Hunter Biden wants everyone to know that he did nothing wrong in cultivating business relationships with power brokers in countries where his father conducted official US policy. And Hunter Biden also wants everyone to know that, er, he won’t ever do it again. Over the weekend, the younger Biden resigned from a board connected to the Chinese government and pledged to avoid working for foreign-owned businesses in a Joe Biden presidency:
Hunter Biden is stepping down from the board of a Chinese-backed private equity company and promising to forgo all foreign work if his father, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, is elected president in 2020.
After months of keeping a relatively low-profile as President Donald Trump leveled a barrage of unsubstantiated accusations of corruption at him, the younger Biden is publicly vowing to avoid any conflict of interest.
According to a statement released on his behalf by his lawyer George Mesires, Biden said he’ll resign at the end of the month from the management company of a private equity fund that’s backed by Chinese state-owned entities. He also pledged that he wouldn’t work for any foreign-owned companies or serve on their boards during a potential Biden administration. He reiterated that he never discussed his business activities with his father.
“Hunter always understood that his father would be guided, entirely and unequivocally, by established U.S. policy, regardless of its effects on Hunter’s professional interests,” the statement said. “He never anticipated the barrage of false charges against both him and his father by the President of the United States.”
What false charges? The charges are that Hunter Biden traded on his connection to the Vice President of the United States, and that Joe Biden created conflicts of interest by allowing it. Those aren’t false charges — they are both true and obvious, and should have been when Biden inserted himself into both Ukraine and China policy. As other media outlets (Politico in particular) have pointed out, Hunter and his uncle James have spent many years trading on Joe’s position in Washington; The Intercept ran a helpful round-up last week.
Whether or not Joe set out to specifically benefit Hunter in his December 2015 demand that Petro Poroshenko fire his general prosecutor is still unknown and probably unknowable, thanks to the byzantine nature of Ukrainian corruption. However, Burisma’s part of that corruption was well known when Hunter joined its board, a curious move in itself considering Hunter’s lack of experience in either energy production or Ukraine. Hunter’s hiring by Burisma didn’t necessarily implicate Joe in corruption, but it’s pretty clear why Burisma added him to its board despite his complete lack of relevant experience. When Joe intervened in Ukraine’s corruption investigations by threatening US aid, what did he expect Poroshenko to think Biden intended with a billion dollars in US aid — “investigate my son”? Come on, man.
And so now we have the curious repositioning of Hunter’s belated action in establishing an appearance of propriety years too late. Hunter’s declaration that he won’t take any more foreign-owned board assignments if his father is president underscores the fact that he shouldn’t have taken them when his father was vice-president, either. That’s especially true with companies owned or controlled by a hostile state (China) or a massively corrupt oligarch controlling a government (Ukraine).
This is no virtuous sacrifice; it’s a recognition of having been caught and spinning it for appearance’s sake. If Joe doesn’t win the election, of course, then Hunter can take all of the board appointments his heart desires — if he gets any invitations at all, which seems very, very doubtful.