Stop us if you’ve heard this before, although perhaps not from NBC News. The Obama administration sends Joe Biden to a foreign country to press for corruption reform and prosecution. One of the obvious targets for that reform then hires an American lawyer to “advise” on his operations, and the lawyer just so happens to have the same last name as the Vice President.

Total coinky-dink, right? Gotta be a coinky-dink, although three times looks a little more like a pattern (via Jeff Dunetz)

The businessman was Gabriel “Puiu” Popoviciu, a wealthy Romanian real estate tycoon. The lawyer brought in to advise him was Hunter Biden, the son of then-Vice President Joe Biden, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Hunter Biden’s work for Popoviciu in 2016 went unreported at the time, but Joe Biden’s involvement in Romania was very much public. The vice president was among the leading voices pushing the government to crack down on corruption. …

“We don’t know what [Hunter Biden] was paid or what he was paid for but it does raise questions of whether this Romanian individual facing criminal charges was actually paying for a connection to the American vice president,” said Kathleen Clark, a Washington University law professor who specializes in government ethics.

It’s not the first time this has gotten flagged, as Jeff notes in his analysis. The New York Times, in a May 2019 report about criticism over Donald Trump’s demands to have the Bidens investigated, mentioned this Hunter Biden relationship briefly, albeit somewhat buried:

During his father’s second term as vice president, Hunter Biden increased his international business efforts, including with individuals and entities viewed warily by the United States government and its allies.

In addition to his work in Ukraine for the energy company Burisma, Hunter Biden advised a Romanian businessman with ties to the United States, Gabriel Popoviciu, whose real estate dealings had come under investigation, according to people familiar with the arrangement, which has not been previously reported. The investigation, which came as the United States and its allies were pushing Romania to clamp down on corruption, led to Mr. Popoviciu’s conviction and a prison sentence.

Why did this not get much attention in the latest round of questions about influence-peddling among the Bidens? The NBC News report hints at one potential explanation. As it turns out, there were more than one now-famous lawyer working for Popoviciu. During his legal woes, the Romanian mogul hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to do some actual legal work, and Freeh has continued with the case ever since, even after Popoviciu briefly absconded and was captured in London.

But guess who Freeh brought on as a consultant? Gulp:

Freeh continued working on behalf of Popoviciu. Last year, he tapped Giuliani, his longtime friend, to assist in his Romanian work.

Giuliani’s hiring created what appears in hindsight a strange-bedfellows arrangement. Giuliani, who has been the loudest critic of Hunter Biden’s work in the Ukraine, was working on the same side as the younger Biden in Romania.

In August 2018, Giuliani wrote a letter to Romania’s president and prime minister criticizing the country’s recent efforts to rein in corruption as overly aggressive. Giuliani’s position contradicted the U.S. stance on anti-corruption efforts in Romania.

At one point, Giuliani briefly threatened to spill the beans about Hunter Biden’s work in Romania too, but apparently thought better of it. As Popoviciu’s counsel, such a disclosure would likely be seen as a violation of attorney-client privilege unless Popoviciu explicitly waived it. NBC notes that Giuliani later backed down from his threat, saying that he only had heard “rumors” of what Biden did in Romania — and hasn’t had much to say about it since, at least not openly and on the record.

One has to wonder whether Giuliani wasn’t directly or indirectly the source for NBC on this story, but if so, he’s playing with fire. There is plenty of potential for backfire on Giuliani and Trump, especially with Giuliani’s attempted intervention there just before or at the same time as he was ramping up his focus on Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine. Still, Giuliani isn’t Trump’s son and has long had his own practice separate from the Trumps. He didn’t get hired directly by Popoviciu either, but by Louis Freeh.

In contrast, Hunter Biden got hired by Popoviciu while his dad was VP and intervening in Romania where Hunter developed a financial interest. That sure sounds a lot like what happened in Ukraine, and similar to what happened with Hunter’s investment career in China, too.