Below is my column in the Messenger on the use of Hunter Biden’s addiction as the final line of defense to corruption allegations. This week, President Joe Biden is continuing to deny that he had any knowledge of his son’s business dealing despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In the meantime, pundits are insisting that this is really not a story of millions of dollars being sent to the Biden family from foreign sources or the direct use of Joe Biden to shake down (apparently successfully) a Chinese official with ties to foreign intelligence. Rather, it is now portrayed as “a story of a father’s love for his son.” In other words, it is just like “On Golden Pond” if the father and child were working together to extract millions in actual gold from the pond.
Here is the column:
In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1890 story, The Sign of the Four, there is a scene in which Sherlock Holmes prepares to give himself an injection of cocaine in front of a curious Dr. Watson. Holmes explained: “It is cocaine, a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?” Watson wisely demurred — but the 7% solution has not lost its appeal to others as a diversion.
Last year, I wrote a column suggesting that there was a notable shift among Biden associates and some media figures in addressing the Hunter Biden scandal. In the wake of the release of new evidence of Hunter Biden’s alleged influence-peddling efforts, the Biden team has fully retreated to what I called the “Seven-Percent Solution” to the scandal.
In 2022, I wrote:
“The president and the press have been shifting to a new defense. As the father recently insisted of his son, ‘He fought an addiction problem. He overcame it. He wrote about it.’
“The family and the media have been cultivating the angle for months as they anticipated possible criminal charges. … With possible criminal conduct exposed, all that’s left is the addiction defense.”
One of the most vocal with this recent rollout was former U.S. senator Claire McCaskill (D.-Mo.), who became irate on MSNBC and declared that “Everybody needs to back off!” because Hunter was an addict and “suffering from these diseases.” Of course, such suffering did not prevent him from allegedly shaking down foreign figures for millions of dollars in exchange for access to his father.
The Biden defense team invoked much the same explanation when confronted with a story about a WhatsApp message that purportedly showed Hunter threatening a Chinese businessman with ties to China’s Communist Party if he did not send Biden millions of dollars. He repeatedly referenced the fact that his father was sitting next to him, and suggested his father would be involved in the threatened response if the money was not transferred.
According to testimony made public last week, IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley told the House Ways and Means Committee in May: “[W]e obtained a July 30th, 2017, WhatsApp message from Hunter Biden to Henry Zhao, where Hunter Biden wrote: ‘I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled. 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.’”
This past weekend, there were reports that, after the threatening WhatsApp message was sent, two payments totaling $5.1 million were sent to a law firm and another firm associated with Hunter Biden.
The response from Hunter Biden’s defense team seems telling with its conspicuous absence of an outright denial that Hunter sent the message. His lawyer, Chris Clark, first insisted that the release of the messages “are not only irresponsible, they are illegal.” (He did not explain why a message legally acquired by the government from the cloud account of his client would be illegal to include in the report of a congressional investigatory committee.)
He then added 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.”
The 7% solution: It worked for Holmes, and it now appears to be working for Hunter.
The problem with this line of defense, however, is that it runs into some glaring contradictions.
In the first few years of the scandal, Biden associates — and Hunter himself — emphasized that he was a highly educated lawyer with executive-level experience to offer these companies. Back then, he was insulted by the notion that he was unqualified to sit on boards for companies like Burisma. He told ABC News reporter Amy Robach to “say it nicer” when she raised the subject of allegedly using his connections to his father.
Another problem is that Hunter did not appear to have any chemical-based challenge in allegedly maintaining what has been described by accusers as a global, multimillion-dollar influence-peddling scheme. As I noted last year, the fact is you can be an addict or an alcoholic and still be capable (or culpable).
Even more troubling is how members of the Biden family apparently continued to work with him on these deals despite his reported addiction. Before becoming the designated defendant of the Biden family, he was the conduit for millions in revenue, including alleged transfers to other Biden family members.
The Justice Department also appears to have latched on to the 7% solution. Rather than prosecuting Hunter Biden for a felony in lying on a federal gun form, it is sending him into a diversion program due to an addiction that he says he was able to break years ago.
Now, however, he is portrayed as a junkie emailing threatening messages to foreign figures, demanding (and apparently receiving) millions of dollars. It is little more than an elite version of an addict panhandling in Times Square — except that Hunter apparently panhandled effectively in different countries for almost a decade, reportedly using a web of more than 20 LLC corporations and banking accounts.
Hunter Biden’s 7% solution won’t do much to help the public resolve what really happened here — but it may help those in Washington who prefer to discuss addiction instead of corruption.
Jonathan Turley, an attorney, constitutional law scholar and legal analyst, is the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at The George Washington University Law School.