Documents released in the final weeks of the 2020 presidential race have shed some new light on the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and other relatives, but many questions remain about both the sources of the records and their relevance to Biden’s bid for the presidency.
“I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life,” Biden said during a debate with President Donald Trump last week.
Biden’s denials have not stopped Trump from demanding the Justice Department investigate his opponent for unspecified crimes or asserting that Biden is “COMPROMISED” by his family’s financial ties to China and other countries.
Earlier this month, emails allegedly recovered from a laptop that once belonged to Biden’s son Hunter were obtained by The New York Post. Subsequently, a former business partner of Hunter Biden, Tony Bobulinski, came forward to verify some of those emails and lodge his own accusations against the Bidens.
Biden has consistently rejected allegations of wrongdoing and defended his son, but Trump has sought to make the new evidence central to his reelection pitch. The Biden campaign has responded by questioning the president’s own foreign financial entanglements and debts.
Questions have long swirled around Hunter Biden’s lucrative foreign contracts, but they have so far had little impact on his father’s political standing. Even if the latest revelations are all true, experts are skeptical voters will care much because they provide no proof that former Vice President Biden himself benefited from any of these ventures.
“Joe Biden has never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever. He has never held stock in any such business arrangements, nor has any family member or any other person ever held stock for him,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement last week.
Here is what we know about Hunter Biden’s business activities and how they became intertwined with his father’s tenure as vice president and his presidential campaign.
Hunter Biden flew to Beijing with his father on Air Force Two while the vice president was on official business in China. During the visit, Hunter met with one of his business partners, a Chinese banker named Jonathan Li. Hunter and Li were both involved with Bohai Harvest RST (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Co., an investment firm that was officially registered less than two weeks after Hunter’s visit.
Hunter held an unpaid position on BHR’s board of directors while his father was in office and became a shareholder with a 10% stake in the company in Oct. 2017. As of Oct. 2019, when he resigned from the board of directors, his attorney stated he had not received any compensation or return on his investment.
Feb. 14, 2014
Elena Baturina, the widow of the former mayor of Moscow, wired $3.5 million to Rosemont Seneca Thornton for a “consultancy agreement.” Media reports have identified Rosemont Seneca Thornton as co-founded by Hunter Biden, but his attorney has disputed those claims, stating he was not a founder of the firm. President Trump repeatedly cited payments from “the mayor of Moscow’s wife” during the 2020 presidential debates, but there is no evidence Hunter Biden or Joe Biden received any of these funds.
May 12, 2014
Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma announced Hunter Biden had joined its board. Weeks earlier, his father had visited Ukraine and become the “public face” of the Obama administration’s policy in the region. Hunter was paid as much as $50,000 a month, according to Senate records, despite having no experience in Ukraine or the energy industry, and Burisma stated he would provide assistance with “transparency, corporate governance and responsibility, international expansion and other priorities.”
An email obtained by The New York Post purportedly sent to Hunter and business partner Devon Archer on May 12 by Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Burisma, asked for advice on how Hunter could “use your influence” to stop what he called a politically motivated blackmailing of Burisma’s owner by the Ukrainian government.
Senior State Department official George Kent first raised concerns with Vice President Biden’s national security staff that Hunter’s position with Burisma created a “perception of a conflict of interest.” Kent and other officials complained about the apparent conflict and how it complicated their anti-corruption efforts several times in the following months, according to a Senate report.
Apr. 17, 2015
According to emails obtained by The New York Post supposedly recovered from Hunter Biden’s laptop, Pozharskyi emailed Hunter to thank him for “giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent some time together.” The Biden campaign has stated there is no record he ever met with Pozharskyi, but aides could not rule out the possibility that they had some informal interaction.
Dec. 7, 2015
Vice President Biden traveled to Ukraine, met with President Petro Poroshenko, and threatened to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee unless anti-corruption reforms were enacted, including removing Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. He also publicly addressed the Ukrainian parliament and called for reforming the prosecutor general’s office to fight a “cancer of corruption.”
The following February, Poroshenko announced Shokin had agreed to resign. Two days later, Biden commended him for the decision to replace Shokin. In June, after a new prosecutor was nominated and other reforms were announced, the loan guarantee was signed.
Shokin has claimed he was conducting an active investigation of corruption involving Burisma at the time, but other officials have disputed that. U.S. diplomats had publicly criticized his office for not assisting with an international investigation of Burisma’s owner, and his removal was widely supported by U.S. allies and anti-corruption groups.
May 2, 2017
According to Tony Bobulinski, he was first contacted by one of Hunter Biden’s business partners in late 2015 to serve as CEO of a joint venture between “one of the most prominent families in the United States” and CEFC China Energy, an energy firm linked to the Chinese government. He was originally working with Hunter and Joe Biden’s brother Jim, but he alleged the former vice president became involved in 2017 and Hunter “frequently” spoke of seeking his father’s advice on deals.
Text messages released by Bobulinski indicate he met with former Vice President Biden on the night of May 2, 2017 in Los Angeles, but the substance of the meeting is still unclear. He claimed they talked for about an hour and discussed “the Bidens' family business plans with the Chinese, with which he was plainly familiar,” but Biden has denied any connection to the venture and has not directly commented on the alleged meeting.
May 13, 2017
A May 13 email released by The New York Post and authenticated by Bobulinski showed a proposed breakdown of equity for the CEFC deal. It included a reference to “10 held by H for the big guy?” which Bobulinski alleged was a reference to a share of the profits being held by Hunter for Joe Biden. Other documents reviewed by Fox News showed no role for Joe Biden in the venture and there is no evidence he ever received such a payment.
That partnership apparently collapsed amid tensions between Hunter Biden and Bobulinski. However, a Senate investigation found Hunter Biden’s firm later received millions in consulting fees from CEFC’s chairman, and Hunter and Jim Biden purchased $101,000 worth of “extravagant items” with a line of credit opened by a company created by Hunter and a Chinese national linked to CEFC.
Hunter Biden purportedly dropped off his laptop and an external hard drive at a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Del. The owner of the shop, John Paul Mac Isaac, claimed Hunter never returned to retrieve the devices, so he eventually examined the contents and found them “alarming.”
July 25, 2019
During a phone call with new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, President Donald Trump urged Zelenskiy to “do us a favor” and investigate Joe and Hunter Biden for possible corruption over Shokin’s firing. Weeks later, Trump delayed the delivery of aid to Ukraine.
After an intelligence community whistleblower came forward with details about the call, House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry of Trump, accusing him of withholding foreign aid as leverage to get Zelenskiy to announce an investigation of the 2020 Democratic frontrunner.
Sept. 21, 2019
Speaking to reporters in Iowa, Joe Biden asserted, “I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.”
In a July 2019 New Yorker interview, Hunter Biden said his father once told him, “I hope you know what you’re doing” with regard to his Ukraine work. Biden later explained that comment to CBS News, saying, “What I meant by that is, I hope you’ve thought this through.”
Oct. 15, 2019
In an interview with ABC News, Hunter Biden admitted to “poor judgment” in his overseas ventures and acknowledged he made a mistake that created political problems for his father, but he maintained he did nothing unethical or improper. Hunter also committed to halting all business with foreign entities if his father wins the election. Around the time of the interview, he announced he was resigning from the board of BHR Partners, the Chinese investment firm.
Dec. 18, 2019
House Democrats voted to approve two articles of impeachment against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
According to Isaac, he contacted the FBI about Hunter Biden’s laptop in late 2019 because he began to fear for his safety. Federal agents obtained a subpoena and seized the devices. A receipt Isaac provided to Fox News suggested the subpoena may have been related to a money laundering investigation, but the FBI has not confirmed why it sought the devices.
Feb. 5, 2020
The Republican majority in the Senate voted to acquit Trump of both impeachment charges. White House attorneys defended Trump’s actions partly by highlighting concerns about Hunter Biden’s conduct in Ukraine and unsubstantiated allegations that it impacted U.S. policy.
Apr. 8, 2020
After Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign, Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
Sept. 23, 2020
The Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Finance Committees issued a report alleging Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine, China, Russia, and elsewhere created conflicts of interest and foreign policy challenges for his father and Obama administration officials, but it was “unclear” what, if any, influence his activities had on policy decisions.
According to The New York Post, Isaac provided a copy of the hard drive to Rudy Giuliani’s attorney. Isaac told The New York Times that “it just didn’t feel right” that the existence of the device was not publicly known, especially after Trump’s impeachment over actions related to Biden and Ukraine.
Early October 2020
According to The New York Times, a White House attorney and two Trump allies met with a Wall Street Journal reporter to provide him with a cache of emails related to Hunter Biden’s business dealings and put him in contact with Tony Bobulinski, who claimed he could prove Joe Biden was aware of and profited from his son’s activities.
Oct. 11, 2020
Giuliani provided copies of materials supposedly recovered from Hunter Biden’s hard drive to The New York Post.
Oct. 14, 2020
The New York Post published a front-page story headlined “Biden Secret E-mails” that included details of emails allegedly exchanged between Hunter Biden and Vadym Pozharskyi. In the following days, the newspaper ran several more stories based on Hunter Biden’s emails, text messages, photos, and videos.
Oct. 19, 2020
Given the unusual provenance of the emails and Giuliani’s past efforts to dig up dirt on the Bidens from Ukrainians with ties to Russian intelligence, Democrats had alleged that his latest allegations were part of a Russian disinformation scheme. In an Oct. 19 Fox News interview, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe asserted there was no evidence to support the claim of Russian involvement.
Oct. 21, 2020
Bobulinski went public with his allegations, releasing a statement asserting that former Vice President Biden was lying about his lack of knowledge of his son’s activities. Bobulinski said he was angered by Biden’s denials of involvement in his son’s business deals and by revelations in the Senate report that Hunter Biden’s firm eventually received $5 million from CEFC.
Oct. 22, 2020
Bobulinski attended the second presidential debate as President Trump’s guest and read a statement to reporters beforehand. He also displayed three phones that he claimed contained evidence against the Bidens that would be turned over to the FBI. Trump pressed Biden on Bobulinski’s claims and Hunter’s emails during the debate, but Biden denied any wrongdoing.
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After the debate, The Wall Street Journal published its reporting on Bobulinski’s records and allegations, finding no evidence of any role for Joe Biden in the Chinese venture or any payments made to him.
Oct. 23, 2020
Bobulinski was interviewed by the FBI, according to Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. He was expected to speak to Senate Homeland Security Committee staff at a later date as Republicans continued probing Hunter Biden’s business activities.