Hunter Biden labeled 'lobbyist' in tax indictment. Did prosecutors signal potential fresh liability?

The IRS whistleblowers told Congress that potential lobbying violations were one focus of their investigation into Hunter Biden. FARA violators may face up to up to five years in prison.

Published: June 14, 2024 11:00pm

Updated: June 15, 2024 6:58am

Prosecutors in Hunter Biden’s upcoming tax trial referred to the first son as a lobbyist in their indictment. Was it just a biography reference or a signal of fresh legal jeopardy?  

Here is what we know.

Biden originally worked as a lobbyist for a brief period in between 2001 and 2008, stopping before his father ran for president. But Biden continued to earn lucrative monies throughout his later business career as he partnered with foreign partners that sought to influence U.S. policy.

This work has potentially opened him up to more legal jeopardy as the Justice Department reportedly considers whether he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) — the same law that brought down former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

“Defendant ROBERT HUNTER BIDEN (hereafter 'the Defendant') was a Georgetown- and Yale-educated lawyer, lobbyist, consultant, and businessperson and, beginning in April 2018, a resident of Los Angeles, California,” the introduction to Biden’s indictment in the Central District of California reads.

You can read the indictment below:

Hunter Biden’s possibly unregistered, and thus, illegal lobbying activities are not mentioned elsewhere in the indictment, which focuses exclusively on the alleged tax violations. Biden was charged by Department of Justice special counsel David Weiss with three felony and six misdemeanor tax offenses late last year for failing to file and pay several tax returns from 2016 to 2019. The first son’s tax problems began in 2014, but the statute of limitations on potential charges for 2014 and 2015 was permitted to expire by incurious federal prosecutors.

Documents obtained from Hunter Biden’s laptop and from a trove of files seized by the FBI and SEC as part of a fraud investigation into his business partners Devon Archer and Jason Galanis detail efforts by his clients to seek influence in Washington.

The documents reviewed by Just the News show one of his most famous clients, Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, wanted to secure meetings with State Department officials in Washington, D.C. and hire consultants and public relations firms to blunt a Ukrainian government investigation into the company.

For example, Hunter Biden helped the U.S. law firm that employed him secure a lucrative retainer with Burisma Holdings in 2014. That firm — Boies Schiller Flexner — then proceeded to draft a 58-page plan to try to extricate the controversial energy company from an ongoing criminal investigation in Ukraine that relied heavily on trying to influence his father’s administration in Washington, according to one piece of evidence gathered by the FBI in the fraud investigation, Just the News reported earlier this month.

Reporting last year indicated that the Department of Justice was investigating Hunter Biden under FARA for his work with Burisma and the Chinese energy conglomerate CEFC China Energy.

Information revealed to Congress by IRS whistleblowers Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler showed that their investigative team and now-special counsel David Weiss in charge of the Biden prosecutions were looking in to potential violations of FARA by the first son.

The document provides the most direct and detailed window into how Hunter Biden, his business partners and his fellow lawyers at the Boies Schiller & Flexner law firm intended to build pressure in Washington – from the State Department to Congress – to get Ukrainians to drop their criminal investigation of Burisma after Hunter Biden and Archer were hired to its board of directors.

A major goal of the plan, the memo stated, was to “meet with the U.S. officials in Washington, DC who are leading U.S. policy related to Ukraine to brief them on who Burisma is, its significance to the future of Ukraine, and the Investigation in order to seek their advice and assistance; focus on why a legal challenge and/or a taking of Burisma's licenses is detrimental to both U.S. and Ukrainian national interests.”

At the time, the Obama-Biden State Department deemed Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, to be corrupt and suspected the company may have paid bribes, according to testimony during President Donald Trump’s 2019 impeachment and documents later released by the federal government to Just the News under open records laws.

As part of the legal defense strategy, BSF outlined plans to “Meet with the U.S. officials in Washington, DC who are leading U.S. policy related to Ukraine” and emphasize its “significance to the future of Ukraine.” BSF’s strategy would be implemented over the following year by the Burisma team, especially after Hunter Biden helped connect the company with Democrat-linked firm Blue Star Strategies.

Blue Star was hired to lobby U.S. State Department officials directly on behalf of Burisma, Just the News previously reported. The firm belatedly registered as a foreign agent for its work for Burisma under FARA only after government pressure to do so.

Hunter Biden would also go on to meet personally with at least one official identified in the strategy memo as a target inside the Obama-Biden administration. Amos Hochstein, a longtime adviser to Joe Biden when he was vice president, who continues to work for Joe Biden as president, was specifically identified in the Boies plan.

Hochstein was also one of the key officials aboard Air Force Two during discussions with Vice President Biden about then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. During these discussions, Vice President Biden ultimately “called an audible” and decided to call for the prosecutor general’s ouster in connection to a $1 billion loan guarantee from the United States, a narrative that has now become infamous after being at the center of the first Trump impeachment. Biden would later brag on national television about using a loan to Ukraine as leverage to get Shokin removed.  

Hunter Biden’s meetings with Hochstein during the time that Vice President Biden was preparing to travel to Ukraine have raised questions in Congress about whether the younger Biden should have registered under FARA at the time, especially because Burisma’s U.S. lawyer had to register for similar meetings with the State Department official.

In October of 2015, Hochstein reportedly raised the issue of Hunter Biden’s work on Burisma’s board directly with Joe Biden, according to testimony with the Senate Committees on Homeland Security and Finance. President Biden has repeatedly claimed he had no knowledge or involvement with his son's business dealings. 

According to Senate investigators and an email obtained from Hunter Biden’s laptop, Hunter Biden reached out to him to set up a meeting for coffee on November 4, 2015, shortly after he reportedly spoke with his father.

The communications between them continued after the meeting. “Amos Hochstein called,” Hunter Biden’s secretary emailed him shortly after. “Please call back today if possible,” she wrote.

On December 6, Hochstein was photographed personally briefing the vice president on his way to Ukraine. When Senate investigators—led by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson—asked about this briefing, Hochstein declined to elaborate on the specifics of his conversations with the vice president but said, “In my conversation with Hunter Biden, I did not recommend that he leave the board” of Burisma.  

Evidence also suggests that Hunter Biden worked to help resolve a U.S. visa issue for the owner of Burisma. In one email Hunter Biden asserts he is working with someone to get visa issues resolved for Mykola Zlochevsky, Burisma’s owner.

The growing pile of evidence appears to contradict testimony Biden provided directly to the House of Representatives, which is conducting an impeachment inquiry into his father. Hunter Biden told congressional investigators that Burisma retained Democratic Party-connected Blue Star Strategies in part to do work related to Zlochevsky’s visa precisely because he was “not willing to provide” that service himself.

“Some of the things that -- that Burisma, understandably and credibly, needed in terms of services I was not willing to provide. One of those things were do any work as it related to visas that they needed,” Hunter Biden said.

Yet, when Zlochevsky’s revoked American visa threatened to derail a Burisma board meeting in Mexico, verified emails suggest Hunter Biden personally used his government contacts to try to resolve the issue.

“Just to let you know, our sources at the Mexican embassy confirmed to us that if a person has had certain unsettled issues re the American visa in the past, there's a strong probability that he or she might have problems at the Mexican border,” Burisma executive Vadim Pozharskyi wrote to Hunter Biden and Devon Archer ahead of the planned trip. “With this in mind, I feel that we should consider the risks for Nikolay going there.”

“Hunter is still trying to get confirms from our contacts there,” Archer replied.

"Me [sic] contact has said that he will take care of it--- BUT I have not gotten confirmation yet that he has done so with 100% certainty,” Hunter Biden wrote Burisma executive Vadim Pozharskyi, Just the News reported earlier this month.

House Republicans have specifically accused Hunter Biden of lying to Congress regarding the visa issue. The three Chairmen leading the impeachment inquiry filed a criminal referral to the Justice Department for the first son earlier this month after making the accusations.

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