“Say It Nicer”: Why Many Questions Remain After The Hunter Biden Interview

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Below is my column on the ABC interview with Hunter Biden. The interview preceded his father’s debate that day, but former Vice President Joe Biden awkwardly declined to address the issue. As I discussed in another column, there remains a media mantra that there is “no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden.” That dismisses the long objections by many of us that these lucrative jobs and contracts for spouses and children are part of an unethical and corrupt practice. Most of us view what Hunter did as clearly “wrong” but the media has adopted a narrow focus on whether criminal charges have been brought as opposed to whether the Ukraine deal was a raw and obvious form of influence peddling.

Here is the column:

“Say it nicer.” No words better sum up the news coverage of Hunter Biden. That instruction given from him to ABC News reporter Amy Robach came after she noted that he was “in and out of rehab” several times for dependency on drugs ranging from cocaine to crack. In fact, the media has been “saying it nicer” for weeks, telling readers and viewers there is “no finding of wrongdoing” by the son of Joe Biden while avoiding any substantive discussion of his controversial business dealings.

During the interview, Hunter Biden moved between muted apologies and indignant denials about alleged efforts to cash in on his father being vice president. The interview was galling for those critical of this common form of corruption. For three decades, I have written about the practice of giving lucrative jobs and contracts to the spouses and children of powerful politicians as a way of gaining influence in Washington.

Hunter Biden’s deals are textbook examples of how political families become rich from public service. Still, many in the media continue to repeat Joe Biden’s position that “no one has asserted my son did a single thing wrong.” That, of course, is untrue. Even if the deals did not amount to crimes, they were wrong. They have always been wrong, but both parties have always protected these deals as a dirty little secret.

Hunter Biden appeared to struggle to find his identity in explaining his foreign deals. He was asked why he accompanied his father on an official trip to China in 2013, shortly before he signed a deal with the Bank of China to manage $1.5 billion in investments. He replied, “I have traveled everywhere with my dad.” The problem is he was 43 years old at the time. He was definitely not some oversized lap child.

After admitting that he probably was given such lucrative deals because of his dad, he suggested the opposite. Pressed about his credentials to be a director of a Ukrainian energy company, he said, “I was vice chairman of the board of Amtrak for five years. I was the chairman of the board of the United Nations World Food Program. I was a lawyer for Boies Schiller Flexner, one of the most prestigious law firms in the world.”

Indeed, he was given those positions, but they raise the same concerns over whether he earned them. Hunter Biden has the prototypical resume of the progeny of the powerful in Washington. He seemed to land jobs far beyond his experience or proven skills. Most law school graduates work for six years just to make junior partner in a firm. Yet, directly out of law school in 1996, he was given a lucrative position with MBNA America, a bank that was not only a campaign contributor to his father but a business actively lobbying for lending changes in Congress. His father, then a powerful senator, supported changes that benefited the bank.

Within a couple years of graduating, Hunter Biden amazingly ascended to the position of executive vice president. He was then given a position in the Commerce Department before he became an industry lobbyist. In 2006, President Bush made him a member of the board of directors of Amtrak. No one seriously argued at the time that his resume even remotely qualified him for that position, any more than his assuming the board chairmanship of the United Nations World Food Program.

At the time, Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware explained that Hunter Biden was qualified to get on the board of Amtrak because “Hunter Biden has spent a lot of time on Amtrak trains.” He was then given a position with the law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner while establishing an investment firm. Frankly, his entire resume is filled with high paying positions but few known accomplishments to justify them.

In a key exchange in the interview, Robach asked about Hunter Biden going with his father on an official trip to China. Shortly after that trip on Air Force Two, he signed a deal with Chinese businessman Jonathan Li and an investment firm worth as much as $1.5 billion in Chinese capital, including funding from the Bank of China. Robach correctly noted that President Trump is completely wrong in claiming that Hunter Biden walked away with $1.5 billion or made millions from the deal. Indeed, Hunter Biden insisted he did not made a dime on the deal.

But Robach then moved on without addressing the obvious point that Hunter Biden hoped to get a cut from a business seeking $1.5 billion. He simply failed in the effort. Saying that you failed to make a ton of money hardly gives you the ethical high ground. He also brushed over the fact that, during the official visit, he had his father take a photo with his business partner. He insisted it was a wonderful coincidence of a friend staying at the same hotel. Nor was he pressed on why, if his deal had made no money for years, he only decided to resign this month.

Hunter did admit that his deal with Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company, may have shown “poor judgment” but not because it was an effort at influence peddling. Nor because he took $50,000 a month from one of the most corrupt figures in Ukraine or because he got the deal when his father controlled billions in loans and aid to Ukraine. He said, “I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That is where I made the mistake.”

In other words, he broke the cardinal rule of the progeny of the powerful to never allow your personal enrichments to become public controversies. Ultimately, the real impact of this controversy turns on any responsibility of Joe Biden. During his interview, Hunter Biden insisted, “I did not have any discussions with my father before or after I joined the board as it related to it, other than that brief exchange that we had.”

Robach repeated that while ignoring an obvious contraction. This is where the spin moves from nice to nonsense. The point of the original question to Joe Biden was whether he knew his son was doing business in Ukraine when the vice president dangled more than $1 billion in loans in front of the Ukrainian government. Joe Biden denied any knowledge when he said, “I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.”

The Washington Post adopted this spin in its dubious “fact check” in which it acknowledged that Hunter Biden did tell his father about the deals but, since Joe Biden just told his son to be “careful,” the publication concluded that is “not much of a discussion.” However, that is not the point here. The point is that Joe Biden knew of a glaring conflict in what anyone would recognize as an obvious effort at influence peddling.

In response to this, Joe Biden has declared, “I can tell you now, if I am your next president, I am going to build on the squeaky clean transparent environment that we had in the Obama Biden White House.” That is a rather odd statement since his own son’s controversial deals in Ukraine and China occurred during that administration, as did controversial payments to the Clintons and their foundation from foreign interests. That is not exactly the model many of us have in mind. In the end, it is hard to say much of this in a “nicer” way, but the questions must be asked.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

100 thoughts on ““Say It Nicer”: Why Many Questions Remain After The Hunter Biden Interview”

  1. Gotta love it….a tired, bitter, irrelevant lesbian like Hillary feels threatened by the first female, highly decorated military officer, war veteran, with recent deployment, running for Presidency.

    The Left is faithful to no one…self-serving, vile, rotten people….deplorable even! LOL

    Cue Hillary’s war machine online proxies, um, construction consultants in Alachua County.

    🤣

    Great! Thank you @HillaryClinton,” she tweeted. “You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain. From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a … concerted campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it and why. Now we know — it was always you, through your proxies and … … powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose.”

    It’s a shame HRC is peddling conspiracy theories to justify her failure instead of reflecting on real reasons Dems lost in 2016. You can slander progressives as “Russian assets”, but you can’t hide the fact that the DNC sabotaged Sanders & elevated Trump to set the stage for HRC. https://t.co/ImGDnL1451
    — Dr. Jill Stein🌻 (@DrJillStein) October 18, 2019

    “It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me. Don’t cowardly hide behind your proxies. Join the race directly,” Ms. Gabbard concluded.

    1. While I disagree with Tulsi Gabbard on some of her politics, she’d wipe the floor with Hillary Clinton. I greatly respected her for noting the impeachment investigation was pure politics at the debate. She appears to have principals.

      The problem is, the Democratic Machine makes it impossible for an outsider or lesser known to win.

  2. Current GOP Congressman Fitzpatrick (Penn) was an FBI agent working in the Ukraine in 2015 specifically on helping the new government deal with rampant corruption. They helped train personnel on investigative and prosecutorial procedures and tactics. He just stated on the CNN “Smerconish” show that the prosecutor (Shokin) who Joe Biden helped get fired was an obstacle to their efforts and inactive regarding corruption.

    I would guess video of that interview is available if anyone wishes to view it.

  3. New nominee To head the Dept of Energy:

    “..Dan Brouillette, who spent much of his career as a senior vice president of the United Services Automobile Association, a financial services company, and at the Ford Motor Company……

    A ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations analysis this week found Mr. Trump brought in 281 former lobbyists since the start of the administration. His cabinet now includes a former coal lobbyist running the Environmental Protection Agency, a former oil and gas lobbyist in charge of the Department of Interior, a top lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon leading the Defense Department — and, if he is confirmed, an automobile lobbyist at the Energy Department….”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/18/climate/trump-cabinet-lobbyists.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage

    1. NYT, CNN, Wah Pooh…….The enemies of the American people

      https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/oct/18/trump-prepares-sue-cnn-bias-seek-maximum-damages/

      Trump prepares to sue CNN for bias, seek ‘maximum’ damages

      President Trump on Friday informed CNN President Jeff Zucker and the news network that he intends to sue them over biased reporting and seek substantial financial damages.

      In a letter to Mr. Zucker and other CNN executives, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer detailed evidence of Mr. Zucker’s “vendetta” against the president and evidence of a CNN campaign to “take down President Trump” with biased reporting on the impeachment effort, as documented in an undercover video by Project Veritas.

      “Never in the history of this country has a president been the subject of such a sustained barrage of unfair, unfounded, unethical and unlawful attacks by so-called ‘mainstream’ news, as the current situation,” Trump lawyer Charles Harder said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.

      CNN scoffed at the lawsuit threat.

      “This is nothing more than a desperate PR stunt and doesn’t merit a response,” CNN Vice President of Communications Matt Dornic said in an email to The Times.

      A lawsuit over bias against a news outlet poses significant challenges for Mr. Trump, including running up against First Amendment rights.

      Mr. Harder said the Project Veritas video was “the tip of the iceberg of the evidence my clients have accumulated over the recent years.”

      He said the biased reporting violated the Lanham Act, a copyright protection law, suggesting that the news network does not live up to its claims of journalistic integrity.

      “Accordingly, my clients intend to file legal action against you, to seek compensatory damages, treble damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, reimbursement of legal costs, and all other available legal and equitable remedies, to the maximum extent permitted by law,” Mr. Harder wrote.

      He noted that the CNN website describes the network as “journalists” and truth seekers,” and that the network’s motto is “The Most Trusted Name in News.”
      “Recently released video footage of individuals alleged to be your employees (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7XZmugtLv4) indicates that your reporting relating to President Trump is contrary to your own mission and the [Society of Professional Journalists’] Code of Ethics,” Mr. Harder wrote.

      The letter detailed evidence of bias revealed in the undercover video.
      CNN employees are caught saying that CNN is focused on trying to “take down President Trump” and driven by a “personal vendetta” that Mr. Zucker purportedly has against the president, rather than objectively reporting the news.

      Nick Neville, media coordinator at CNN, says in the video that “Jeff Zucker, basically the president of CNN, has a personal vendetta against Trump” and “an ongoing feud with Trump since The Apprentice,” the hit reality TV show starring Mr. Trump on which Mr. Zucker was a producer.

      Mr. Neville also says in the video that he wants to report “the truth” and do “dogged reporting. But then you have higher up executives like Zucker and other people, who are saying we gotta make profits … so it turns into like certain things that you do are trying just to attract viewers, then it becomes kind of a comedy show.”

      Cary Poarch, a CNN employee in the Washington bureau, says in the video: “CNN purports to be facts first, and that’s just not the case.”

      In another clip, CNN Media Coordinator Christian Sierra says Mr. Zucker wants “impeachment every single day to be the top story [and] he wants impeachment above all else.”

      “I hate how everything is all Trump all the time now. Everyone at the network complains about it. They hate covering Trump every day,” Ms. Sierra says. “Our Democratic interviews are like softballs, compared to the Republicans.”

    2. looking at this post from “anon1″… and people dismiss that Democrats are doing just what they accused “Russian bots” .. this content has no very little relevance to the post, and you get a whole talking point Left-wing talking points memo (I’ve seen this going on all over social media)

  4. As for the Ukrainian company, I suppose it was and is attempting to Westernize. Presumably HB could assist with that.

    Don’t see anything untoward from a Ukrainian perspective.

    Related, I recently read an account of why the Japanese don’t do more business with Russia. Basically because laws and customer regulations remain densely obscure; not Westernized.

  5. From the little I know about banks, everyone who isn’t a teller is a vice president. So I don’t think that the title means much.

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me thirty-eight citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, after forty-six weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. – you do know little about banks.

  6. People today don’t want to work their way up anymore. They want to graduate, and go directly to management.

    I have no problem with someone’s last name opening doors for them. That often turns out to be a burden, rather than a blessing, as adult offspring try to get out of the shadow of their famous or powerful parents. The children of actors get auditions, but they still have to actually act, or they will be slain by movie critics.

    As for Hunter, the issue is whether there was quid pro quo with foreign nations, outside of intergovernmental negotiations. If the position manging Chinese investments was payment for Biden to use his influence to get favorable treatment of the country, then that was against the law.

    Rather than have these PR interviews, just investigate him, fairly.

    Frankly, the two most common forms of distributing largesse is to give ambassadorships to big donors, and to stear lucrative government contracts or grants to donors. Solyndraw was an example. Ambassadors do not serve in foreign countries to go to cocktail parties and enjoy life abroad. They are supposed to do serious diplomatic work. While they don’t need to be at the level of a hostage negotiator, they do need to be competent to be a diplomat. The contracts and grants plums are blatant pay to play. Several of Hunter’s jobs could be considered in this category, except with foreign nations.

    1. You don’t investigate people without some evidence of a crime, or in the case of employees, violation of procedures and regulations.

      State the evidence of a crime by Hunter – he wasn’t a US employee – keeping in mind that under your description, all the President’s children should be investigated.

      1. You don’t investigate people without some evidence of a crime,

        You’ve spent some months defending various characters in the Department of Justice and the special counsel’s office who were doing just that. I can never figure out if you’re a self-conscious liar or if senescence has damaged your thought process.

        1. The crime was foreign interference in our election, of which evidence was plentiful.

          Read a newspaper sometime.

        2. There is only one political party in this country and it has two right wings. Biden is in one wing, Trump family is currently in the other.

          1. Simplistic Stupidity. The parties are multi faceted and exhibit what face they need to exhibit

            The GOP has an Accepatable Constitutional Republic Party branch and an unacceptable RINO branch which is the right wing of the far left.

            The DNC at present has two and a few more Constitutionalists and the rest are varying degrees of DINOs anled RINOs completely unacceptable.

            The left is in no way democratic just as the Country is in no way a Democracy.

            The best description is with a source

            “Romans demanded a new government based on Law rather than the whim of the ruler.  They formed a new government based on the People rather than the Tribes.  They called their new government Res Publica, the People’s Thing – what we call republic today. The new government had elements of Monarchy in it.  When a single ruler was needed, it would be there. It also had aristocratic and democratic “branches” when those are needed.  Because it is made up of other forms, it is called a “mixed” government.  A Republic is a Mixed government.”

            Chambers, John. What is a Republic?: The Concise Definition you Were Never Taught . available for not too many pennies in the Kindle edition at Amazon.

            You have heard me describe it as Res Publica of, by, and for the Citizens as our own Constitution in it’s beginning called for a census of ‘people and I wished to make the distinction between people in general and citizens. Also to preserve the distinction between when governments act on behalf of citizens and when citizens act directly as in voting and such activities as recalls and initiatives. that started by Plato was improved upon by Aristotle then again by Polybius who had some centuries later moved to Rome where res publica began. He melded the differences together and res publica became the mixed state with some additional important elements and,by 1879, the Constitutional repubic of the USA

            Reference offered by the Constitutional Centrists of the USA who had the largest voting bloc in 2016 and thus controlled the election.

        3. Crystal Meth and Left wing talking points result in confabulations, destroy brain tissue and create perpetual histrionic delusional self-aggrandizing idiots.

          Elijah Cummings comes to mind, so give it time… they will all end up like him

      2. Sure you do, Anon. Trump has been investigated every day of his candidacy, just to look for evidence of a crime. Any crime.

  7. in Iowa:

    Economy > Healthcare >>>>>>>>Social Issues >>> ImpeachWTF

    Democrats are a party with no substantive solutions to Americans concerns

    “The most important issue for voters in Iowa in deciding for whom to vote for president is the economy at 33%, followed by healthcare at 19% and social issues at 10%. Impeachment ranked 7 out of 9 at 6%, ahead of education at 5% and foreign policy at 3%. Among Democrats, the most important issue is health care at 25%, followed by the economy at 17% and the environment at 14%. The majority of Republicans (55%) identify the economy as the most important issue, followed by immigration at 14%. Independents are split between the economy (27%) and healthcare (24%).”

    https://emersonpolling.reportablenews.com/pr/iowa-2020-dead-heat-with-biden-and-warren-mayor-pete-continues-to-build-and-sanders-slides

    1. “…no substantive solutions to Americans concerns…”

      The Constitution and Bill of Rights establish maximal freedom for individuals while severely limiting and restricting government. The government exists to facilitate the freedom of individuals through the provision merely of security and infrastructure. The government is not charged in the Constitution with addressing “…concerns…” The government is charged with assuring the freedom of individuals. Americans are free and self-reliant. You can’t grasp the breadth and depth of American individual freedom.

      The absolute unqualified right to private property prohibits government from possessing or disposing of; from claiming or exercising dominion over private property.

      Article 1, Section 8 provides Congress the power to tax only for “…general Welfare…” deliberately omitting and, thereby, excluding any power to tax for individual welfare.

      Article 1, Section 8 provides Congress the power to regulate only “…money…” and “…commerce among the several States…”

      You may want central planning, control of the means of production (i.e. regulation), redistribution of wealth, social engineering and the full measure of communism but, per the Constitution and Bill of Rights, you can’t do it. You may want your hand held by government but you can’t have it.

  8. I looked up Hunter on the internet wikipedia. His name is Joseph Hunter Biden. Hunter is mom’s maiden name. There are some impressive aspects. He graduated with a history degree from Georgetown U and then went to first year of law school there. Then he transferred to Yale Law School and graduated. He had some good jobs. He is not some dumb dork by any means. He also volunteered as a Jesuit some place out west. Georgetown is a Jesuit school. And a very good school. He is 49 years old. I will not complain about him on this blog again.

  9. What is Hunter Biden’s first name on his birth certificate? Hunter is his mom’s maiden name. We heard on the internet that he was known as “Maid” when he was in college.

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