The Justice Department is investigating Hunter Biden for foreign lobbying violations related to his overseas business dealings — likely in places such as China, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan — in addition to scrutinizing his taxes, according to a new report.
Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss is known to be leading a federal investigation into President Joe Biden’s adult son, who denies any wrongdoing, and the New York Times reported Wednesday that the investigation, which began as “a tax inquiry” during the Obama administration, then “widened” in 2018 to encompass “possible criminal violations of tax laws, as well as foreign lobbying and money laundering rules, according to the people familiar with the inquiry.”
The report said Hunter Biden’s “extensive work with foreign businesses came under scrutiny from prosecutors looking into whether he should have registered with the Justice Department” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Hunter Biden held a lucrative position on the board of Ukrainian energy giant Burisma when his father was vice president. He also pursued business deals in China, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere during and after his father’s tenure.
In early February 2021, President Biden asked all Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Donald Trump for their resignations, with Weiss as an exception. John Durham was asked to step down as the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut but was kept on as special counsel for his review of the Russia investigation.
The New York Times report, while citing its unnamed sources, said prosecutors face “hurdles” in demonstrating that the president’s son “intentionally violated” FARA. The outlet reported that prosecutors “have discussed approaching potential FARA violations as a civil matter, which would require Mr. Biden to register retroactively as a foreign agent, but would avoid criminal charges.”
Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley pressed the Justice Department in November 2020, during the tail end of the Trump administration, to review whether President Biden’s brother, James, and son, Hunter, should have been required to register as foreign agents of China as they pursued lucrative business deals with a since-bankrupted Chinese Communist Party-linked company led by Ye Jianming, who has since disappeared in China.
When Patrick Ho, one of Ye’s lieutenants, was charged by the Justice Department in 2017, the first call he reportedly made after his arrest was to James, who has said he thought the call was meant for Hunter Biden.
In 2017, ex-business partner Tony Bobulinski worked with Hunter Biden and others to create a business dubbed Sinohawk to establish a joint venture with CEFC. A Senate GOP report concluded that millions of dollars were instead sent by CEFC to accounts linked to Hunter Biden.
Hunter Biden made it clear that one of his goals was to avoid violating the anti-bribery Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or having to register as a foreign agent as he pursued potentially lucrative deals with the Chinese company, according to texts released by Bobulinski in October 2020.
“No matter what it will need to be a U.S. company at some level in order for us to make bids on federal and state-funded projects. Also we don’t want to have to register as foreign agents under the [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] which is much more expansive than people who should know choose not to know. James has very particular opinions about this so I would ask him about the foreign entity,” Hunter Biden texted Bobulinski in May 2017.
The New York Times cited sources to report that investigators scrutinized Hunter Biden’s “relationships with interests” in Kazakhstan as well as with Burisma and a “Chinese energy conglomerate.” Investigators looked at “a vehicle paid for using funds from a company associated with a Kazakh oligarch” as well as “a diamond from a Chinese energy tycoon,” the report said, citing its sources.
Emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop previously reported by the Washington Examiner show that he scheduled a meeting in 2014 with Karim Massimov, then the prime minister of Kazakhstan, to discuss an energy deal with Burisma.
The new report cited an email from Hunter Biden to former business partner Devon Archer in April 2014 in which he said an upcoming visit to Ukraine by “my guy,” then-Vice President Biden, should “be characterized as part of our advice and thinking — but what he will say and do is out of our hands.” Hunter Biden added that the announcement of his father’s trip “could be a really good thing or it could end up creating too great an expectation.” The email said Burisma’s leaders “need to know in no uncertain terms that we will not and cannot intervene directly with domestic policymakers, and that we need to abide by FARA and any other U.S. laws in the strictest sense across the board.”
The New York Times report says Hunter Biden suggested that the Boies Schiller Flexner law firm could assist Burisma with “direct discussions” at the State Department, Energy Department, and National Security Council.
The new report said it is unclear whether the inquiry is “solely” scrutinizing Hunter Biden or if he is among “a group of individuals and companies” being looked at, noting that Democratic consulting firm Blue Star Strategies is also being probed for FARA violations. Blue Star, which worked on behalf of Burisma when Hunter Biden was on the board, was reportedly being investigated by the Justice Department in relation to what could have been illegal lobbying efforts to help the company’s owner.
The outlet said Hunter Biden “paid off a significant tax liability,” according to “people familiar with the case,” and that the president’s son “told associates in recent months that he paid the federal taxes that had been the subject of Justice Department scrutiny,” including telling one associate that “the tax liability was more than $1 million, and that he had to take out a loan to pay it off.”
The outlet said prosecutors looked at other emails from April 2015 in which Hunter Biden and Archer talked about inviting a Burisma executive to Cafe Milano in the nation’s capital, where the elder Biden stopped by.
The report said “federal prosecutors in Delaware have issued scores of subpoenas for documents related to Hunter Biden’s foreign work and for bank accounts linked to him and his associates, including two formerly close business partners, Eric Schwerin and Devon Archer” over the past two years, citing “people familiar with the investigation.”
Investigators interviewed and subpoenaed Archer last year and have looked at emails between Hunter Biden and Archer related to Burisma “and other foreign business activity,” the report said.
In his memoir, Hunter Biden wrote that in 2013, then-Vice President Biden asked his son’s teenage daughter to join him on Air Force Two to Japan and then to Beijing, where he was meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Hunter said he tagged along.
At the time, Hunter Biden worked with Archer at Rosemont Seneca, and “our deal with the biggest potential was a partnership with a Chinese private equity fund seeking to invest Chinese capital in companies outside the country,” he wrote. “While we were in Beijing, Dad met one of Devon’s Chinese partners, Jonathan Li, in the lobby of the American delegation’s hotel, just long enough to say hello and shake hands.”
Archer was sentenced in February to just over a year in prison for an unrelated fraudulent bond scheme aimed at swindling a Native American tribe.
In addition, the New York Times report said federal investigators subpoenaed records from and interviewed the mother of one of Hunter Biden’s children, Lunden Alexis Roberts, about his finances. She reportedly testified in front of a grand jury in February.
Chinese and U.S. business records continue to list Hunter Biden as a 10% owner of the Chinese government-linked investment firm BHR Partners as of March, four months after his lawyer said he had completely divested from the venture.
Hunter Biden himself revealed that he was under federal investigation shortly after the 2020 election.
“I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs,” Hunter Biden said in a December 2020 statement. “I take this matter very seriously, but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisers.”
The Biden transition team said then that “President-elect Biden is deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger.”