Hunter Biden Likely to be Charged Under FARA . . . If the Justice Department Applies the Mueller Standard

Below is my column in the New York Post on the potential liability of Hunter Biden under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). I recently testified on FARA reforms and its history of enforcement.

Here is the column:

As US Attorney David Weiss leads a long line of witnesses before a grand jury, Washington is preparing for the possibility of an indictment of the son of President Joe Biden, Hunter. This has led to a nosebleed of a turn for the media, as major outlets suddenly acknowledge that the story that they tried to kill in 2020 is in fact legitimate.

Many legal experts have insisted that any prosecution for tax violations would be uncommon or unwarranted because Hunter Biden belatedly paid taxes after the start of the investigation. However, not only are tax and international transactional violations still possible, there is a looming threat of charges under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

This week, I testified in the House Judiciary Committee on enhancements of FARA and was asked whether Hunter Biden could be charged under the act. The answer is clearly yes. Indeed, if the Justice Department applies the standard used in the Paul Manafort case, it would seem like such a charge is not just possible, but even probable.

The similarities of the Manafort and Biden cases are striking. On a personal level, both men had ravenous levels of material consumption. Where Manafort had his $15,000 ostrich coat, Biden had his high-priced hookers and $143,000 Fisker sports car. Both burned through money and found themselves with towering debts.

However, the greatest similarity is how they paid those bills. The Manafort indictment included charges for lobbying on behalf of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian political parties from 2008 to 2014. He did not register under FARA, which has sweeping terms covering such work.

While FARA was rarely used for criminal investigations and prosecutions, special counsel Robert Mueller seemed to charge by the gross under the act. He hit a line of Trump associates with such allegations from Manafort to Michael Flynn to George Papadopoulos to Rick Gates. More recently, the Justice Department used FARA to conduct searches on the homes and files of former Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani, Republican counsel Victoria Toensing and others.

The recent use of FARA was celebrated by legal experts and media figures. Now, however, Hunter Biden is the target and the evidence against him on FARA may actually be worse than Manafort in some respects.

In Biden’s laptop, there are hundreds of e-mails detailing work with “foreign principals,” which can include not just foreign governments or foreign agencies, but foreign-based companies, nonprofits and individuals, including Americans living in foreign countries. That would covers companies like CEFC, which had close ties to the Chinese government.

Biden does not appear to have done much, if any, conventional legal work for these foreign sources, despite his high fees. Indeed, there is no record Hunter did anything to earn the cool $1 million given to him to “represent” CEFC’s Patrick Ho, who was later convicted and sentenced to three years in prison.

Instead, the record shows Biden advising and facilitating access for foreign clients, including meetings with his father. That includes, like Manafort, dealings with Ukrainian officials and businesses.

There was nothing subtle about the alleged influence-peddling effort of Hunter Biden or his uncle James. In Washington, influence peddling is a virtual cottage industry. However, there was a little sophistication in these e-mails to hide the corruption. The Hunter dealings were more like influence peddling by eBay in terms of the raw pitches and open admissions.

On May 1, 2017, Hunter Biden recognized how his work with CEFC at a minimum could trigger FARA and acknowledged that his uncle was also aware of the danger:

“No matter what it will need to be a US company at some level in order for us to make bids on federal and state funded projects. Also We [sic] don’t want to have to register as foreign agents under the FCPA which is much more expansive than people who should know choose not to know. James has very particular opinions about this so I would ask him about the foreign entity.”

The e-mail is a prosecutor’s dream. FARA violations, like tax violations, can be viewed as cut-and-dried charges for jurors. In this case, the potential defendant not only incriminated himself under the law, but his associates and family, as well.

That is why, if the Justice Department applies the same standard applied to figures like Manafort, Biden would likely be indicted.

The question is whether the same standard will apply. I have long criticized the sweeping language of FARA. However, the Justice Department has shifted from prior administrative enforcement to criminal prosecutions. The Justice Department in recent years has convicted various individuals for engaging in public relations and lobbying efforts for foreign countries, including China and Ukraine.

A sudden shift away from such criminal enforcement would raise questions of favored treatment — and magnify the concern over Attorney General Merrick Garland refusing to appoint a special counsel in the scandal.

In The Washington Post, the Manafort and other FARA cases were heralded as essential to protecting democracy. A columnist concluded, “FARA can be a powerful tool for detecting those foreign instruments. We should use it. No matter whom it ensnares.”

It has now ensnared the son of President Biden. The question is whether the Justice Department and the media still have the same appetite for FARA prosecutions.

Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.

192 thoughts on “Hunter Biden Likely to be Charged Under FARA . . . If the Justice Department Applies the Mueller Standard”

  1. Turley is engaging in disingenuous characterization. He compares Hunter Biden’s activities as similar to Paul Manafort. He asserted that Hunter Biden could certainly be charged under FARA, but that is more unlikely than he alludes it to be. Manafort and Michael Flynn both were clearly in violation of FARA because they were both involved in political activity as members of Trump’s campaign while lobbying for a foreign government.

    Hunter Biden was making business deals as a consultant and as a private citizen. The only distinction is that he happens to be the President’s son. Under FARA he qualifies for an exemption according to the statute.

    “ Persons Engaged in “Private and Non-Political Activities” that Further “Bona Fide Trade or Commerce”—An “agent” representing a foreign business, nonprofit, or individual may utilize this exemption to engage in commercial activities without triggering registration. This exemption is not available to those representing foreign governments or foreign political parties, and it does not cover direct or grassroots lobbying-type activity, other than “routine inquiries” made of government officials.”

    https://fara.us/

    Turley conveniently left that part out of his “assessment”. Nobody has shown Hunter Biden was engaged in political activity. Turley mentions influence-peddling by Hunter as if this was a clue toward corruption and malfeasance. What Turley doesn’t mention is the fact that influence peddling is legal AND protected 1st amendment speech.

    In reality, it will be much harder to prove any charges against Hunter Biden than it was for Paul Manafort.

    1. Se;vaz, you are ignoring the part that proves you wrong.

      The e-mail is a prosecutor’s dream. FARA violations, like tax violations, can be viewed as cut-and-dried charges for jurors. In this case, the potential defendant not only incriminated himself under the law, but his associates and family, as well.

      All those emails, laying out the arrangements Hunter made, to have foreign interests get personal meetings with the Vice President of the United States, and this admission against interest, proves intent. Not that intent is required.

      Also the other side of the equation is the ramped up prosecution against the Trump administration, while in the past, persons (Kerry, Podesta) were caught, and allowed to file the proper paperwork after the fact, and pay a small fine.

      The whole direction of the post about which standard Garland is going to use. The one soft on Democrats, or the one hard on Republicans

      1. Iowan2,

        The emails do not prove that Hunter Biden’s actions were illegal. Turley keeps mentioning this as clear proof of influence peddling which he knows is legal. Arranging meetings or even suggesting them is not illegal either. The hard part for any prosecutor to prove is whether Hunter Biden meets the definitions of “agent”. FARA states,

        “An “agent” is an individual or entity that acts “within the United States” at the order, request, direction, or control of either: (1) a “foreign principal”; or (2) a person “any of whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized in whole or in major part by a “foreign principal.” An individual or entity can become an “agent” even without a contractual relationship or formal agreement with a “foreign principal.”

        A good question would be, “Was Hunter Biden acting within the United States?”

        I don’t think you can apply the same standard because Turley incorrectly conflates Manafort’s case with Hunter Biden’s on account that both are big spenders. What Turley ignored was that Manafort was hiding millions from the IRS AND was politically active withing the Trump campaign. Hunter Biden’s tax issues were about not paying back taxes which he did eventually as Turley notes. The entirety of the the “corruption” Hunter Biden allegedly has been committing is based on the idea of influence peddling which is legal. So what exactly is the crime here? Influence peddling is legal. Making money as a consultant is legal. Even Trump’s kids made money as consultants while being white house advisors. Obviously it was legal. So what exactly is the crime?

    2. 10% for the Big Man. No political activity here while the Big Man was the VP, right? Such sophistry.

    3. “…Michael Flynn both were clearly in violation of FARA because they were both involved in political activity as members of Trump’s campaign while lobbying for a foreign government.”

      Svelaz, most of your comments have at least 3-5+ errors. Flynn was not lobbying a foreign government while a member of Trump’s campaign. I leave it up to you to find the other 2-4+ errors you have made.

  2. I didn’t read Turley’s little piece of excrement today because i saw that it was published in the NY Post. “nuff said” for me. What’s next–a gig on NewsMax, OAN, America First, Breitbart? You’re well down the rabbit hole, Turley, and you did it to yourself.

    1. Go away then. Nobody will care. You don’t ADD anything to the comments. You just spew the same talking points that we could turn to CNN to hear.

  3. Yes, Hunter is guilty, but please add John Kerry to the list of FARA defendants. Didn’t he coordinate with the Iranians in lobbying to save the Iran Deal when Trump nixed it?

    Kerry is way more of a FARA violator than Maria Butina ever was, yet she was some harmless college student who went to prison so Mueller/Weissman could claim a scalp.

    1. Hunter is guilty–OF WHAT? Cite me proof or admit this is just something you heard on alt-right media that you want to believe. Maria Butina was a spy, pure and simple, not “some harmless college student’.

    2. ANON used to be the name of a regular commenter with liberal views. But said name is currently used by the Blog Stooge who fields at least 20 puppet commenters on any given day.

      1. Do you have anything to say about his comment? No? Then all we have is one dumb comment on top of a comment that had something to say. That makes your comment rather dull.

  4. I’m more and more ‘surprised’ as each day dawns that Biden’s only remaining son is still walking upright. Is it not true that prosecutions stop cold when the accused is gone?

  5. If anyone wants to know the results of any investigation, prosecution of the Biden’s just look at what’s happen to the Russia Russia Russia conspirators, 30,000 washed emails and the liars regarding the Ukraine phone call—-Nothing. Sad but that’s how it will end.

    1. Do you seriously think the IRS is so incompetent they have “missed” tax fraud on President Trump’s part? How many years solid have they been auditing him?

      1. Why do you assume that they have been auditing him for years?

        The IRS misses tax fraud from lots of people, especially those who are wealthy and have complex tax returns:
        “Tax Evasion: Cheats Are Costing the US About $1 Trillion a Year, IRS Estimates”
        https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-13/tax-cheats-are-costing-u-s-1-trillion-a-year-irs-estimates

        Congressional Democrats wanted to provide funding for more people to work on tax evasion at the IRS, and the additional income would have more than covered the cost of the additional employees, but Congressional Republicans wouldn’t agree to it.

  6. I will believe it when I see it; and don’t charge him unless you plan on jailing the entire crime family – elsewise you will just add to your reputation of lawless disregard for the rule of law and the special treatment of the left elite.

      1. That is not mine to elucidate, that would be for an honest justice officer IF they are allowed to perform their duties without interference or misrepresentation. The left always plays innocent until proven guilty when it suits them but never when it involves their opposition – it is frankly getting tawdry and boring to wait for the usual left rebuttal. “pop” aka “the Big Guy and his family of skeezy operatives need a thorough inspection – even more thorough than that still being given to Trump and his family.

  7. No, what Hunter did is nowhere near what Paul Manafort did — like you maintain. Hunter wasn’t his father’s campaign manager who engineered how the Russians could selectively target susceptible voting districts with massive disinformation in an election such that Trump could override the popular vote in ’16.

    Not to mention scale. Hunter can’t touch Manafort in that either. Hunter is an addict who got out of control, not a long time political operative who sold his country out.

    Appreciate the effort in deflection from the staggering level of Trump family corruption around Jared and the Saudis though, Jon. You held off to the second day after the story broke out despite pressure for you to get on it yesterday from the home office, no doubt.

    Eb

    1. Hunter was the errand boy$$$$ for his father and obama, he took his dad’s Delaware racket international at the direction of his father and the permission of obama. His addictions, from sex with minors to crack, have nothing to do with these criminal activities.

      Per punishment for his crimes, its all much ado about nothing, his father will pardon him for each and every crime committed – and that’s the core reason Hunter wanted his dad to be POTUS + He could sing a whole body of work of an opera master on DC.

  8. [Hunter]
    Pardon Me Daddy but; “I didn’t inhale” (Coke) and surf Porn, and engage in a Hedonistic lifestyle, and bargain with those Greedy Foreigners, have a Child out-of-wedlock, just to tarnish the Family’s image. Nooooooo, I worked hard for what We got.

    [Pres.]
    OK Son, That works for Me. Go get cleaned up and we’ll put this one behind Us.

  9. Comrade Daddys Boy of the socialist classless society Ruling Class will be excused or at worst Pardoned. What citizens get when they vite anti Constitutional.

  10. Dennis sees it straight….Garland does not have the moral turpitude (read that as possessing backbone or integrity) to ensure Charges are filed based upon hard evidence and corroborated testimony.

    But if a miracle does happen and Garland cannot prevent that from happening due to some US Attorney having the stones to do so….the Case shall show up before a very carefully chosen Judge.

    If that fails to prevent a conviction….then the punishment shall wind up being the equivalent of an oral admonishment.

    Finally…..Daddy…if still the President shall do as Dennis forecasts….Pardon the smartest Man he knows……Hunter who will not have to pay back the loaned money he got to pay the IRS for all of his back taxes.

    By the way….who loaned him the Money and what were the terms….a Forgiveable Loan no doubt.

    1. I can see a strategy where they bundle all of Hunter’s crimes, each and every one of them, the more the merrier, and then ‘pop’s’ pardons them all. Pardoning Hunter would also cause the issuance of alot of other ‘get out of jail free’ cards to many – including his father.

      1. When the Republicans take over the US Congress with a veto-proof majority, here is what Americans wish:

        Demented Biden is removed via 25th Amendment
        Kamala is removed for being a womyn until Judge Brown Jackson gets her biologist certification and rules Kamala is not a woman but a really awful trans. Throw her back to San Francisco and let the homeless deal with her
        All Democrats are brought up on criminal charges for a coup against President Trump
        All Federal and State Democrats who facilitated mandatory lockdowns are brought up on charges for millions of deaths and injury to elderly / youth, mental deterioration of Americans, ruined economic lives and loss of financial revenues and savings, and throw Fauci in prison for causing all of the aforementioned
        Biden’s Handlers (Ron Klain, Jill Biden, Susan Rice, et al) are charged with failure to remove a compromised President and acting as extensions of a US President
        Impeach and Prosecute all Cabinet members particularly heads of defense and immigration
        Impeach Sotomayor and Brown Jackson for being bereft of intellectual capacity
        Prosecute all Legacy Media executives and published writers for censoring the laptop from hell story and disseminating the Hillary Clinton funded Russian collusion lie
        Shut down Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, etc and bring charges against their CEOs for censorship, misinformation and stoking panic and fears
        Defund and shut down the US Dept of Education
        Defund all universities from federal funds
        Any and all adults who facilitated gender sex surgeries for anyone under the age of 18 is tried and, if guilty, imprisoned &/or castrated for child abuse

        for starters

        1. Natacha: Not all of us who disagree with you are “Trumpsters.” Some of us simply don’t find your redundant commentary worthwhile.

        2. Natacha, once again, you failed to prove your case. Recently you provided a list of failures by Trump. On two separate occasions, I demonstrated you were wrong. You never corrected yourself, nor did you apologize for your comments.

          Are you only able to list complaints and unable to defend them? That is what we are seeing. Shall we call you incompetent or a liar?

        3. Natacha, Has Jen Psaki ever been mocked on the late night “comedy” shows? Have you seen her being made fun of yet? You know, the way they did to Trump’s press secretaries.

          There’s just so much material with which to mock Psaki, don’t you think? So why oh why will they not mock her on late night shows? Instead they “joke” about punching Fox’s Peter Doucey.

          Psaki is smug, condescending, she’s got the bottle dyed red hair, the arrogant ‘looking down on you’ head tilt, the ‘uh, ah, uh’ in between every other word, the flat out lies, the ethical breach of negotiating for her cable gig while on duty at the White House, etc.

          Why oh why will the late night “comedy” shows not mock the girl? She’s so awful and gives them more than enough material.

            1. One episode? There is endless material for them to mock. Which they would if she worked for a Republican of course.

        4. Trump’s “utter incompetence and lack of leadership.”

          A vaccine in record time. If that’s “incompetence” and bad leadership, please give me more.

          If your nursing home patient had been “president,” we’d be suffering from Covid Omega — with ongoing lockdowns and shutdowns. America would be Shanghai.

    2. “Garland does not have the moral turpitude”

      We agree!

      But tou seem confused about the meaning of moral turpitude. It does NOT mean “possessing backbone or integrity.” It “describes wicked, deviant behavior constituting an immoral, unethical, or unjust departure from ordinary social standards such that it would shock a community.”
      https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/moral_turpitude

    3. It’s a student loan for the School Of Bribery, Corruption & Quid Pro Quo and Joe will cancel all student debt.

  11. Turley says:

    “It has now ensnared the son of President Biden. The question is whether the Justice Department and the media still have the same appetite for FARA prosecutions.”

    I do earnestly hope the DOJ goes after Hunter, and if Joe is involved, impeach him.

    Democrats have to show Trumpists that no one is above the law. We won’t whine about “witch-hunts” like they did. Filthy liars.

      1. Mike,

        I have always said that no one is above the law unlike a Trumpist who would still vote for Trump if he shot someone on 5th Avenue. Trumpists will NEVER turn on Trump no matter what he may ever be found guilty of. If he says that his conviction was *rigged*, they will believe him notwithstanding the evidence against him and the deliberation of the jury.

        1. LOL…you know you are a clown…correct? Explain how Hillary and Democrats in government were allowed to use a British Spy to try to overthrow the election of Trump and stopping him performing the duty of presidency?

      2. Mike,
        I have had many interactions with Jeff, We definitely don’t “lean” the same way. He didn’t just sober up. He has said that he will accept any investigation/ verdict that is undertaken.
        I will take him at his word. My feeling is that the investigations might be done by DOJ concerning Hunter. There will certainly be done by the House when the Republicans retake that branch in November. Be assured that I will call Jeff out if he changes his tune. And I will be aware of any effort to use a synonym for ” witch hunt”.
        Unlike some on this blog on ” his side” he is respectful. And certainly not unhinged. As one frequent ” contributor ” here is.

  12. We all know that there are two kinds of justice.

    One harsh and vindictive (see 1/6 rioters).

    The other mild and forgiving (see treatment of FBI lawyer who perturbed himself in the FISA court application).

    Guess which one the DOJ will apply.

  13. Charging him with this crime would put end to any investigation into his father. The MSM would crow that the indictment vindicates Joe since all the prosecutors could find was the moral equivalent of a parking ticket. Nothing to see here, move on. Then Joe would pardon his son on the way out thd door two years from now and point to Trump’s pardon of Manafort as precedent. Once Joe announces he is not running for re-election, the public will lose interest. Game. Set. Match.

    1. Joe can pardon Hunter today. The only deterrent to exercising Plenary Power is expending political capital. Something Joe is running in the deficient.

        1. Gerald Ford disagrees with you

          Now, THEREFORE, I, GERALD R. FORD, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.

        2. @macroman,

          Potus can pardon at any time after the fact. Meaning that even if not charged, he could be pardoned at any time after committing the crime.

          Bush dis this during Iran Contra investigations.

          -G

    1. Progressives can do and say whatever they want with no consequences. Haven’t you learned that yet, Paul?? /(SNARK)

      1. Wen Bars – Hunter appears to be molester and seems to have gotten it from “The Big Guy”.

          1. UpstateFarmer – good catch!!! Forgot about that. Get him for everything, including parking tickets.

    2. Paul,

      Do you assume that the entire contents of the multiple — and differing — copies of the hard drive all came from Hunter Biden? If so, why?

      Thousands of emails purportedly from the laptop computer of Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son, are authentic communications that can be verified through cryptographic signatures from Google and other technology companies, say two security experts who examined the data at the request of The Washington Post [‘Matt Green, a Johns Hopkins University security researcher who specializes in cryptography, and Jake Williams, a forensics expert and former National Security Agency operative who once hacked the computers of foreign adversaries’]. The verifiable emails are a small fraction of 217 gigabytes of data provided to The Post on a portable hard drive by Republican activist Jack Maxey. He said the contents of the portable drive originated from Hunter Biden’s MacBook Pro, which Hunter reportedly dropped off at a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Del., in April 2019 and never reclaimed.

      The vast majority of the data — and most of the nearly 129,000 emails it contained — could not be verified by either of the two security experts who reviewed the data for The Post. Neither found clear evidence of tampering in their examinations, but some of the records that might have helped verify contents were not available for analysis, they said. … Among the reasons for the inconclusive findings was sloppy handling of the data, which damaged some records. The experts found the data had been repeatedly accessed and copied by people other than Hunter Biden over nearly three years. … In their examinations, Green and Williams found evidence that people other than Hunter Biden had accessed the drive and written files to it, both before and after the initial stories in the New York Post and long after the laptop itself had been turned over to the FBI. … Analysis was made significantly more difficult, both experts said, because the data had been handled repeatedly in a manner that deleted logs and other files that forensic experts use to establish a file’s authenticity. … the drive includes hundreds of thousands of other documents, including more than 36,000 images, more than 36,000 iMessage chat entries, more than 5,000 text files and more than 1,300 videos, according to tallies made by Williams, who, like Green, could not definitively verify any of them. …”
      https://web.archive.org/web/20220413073629/https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/03/30/hunter-biden-laptop-data-examined/

      1. ATS is spinning again. The article comes from the Washington Post, which initially lied about the laptop. They have been doing everything they can to pretend it doesn’t exist. Now they want to throw doubt on the laptop. Only fools get stung by the same bee twice. We can say this WP excuse is an excuse of a fool.

        If Hunter thinks something on the laptop is wrong, he can tell us himself. We have caught him butt naked in our sights.

        1. You are the one and only Anonymous the Stupid (ATS), aka S. Meyer the Troll Liar.

          Paul is a good faith discussant, and you are not.

          1. Paul is a good discussant. Great. You are not, and you aren’t credible. That is the problem. You are getting flack from a lot of other decent people. Reassess what you claim and how you do it. You are a one-trick pony, a liar, and deceitful. That doesn’t work with intelligent people. You underestimate your audience.

    3. Paul, re: the photos, here’s a bit more info from the same article:
      “Soon after that period of inactivity — and months after the laptop itself had been taken into FBI custody — three new folders were created on the drive. Dated Sept. 1 and 2, 2020, they bore the names “Desktop Documents,” “Biden Burisma” and “Hunter. Burisma Documents.” Williams also found records on the drive that indicated someone may have accessed the drive from a West Coast location in October 2020, little more than a week after the first New York Post stories on Hunter Biden’s laptop appeared. Over the next few days, somebody created three additional folders on the drive, titled, “Mail,” “Salacious Pics Package” and “Big Guy File” — an apparent reference to Joe Biden.”
      https://web.archive.org/web/20220413073629/https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/03/30/hunter-biden-laptop-data-examined/

      Whoever created those files, they clearly weren’t on the laptop that arrived at John Paul Mac Isaac’s Wilmington repair shop, since they were added much later.

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