When Hunter Biden reached a plea deal with the Justice Department on tax evasion and gun charges, Democrats hoped the embarrassing saga of the president’s son might fade away.
But two days after the plea deal was announced last week, Republicans released claims from an IRS whistleblower that said Hunter Biden in 2017 threatened Chinese business partners in a effort to get them to send him millions of dollars, and implicated his father in the pressure campaign.
President Biden has denied any wrongdoing and repeatedly defended his son, who was in the throes of a drug addiction when he sent the messages. The incident, however, demonstrates that Republicans can likely keep releasing similar allegations of misconduct by the president’s son for some time, to keep the story in the news and hurt Biden’s political image leading up to next year’s presidential election.
What did the IRS whistleblower say?
Gary Shapley, an IRS supervisory special agent since 2018, had already alleged in media interviews earlier this month that the Justice Department “slow-walked the investigation” into Hunter Biden, which began at the end of 2019.
Shapley alleged in a May 26 interview with Congress that his frustration with the pace of the investigation began in the summer of 2020, when Donald Trump was still president and the Justice Department was run by Trump appointee William Barr.
House Republicans released the transcript of that interview last week. In his testimony, Shapley recounted an alleged WhatsApp message between Hunter Biden and a Chinese businessman named Henry Zhao on July 30, 2017, in which the younger Biden pressured Zhao to finalize a business deal.
“I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled,” Hunter Biden messaged Zhao.
“Tell the director that I would like to resolve this now before it gets out of hand, and now means tonight. And, Z, if I get a call or text from anyone involved in this other than you, Zhang, or the chairman, I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction. I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father.”
White House spokesman Ian Sams told Yahoo News, “As we have said many times, the president was never in business with his son.” Hunter Biden attorney Chris Clark has said that “any verifiable words or actions of my client in the midst of a horrible addiction are solely his own and have no connection to anyone in his family.”
Hunter Biden has written in a memoir about his substance abuse problems, which grew worse after the death of his brother, Beau, in 2015 and lasted for at least four years.
Zhao worked with CFEC, a Chinese energy conglomerate with links to the Chinese government. And after Hunter Biden’s threats to Zhao, on Aug. 2, 2017, a business deal was signed between CFEC and the younger Biden’s company, Hudson West. The deal ultimately paid him $4.8 million over 14 months, the Washington Post reported in 2022.
The WhatsApp messages were obtained by the IRS through a search warrant into Hunter Biden’s iCloud account, Shapley said. That search warrant was issued on the basis of what the IRS had found late in 2019, on a laptop computer belonging to Hunter Biden that he was said to have left in a repair shop.
What are Democrats saying?
President Biden, who had left the vice presidency during the time in question in 2017 and was not in any elected office, was asked this week if he was indeed present when his son wrote that message to Zhao.
“No, I wasn’t,” Biden said.
Previously, the White House has said the president “has never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever.”
As for the Justice Department’s investigation into Hunter Biden’s tax avoidance, Attorney General Merrick Garland held a press conference last week to give his side of the story.
The Justice Department, Garland said, gave David C. Weiss, the U.S. attorney from Delaware overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation, “complete authority” over the investigation and prosecution decisions.
Shapley has contested that, but Weiss himself — who was a Trump appointee — has corroborated Garland’s version of events.
“I have been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges and for making decisions necessary to preserve the integrity of the prosecution, consistent with federal law, the Principles of Federal Prosecution, and Departmental regulations,” Weiss wrote in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
John P. Fishwick, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, told Yahoo News that Garland’s press conference was “a good first step” but that the Justice Department needed to be more aggressive in publicly responding to the Hunter Biden story.
“DOJ is always reluctant to talk about decisions they’ve made,” Fishwick said. “I think we’re left to speculate a little bit on this. … The important thing is to give the American people confidence in the situation.”
Source : Yahoo