Biden family scandal: Seven uncomfortable realities confronting the Democrat nominee
It's not the Russians exposing Joe Biden, it's his son's former business partners.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
- State Department officials, including Biden's former ambassador and deputy chief of mission in Kiev, have testified
- U.S. officials twice raised concerns that Burisma made bribery payments
- $7 million bribe payment
- Tony Bobulinski revealed he met with Biden on two separate occasions
- he shared half of his income with his father
- the sale of a Michigan auto parts manufacturer called Henniges
- reported last week that a grand jury subpoena
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has offered short, at times, halting defenses of his son Hunter's business deals in recent weeks after months of ignoring an increasingly clear narrative of a family member pursuing lucrative business deals in the shadows of his vice presidency.
"Not one single solitary thing was out of line," Biden said last Thursday when the questions about his son's business dealings came up at the last presidential debate. "Not a single thing."
"My son has not made money in terms of this thing, about what are you talking about, China," Biden said. "I have not had, the only guy that's made money from China is this guy," he added, point to Donald Trump.
Other times he and his defenders have rebuffed questions about the family business as a "smear job" or "Russian disinformation." But Biden's campaign hasn't disputed much of the evidence that has become public, instead declaring it doesn't matter because no crimes have been proven.
"Investigations by the press, during impeachment, and even by two Republican-led Senate committees whose work was decried as 'not legitimate' and political by a GOP colleague, have all reached the same conclusion: that Joe Biden carried out official US policy toward Ukraine and engaged in no wrongdoing," a campaign spokesman said recently.
But criminality isn't the only standard by which Americans evaluate their leaders. Judgment, ethics and transparency are also essential attributes.
On such, the Biden campaign has not yet explained or confronted these seven uncomfortable realities, many which have emerged not from Russian disinformation but rather from former associates of Hunter Biden and former government subordinates of the vice president.
1. Appearance of a conflict of interest
Joe Biden's claim that "not one single solitary thing was out of line" is contradicted by the facts. Multiple State Department officials, including Biden's former ambassador and deputy chief of mission in Kiev, have testified they believed the vice president created the appearance of a conflict of interest by continuing to oversee anti-corruption policy in Ukraine while his son served on the board of a company called Burisma Holdings that was under corruption investigation. The officials also said the Biden family behavior in Ukraine undercut U.S. efforts to fight endemic corruption in Ukraine.
The concerns were captured in one email written by U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission George Kent in September 2016. "The presence of Hunter Biden on the Burisma board was very awkward for all U.S. officials pushing an anticorruption agenda in Ukraine," he wrote.
In separate testimony, Kent revealed he raised his concerns directly with Joe Biden's office but got rebuffed. "I said that I had learned that Hunter Biden had been appointed to a board of this company, that I had just raised U.S. concerns about the owner of the company, who we believed had been engaged in money-laundering," Kent told senators earlier this year
"The bottom line," he added, "was I said I believe that this creates the perception of a potential conflict of interest, given Vice President Biden's role and his very strong advocacy for anticorruption action, and that I thought that someone needed to talk to Hunter Biden, and he should step down from the board of Burisma.
2. U.S. concerns about bribery on Hunter Biden's watch at Burisma
Documents released under FOIA show U.S. officials twice raised concerns that Burisma made bribery payments to Ukrainian officials in 2015 and 2016 in an effort to get criminal investigations against the firm and its owner shut down. Both allegedly occurred while Hunter Biden served on the board, and at least one instance, involving a $7 million bribe payment, was reported to the FBI.
3. Joe Biden's claim he did not discuss his son's business contradicted by public evidence
There are at least three instances where there is now public evidence that Joe Biden met with foreigners his son was courting for business.
The first occurred in 2011 when Obama White House entry logs show several Chinese businessmen involved with Hunter Biden checked in to meet the vice president.
The second occurred in 2013, when Hunter Biden rode aboard Air Force II with his father and then introduced the vice president in Beijing to a Chinese businessman that was helping him start an investment fund.
The third, alleged in an email purportedly recovered from Hunter Biden's old laptop, indicates Hunter Biden arranged for an official from Burisma to meet his father in April 2015. After some initial denials and efforts to discredit that laptop, the Biden campaign now acknowledges the encounter may have happened though insists it was fleeting.
And on Tuesday night, former Biden family business associate Tony Bobulinski revealed he met with Biden on two separate occasions to discuss prospective ventures into Chinese markets. "They knew exactly what they were doing," he said. They were dealing with a Chinese owned enterprise … that had strong financial support and political support from the Chinese Communist Party. That’s how it was presented to me. That’s not my own words. That’s how they presented it to me and read me in on it," he told Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
4. Evidence suggesting Joe Biden had a secret stake in Hunter Biden's business world
At least two pieces of evidence have emerged in the last two weeks that suggest Hunter Biden believed his father was getting a cut of his business. The first, which remains uncorroborated by Just the News, is an email found on the purported Hunter Biden laptop in which the vice president's son suggests he shared half of his income with his father.
The second piece of evidence, now authenticated by Just the News, is a proposal in May 2017 for a joint venture between a Chinese energy firm and a Hunter Biden-tied company called Sinohawk Holdings that stated that 10% of the venture's equity was being reserved for the "big guy." Sinohawk's CEO Tony Bobulinski has confirmed the reference to the "big guy" is Joe Biden, and that the then-former vice president was supposed to be a silent investor in the venture.
5. The videotaped confession Joe Biden made about strong-arming Ukraine to fire its chief prosecutor
The debate over Joe Biden's decision to force the firing of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in March 2016 was at the heart of last year's impeachment inquiry. But a year later, while President Trump has been acquitted, the questions about Joe Biden's conduct remain unanswered.
It is not in doubt that Biden, as vice president and chief U.S. policymaker for Ukraine, used the threat of withholding $1 billion in U.S. aid to Kiev in early 2016 to force the country to fire Shokin. It also is not in doubt that Biden was aware that Shokin's office was investigating Burisma at the time he took the action. And evidence that has emerged since impeachment makes clear that Shokin's probe into Burisma was active and expanding with court orders, referrals and a plan to summon Hunter Biden for questioning.
Biden says other U.S. officials and European allies wanted Shokin fired, but during recent testimonies State Department officials couldn't give specific examples of corruption or ineptitude that warranted ousting Shokin after he had been on the job just a year. State officials also could not produce any evidence that Shokin was told he was doing a bad job before he was ousted.
Joe Biden deserves the benefit of doubt until otherwise proven wrong, but the State Department should at least provide evidence showing the specific wrongdoing, concerns or performance failures that warranted Shokin's dramatic ouster and why the vice president had to be involved. Barring such evidence, the questions of a conflict of interest involving the Bidens will forever linger over the episode.
6. A Democratic firm's relentless pressure on behalf of Hunter Biden's Ukraine gas firm
The portrait of Joe Biden's ouster of the Ukrainian prosecutor is further complicated by a growing body of evidence that Burisma Holdings and its American lobbying shop, the Democrat firm known as Blue Star Strategies, relentlessly pressured senior Obama-Biden State Department officials in Washington and at the Kiev embassy to help end the corruption investigations plaguing the gas firm. Hunter Biden's role on the company was repeatedly cited by State officials as the pressure campaign persisted throughout the 2016 election.
Blue Star and an American criminal defense lawyer successfully settled the Ukrainian corruption probe just days before Donald Trump took office, eliminating the threat of prosecution against Burisma. The question that remains is what, if anything, did Obama administration officials do to facilitate the final outcome.
7. The National Security Question: Did flagged suspicious financial transactions compromise a political family?
While much of the attention in Burisma has been on the ethics issues around Hunter Biden making money in the vapor trail of his father's foreign policy jet-setting, a bigger question has emerged: Did foreign adversaries or frenemies in China, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan try to compromise the Biden family with financial deals and suspicious money?
A Senate report last month contained a bombshell revelation that the U.S. Treasury Department flagged many transactions flowing through the accounts of Hunter Biden-connected firms as "suspicious" — including transactions involving a Russian oligarch, a Ukrainian oligarch, and Chinese officials tied to the communist government and military.
In addition, a Hunter Biden-tied firm successfully facilitated the sale of a Michigan auto parts manufacturer called Henniges to China's military aircraft maker even though the company had protected, dual-use technology essential to U.S. fighter jets.
The question raised by the Senate that lingers over all these revelations is whether U.S. intelligence or the FBI explored the national security implications of these activities, including whether any foreign adversary tried to use the Biden family enterprises to launder money, a common tactic for compromising Americans. This question became even more pronounced after it was reported last week that a grand jury subpoena that was used by the FBI to seize the purported Hunter Biden laptop listed money laundering as a possible investigative focus.