvania, which hosted the former VP's Penn Biden Center and received $47.7 million in gifts and contracts from Chinese sources while Biden worked as a guest lecturer, and CEFC, a Chinese conglomerate that formed a business venture with the president's son Hunter and brother James.

The most common link to the interests that have landed the Biden family in political hot water was Hunter Biden, who courted the University of Pennsylvania before it hired his father and pursued several Chinese deals, including an investment fund, the sale of a U.S. company that made sensitive technology, and eventually the creation of the CEFC venture aimed at buying up U.S. gas interests for China.

Today, both father and son are under DOJ investigation: the president for possible mishandling of classified documents and Hunter for taxes and other issues.

Just the News has reported over the last year that Hunter Biden and Schwerin occasionally discussed Joe Biden's finances, even discussing how the future president wanted to use a Delaware tax refund to pay back his son and identifying bills like cell phones and house repairs that Hunter Biden wanted to pay for his father.

As the prospect of Joe Biden's move from politics to the private sector drew nearer, entities and people associated with foreign interests — especially in China — surfaced more frequently.

A year after the 2010 conversation about Joe Biden's "future earnings potential," for instance, Hunter Biden began exploring an investment opportunity inside China with both excitement and trepidation.

"I don't believe in lottery tickets anymore, but I do believe in the super chairman," Hunter Biden wrote in one email exchange in September 2011, referring to a business partner in Hong Kong.

Hunter Biden seemed to understand that a political family tied to the White House also faced risks by dabbling in China business and why such interests wanted to be associated with him.

"Your question — 'why does Super Chair love me so much?' is easily answered," he wrote then-business partner Devon Archer. "It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with my last name."

That email suggested Archer and Biden "have to have a long talk about how we divide things going forward" if the deal was consummated and warned that their Chinese business partners might "come after us for f'ing up their relationships in Beijing."

In December 2013, Hunter Biden was flying aboard Air Force II with the vice president for a meeting in Beijing, which triggered the creation of an investment fund and occasioned a brief greeting between his father and one of the Chinese business partners.

By 2015, Hunter Biden had facilitated the sale of the Michigan-based auto parts maker Henniges Automotive, which made sensitive anti-vibration technology potentially usable for military fighter jets, to one of China's main military aircraft makers, Aviation Industry Corporation of China or AVIC.

That same year, Hunter Biden began courting the University of Pennsylvania and its top leader while also receiving a new overture from China that would eventually lead to one of the first family's most controversial deals, the CEFC energy partnership.

CEFC first approached Hunter Biden about making a donation to the U.S. World Food Programme, which he served as honorary chairman.

"Hunter was recently approached by a large privately owned Chinese corporation, called CEFC Energy China, that has a U.S. based foundation," Schwerin wrote in October 2015.

"They'd like to explore making a donation to WFP USA and their CEO would like to meet with the appropriate person at WFP USA the last week of October when he is in the U.S." he added. "My assumption based on the conversations I have had with them is that it would be more than just a token donation."

Soon, he and his partners would steer the discussion to personal business, when Hunter Biden was invited to a private meeting in December 2015 with CEFC's Chairman Ye in Washington D.C.

"I am confident that many interesting projects may come out of that in the future," a business associate wrote in explaining why Hunter Biden should attend.

As Just the News, The Washington Post and others have reported, the CEFC courtship eventually landed the Biden family a large diamond as a gift and a no-interest, forgivable $5 million loan that enriched the first family.

As the CEFC deals heated up, Hunter Biden also warmed the fires at the University of Pennsylvania, discussing with then-wife Kathleen hosting a pivate dinner for Penn president Amy Guttman.

"Maybe just ask her if Amy would rather just do dinner with mom dad and us — or if she wants we can do the larger dinner," Hunter Biden wrote in February 2015.

Calendar notations and other correspondence indicate that dinner was booked for April 2015.

Penn, like many other Ivy League schools, was growing its relationship with China, collecting millions in donations while also creating programs in the communist country, according to the university's own reports to the federal government and its website.

Data gathered by the National Legal and Policy Center and appended to a complaint in 2020 shows Penn obtained $67.6 million in grants and contracts from Chinese sources between 2013 and 2019, with most of it — $47.7 million — collected in the time Joe Biden was paid more than $900,000 by the university to work as a guest lecturer and lend his name to the Penn Biden Center think tank in 2017-19.

Hunter Biden's emails suggest he played a role in the meetings during the late Obama years that eventually landed his father the lucrative gig at Penn, including an April 2016 gathering at the Naval Observatory where the then-vice president lived.

Joe Biden eventually recalled the conversations with Guttman that landed him the Penn job, saying it became particularly attractive to him when he learned the university would not only employ him but also many staffers, like Antony Blinken, who would eventually follow him back to the White House as secretary of state after Biden's 2020 presidential election win.

"President Guttman, you came to me before the [Obama] administration was up and asked me would I consider being a professor at Penn," he recalled during a videotaped interview with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell at the Penn Biden Center when it opened in 2018. "The first thought I had was that it sounded like an intriguing idea.

"But it became even more intriguing after the outcome of the election when you said I could bring along with me some serious, serious people, serious staff people. And they're much more than staff. And I start with Tony Blinken and Steve Riccetti and others, so thank you for allowing me to bring along some really, really bright people."

You can watch Joe Biden's remarks about Penn here:

Eventually, President Joe Biden would reward Guttman with a prized ambassadorship to Germany and the school's chairman of the board of trustees with an ambassadorship to Canada.

While that Biden-Penn deal was being finalized, Hunter Biden became engaged in conversations with Craig Gering, an agent at the Creative Artists Agency, in April 2016.

Gering emailed Hunter Biden a rough plan for the vice president's private life after he left office. It included the Penn Biden Center, a Delaware University relationship, a private foundation and fourth item simply called "wealth creation."

"The Biden Institute of Foreign Relations at the University of Pennsylvania," Gering  wrote. "Focus on foreign policy. In addition to the institute at U of Penn, the school has an existing office in DC that will be expanded to house a DC office for VP Biden (and Mike, Hunter and Steve?). Operates like The Clinton Global Initiative without the money raise."

"Yes," Hunter wrote back, cautioning his father's plans were not fully formed. "In theory that's the way I would like to see it shake out. BUT please keep this very confidential between us because nothing has been set in stone and there's still a lot of sensitivity around all of this both internally and externally."

You can read that email exchange here:

Today, the Biden family's pursuit of "earnings potential" and "wealth creation" are at the center of a burgeoning investigation by House Republicans.

House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) told Just the News last week his investigation into the classified government documents discovery was being expanded to include whether the flow of China money to Penn and the Biden family businesses were part of a coordinated effort by the communist country.

"This is very concerning," Comer told the "Just the News, No Noise" television show. "We're sending a letter to Penn requesting documents related to the Chinese donations. We want a list of individuals involved, whoever was involved in soliciting donations from China. We want all communications because I think this is very important.

"This is another aspect of the potential for this family to be compromised."

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