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Fresh revelations contradict Joe Biden’s sweeping denials on Hunter.

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Fresh revelations contradict Joe Biden’s sweeping denials on Hunter.

 

Of the many disputes that followed the leaking of Hunter Biden’s laptop contents, one of the thorniest has been the case of the April 2015 dinner at Cafe Milano.

Emails from the cache suggested that Hunter Biden hosted a dinner in a private room at the tony Washington restaurant that included both his father and an executive from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which had appointed Hunter Biden to its board. An email from the executive, dated immediately following the dinner, thanked Hunter Biden for the chance to meet his father.

As the media litigated the controversy, the White House insisted, in increasingly forceful terms, that no meeting between Biden and the executive had occurred.

In October 2021, a year after the dinner became a matter of national controversy, a POLITICO article mentioning it prompted an email response from a White House spokesperson reiterating and extending denials that Biden had met the Ukrainian executive, Vadym Pozharskyi.

While some statements from Biden representatives could be construed as only ruling out that a formal meeting took place between Biden and the executive, the White House maintained its denial was more sweeping.

“Does this rule out any informal encounter with Pozharskyi in April 2015?” POLITICO asked.

“Yes,” the White House spokesman wrote back.

Then, this July, a former Hunter Biden business partner who was present at the dinner testified before the House Oversight Committee. Under penalty of perjury, Devon Archer said that the Ukrainian executive did dine with Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and several others at Cafe Milano in April 2015.

Asked to reconcile this discrepancy, the White House did not address the question of whether Biden and the executive met at the dinner. Instead, a second spokesperson responded, “As we have said many times before, the President was not in business with his son or anyone else in the family, and House Republicans’ own witnesses, including Devon Archer, have testified that the President never even discussed business with his son.”

The explicit White House denial of even an informal encounter, reported here for the first time, was not the only time that statements made by Biden and his camp about Hunter Biden’s dealings have been contradicted by others.

Joe Biden and his representatives have repeatedly defended him from criticism related to his relatives, his son in particular, by issuing blanket denials of misconduct and disclaiming contact with their business affairs.

But, in recent months, as congressional Republicans have opened an impeachment inquiry and controversies related to Hunter Biden continue to be litigated in the courts and in the public square, a steady trickle of revelations have contradicted the president’s denials.

A POLITICO review of recent congressional testimony and exhibits, along with court filings and media reports, casts doubt on several statements made by Biden and his representatives.

They include the president’s claim that he has never discussed his relatives’ business dealings with anyone and his suggestion that the appearance of emails apparently belonging to his son was the result of a Russian plot, as well as Biden’s denials that his son made money from China and that his relatives have profited off of the Biden name.

Republicans, meanwhile, have turned up no proof for the claims of Biden’s most zealous detractors: that he took official actions on account of his relatives’ business dealings. And as for the Cafe Milano dinner, there is no indication that Joe Biden discussed business or offered favors to the energy executive that night.

But, as with so much else related to the Hunter Biden affair, the president’s reliance on sweeping denials that end up being called into question by others has allowed the controversy to fester for years.

A Russian plot

Questions about the Cafe Milano dinner have persisted in part because of the doubt Joe Biden cast over the authenticity of emails describing the event.

In October 2020, the New York Post began publishing emails provided by Donald Trump’s ally and sometimes-personal attorney Rudy Giuliani that were purportedly taken from devices Hunter Biden had left at a computer repair shop in Delaware. In the wake of their publication, Joe Biden endorsed an alternative theory about the documents: “There are 50 former national intelligence folks who said that what he’s accusing me of is a Russian plant” or “Russian plan” (his intended wording is unclear, and news organizations have quoted it both ways), he said at the final presidential debate that month.

The letter cited by Biden stated that “the arrival on the US political scene of emails purportedly belonging to Vice President Biden’s son Hunter … has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation,” while asserting that the signers had no direct knowledge of Russian involvement.

Since then, the nature of the files has been a matter of ongoing controversy.

U.S. intelligence had indeed warned earlier in the campaign that Moscow was seeking to harm Biden’s candidacy by pushing unsubstantiated corruption claims related to the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. But subsequent reporting has steadily accumulated to support the authenticity of the files, which a Delaware repair shop owner named John Paul Mac Isaac presented to Giuliani and which Giuliani passed on to the Post.

Mac Isaac sued POLITICO, CNN, Hunter Biden, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and the Biden presidential campaign committee for defamation and civil conspiracy in 2022. The case remains pending in Sussex County, Del.

In September 2021, a book by a POLITICO reporter authenticated several emails from the laptop, including two at the center of the original New York Post articles, based in part on interviews with people with independent knowledge of the correspondence.

In March of last year, The New York Times reported that a combination of people involved in the federal investigation of Hunter Biden and people familiar with his business dealings had authenticated an unspecified number of emails from the cache. Later that month, The Washington Post reported that two forensic experts it commissioned had verified thousands more emails.

During the initial firestorm over the release of the files, Mac Isaac told news outlets that he had handed them over to the FBI a year earlier in late 2019.

Last November, CBS News reported that a forensic analysis it commissioned of a copy of the material turned over to the FBI “shows no evidence of tampering or fabrication.”

In March, Hunter Biden sued Mac Isaac for invasion of privacy, stating that “at least some of” the electronic files obtained by Mac Isaac belonged to Hunter Biden. A footnote in that filing specifies that Hunter Biden was not conceding Mac Isaac’s account of how he came into possession of those files.

But in June, House Republicans published interviews with two IRS agents who alleged mishandling of the Hunter Biden case. One of the whistleblowers, Gary Shapley, furnished notes of an October 2020, meeting he held with FBI agents to discuss the devices provided to the Bureau by Mac Isaac.

The notes show that the FBI found further support for the claim that Hunter Biden had left the devices at the repair shop: They include financial records showing that Hunter Biden shopped at a nearby cigar shop around the time the devices were dropped off and phone records showing calls between Hunter Biden and the repair shop.

The White House did not respond to questions about the computer files.

The Cafe Milano dinner

The question of whether Joe Biden met a Burisma executive at a dinner at Cafe Milano has been a subject of controversy since his son’s emails leaked three years ago.

Emails in the cache show that Hunter Biden and Archer, his then-business partner, arranged for a dinner with roughly a dozen other people at Cafe Milano on April 16, 2015. A tentative guest list Hunter Biden sent to Archer included a “Vadym” at the time the pair was working closely with Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi.

Other email traffic shows Hunter Biden informing an attendee “Dad will be there but keep that between us for now.” And an email from Pozharskyi to Hunter Biden from the morning after the event says, “thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent some time together.”

That email and the guest list email were among a set from the cache that were authenticated for POLITICO by two digital forensics experts granted anonymity to share their findings. One expert cited a fear of retaliation for weighing in on a political controversy, and the other said contractual obligations limited the matters about which he could speak publicly.

In addition to being verified by forensics experts, the thank you email’s authenticity was further attested to in an affidavit produced by an IRS investigator on the case, which was released by House Republicans in September.

“This email was received by the investigative team via an Electronic Search Warrant served on Google related to [Hunter Biden’s] Google email account,” the IRS agent, Joseph Zeigler, wrote.

At the time of the dinner, Joe Biden was heading U.S. anti-corruption initiatives in Ukraine. They included efforts by the State Department to recover assets allegedly obtained corruptly by Burisma’s owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, who had granted the company lucrative resource licenses while serving as the country’s ecology minister. Zlochevsky has denied wrongdoing.

While attendees of the Cafe Milano dinner agree that Joe Biden was present, his representatives issued repeated denials of any meeting between the then-vice president and Pozharskyi.

And some attendees of the dinner had made public statements that bolstered the notion that, despite the emails suggesting a Biden-Pozharskyi encounter, the two men had never met.

One attendee, Rick Leach, who served as president of the non-profit World Food Program USA at the time of the dinner, told POLITICO he did not believe Pozharskyi had been present. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t remember that name. I don’t remember that person at all.”

In October 2021, a White House spokesperson emailed POLITICO to request that an article be updated to reflect that the president’s representatives denied not only a formal meeting, but any meeting whatsoever. The official cited a statement from campaign spokesman Andrew Bates to USA Today that Biden and Vadym Pozharskyi “never had a meeting.”

While a previous Biden camp denial made reference to “official schedules” — language that potentially left open the possibility of an off-the-books encounter at a dinner — the White House spokesperson assured POLITICO that Biden had not even had an informal encounter with Pozharskyi.

But in July, Archer, who pursued a range of ventures with Hunter Biden during the Obama era, testified to the House Oversight Committee about their dealings. Archer, who was convicted in 2018 of defrauding a Native American tribe as part of a scheme in which Hunter Biden was not implicated, had attended the Cafe Milano dinner.

Archer testified that both Pozharskyi and Joe Biden also attended the dinner, an account that is consistent with Hunter Biden’s leaked emails.

Archer’s testimony specifically contradicted claims relayed in a Washington Post fact-check that Biden had not even sat down at the dinner and had only spoken to one other attendee: Alex Karloutsos, a Greek Orthodox cleric.

“That’s not correct reporting,” Archer testified.

Archer said the then-vice president ate dinner along with the group. “I remember just a regular dinner where there was a table of conversation,” he told House investigators.

Biden’s alleged contact with a Burisma executive is a sensitive matter in part because of claims, promoted by Trump’s allies during the last presidential campaign, that Joe Biden demanded the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been investigating Burisma on account of his son’s position with the company.

But subsequent investigations failed to bear out that claim: Officials familiar with U.S. policy on Ukraine testified to Congress that the firing of the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was consistent with that policy, and Senate Republicans found no clear evidence that Hunter Biden’s board position led to changes in U.S. policy.

Questions about Biden’s alleged contacts with Pozharskyi have resurfaced, though, with the publication of an unverified allegation made by an unnamed FBI informant that echoed the initial claims of Trump’s allies.

The informant claimed that Burisma’s owner said privately that he was pressured by Joe and Hunter Biden into bribing them for help resolving Burisma’s legal issues, including Shokin’s firing. The informant first mentioned Hunter Biden’s role with Burisma in a 2017 conversation with the FBI, according to an agency form recording his allegations, which was obtained by congressional Republicans and made public in July. The bureau re-interviewed the informant, whose identity remains secret, in 2020, after the Trump Justice Department began scrutinizing claims about Shokin’s ouster.

Former Attorney General Bill Barr, who served under Trump, told Fox News that Justice Department investigators concluded that the tip did not appear to be disinformation and forwarded it to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware in 2020. It is unclear what came of the allegation from there.

The Biden White House has dismissed the allegations, citing a lack of corroboration.

The White House spokesperson told POLITICO: “Years of investigations by Congressional Republicans have turned up no wrongdoing by Joe Biden because the truth is the President did nothing wrong.”

‘Never discussed’

The White House’s Pozharskyi denial is just one of several that has been contradicted by others.

After the issue of Biden relatives’ business dealings first came up in 2019, Joe Biden issued a sweeping denial that distanced himself from his family’s commercial pursuits: “I have never discussed, with my son or my brother or with anyone else, anything having to do with their businesses. Period,” he told reporters in Spartanburg, South Carolina, that August.

In October 2020, a former Hunter Biden business partner, Tony Bobulinski, said that he discussed Hunter Biden’s Chinese business ventures with Joe Biden.

“That is false,” Bobulinski said, in a prepared statement, of Biden’s claim to have never discussed business with Hunter.

Bobulinski — who had previously given federal campaign contributions predominantly to Democrats and was working with Trump-aligned Republicans to publicize his allegations — said that Hunter Biden and his uncle, James Biden, who is the president’s younger brother, introduced him to Joe Biden in Los Angeles in early May 2017.

“At my approximately hour-long meeting with Joe that night, we discussed the Bidens’ history, the Bidens’ family business plans with the Chinese, with which he was plainly familiar, at least at a high level,” Bobulinski said in the statement.

In a 2020 interview on Fox News with conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, Bobulinski said that James and Hunter Biden also participated in the meeting. “We didn’t go into too much detail on the business,” Bobulinski said, but he said it was “crystal clear” that Hunter Biden had discussed the deal with his father.

In September, House Republicans released an FBI summary of an interview agents conducted with Bobulinski in the fall of 2020, showing that Bobulinski told investigators the same basic story: that he had discussed the China venture with Joe Biden. The summary gives extra heft to Boublinski’s public claims because lying to the FBI in order to influence an investigation can lead to criminal charges.

Bobulinski has said he did not discuss the business in any great depth with Joe Biden. Archer has said that Joe Biden was familiar with his son’s business dealings and that he has seen the president exchange pleasantries with his son’s business partners over the phone, but that he has not seen him engage in the details of his son’s business.

In an article published in September, the former president of a hedge fund that was operated by James and Hunter Biden a decade-and-a-half ago told the Wall Street Journal that Joe Biden, then a senator, sometimes participated in business calls with his relatives. Former Paradigm Global Advisors executive Charles Provini said most of Joe Biden’s participation amounted to “just pleasantries,” but that topics like Provini’s job duties and litigation related to the fund were also discussed on these calls. Provini went on to sue Paradigm, and the case was dismissed.

Asked in July by a reporter whether the White House stood by claims that Biden had never discussed his business dealings with his son, spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre responded with a more limited claim: “The president was never in business with his son,” she said.

In response to a question about the phone conversations detailed by Archer, the president said in August, “I never talked business with anybody,” a statement consistent with Archer’s testimony.

Asked whether the president stands by his broad denial of ever discussing his relatives’ business dealings with anyone, the White House cited the testimony of House witnesses who said they did not observe any such interactions.

No money from China

Joe Biden has also faced questions about Hunter Biden’s dealings outside of Ukraine.

At the October 2020, debate, Joe Biden was asked about the appropriateness of Hunter’s work in China and for Burisma during his vice presidency.

“My son has not made money in terms of this thing about, what are you talking about, China. I have not had … the only guy who made money from China is this guy,” he said, referring to Trump. “Nobody else has made money from China.”

The moderator’s question referred to Hunter Biden’s work in China during Biden’s vice presidency. Hunter Biden entered into a venture with Chinese asset managers, Bohai Harvest RST, during his father’s vice presidency. The extent to which Hunter Biden profited from his involvement in the venture remains unclear. A Hunter Biden representative has said his work on an advisory board related to the venture during the Obama years was unpaid.

But the more general claim that Hunter Biden did not make money from China is false. In court this July, Hunter Biden acknowledged hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from a Chinese energy firm, CEFC, and people associated with it, after his father’s vice presidency.

Entities controlled by James and Hunter Biden ended up receiving nearly $5 million in legal and consulting fees from the Chinese energy company and its executives when his father was out of office, according to a Washington Post analysis published last year. At a plea deal hearing this July, Hunter Biden acknowledged receiving income from CEFC.

No profiting from Biden name

Biden has also offered general assurance that his relatives have not profited off of their association with a powerful public official.

In an October 2020, interview, Milwaukee-area television reporter Adrienne Pedersen quoted to then-candidate Biden a statement from Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson alleging that “Hunter Biden, together with other Biden family members, profited off the Biden name.”

“Is there any legitimacy to Sen. Johnson’s claims?” Pedersen asked.

“None whatsoever,” Biden said, adding, “Ron should be ashamed of himself.”

Johnson’s original comment was made in the context of a 2020 report issued by Senate Republicans that scrutinized the foreign dealings of Biden relatives. The report detailed alleged payments made by CEFC and people affiliated with it to accounts associated with Hunter Biden, James Biden and James’s wife Sara Biden.

And there are fresh indications that their association with Joe Biden helped pave the way for those payments.

That includes the summary of the Bobulinski FBI interview released in September by the House Ways and Means Committee. Bobulinski told agents that James and Hunter Biden helped open doors for CEFC around the world during Joe Biden’s vice presidency without being compensated, but that they wanted payment for that help after he left office, according to the summary.

Bobulinski said that James and Hunter Biden “believed CEFC owed them money for the benefits that accrued to CEFC through its use of the Biden family name to advance their business dealings,” according to the FBI’s summary of the interview.

Records from another FBI interview, conducted with former Hunter Biden business partner Rob Walker and released by House Republicans in June, also casts doubt on the president’s claim. Walker told investigators that Hunter Biden arranged for his father to stop by a lunch with their Chinese business partners at the Four Seasons in Washington. Walker agreed with an agent’s suggestion that Hunter Biden arranged the drop-in, which occurred when Joe Biden was out of office, to help him close a deal with CEFC executives.

The 2020 report by congressional Republicans also scrutinized Hunter Biden’s Burisma work. In his congressional interview in July, Archer said that “a large part of the value” Hunter Biden brought to Burisma was the Biden family “brand” — and that Joe Biden “brought the most value to the brand.”

Outside of the dealings covered by that report, there are other signs that Biden’s relatives have profited from the Biden name over the years. They include allegations made by former business contacts of Hunter and James Biden in lawsuits. In one case dating to the first term of the Obama administration, when Joe Biden was vice president, a former business partner at a hedge fund alleged that — in the course of a dispute about a legal bill — James and Hunter Biden, “refused to pay the bill, repeatedly citing their political connections and family status as a basis for disclaiming the obligation.” James and Hunter Biden denied the allegation.

Former business contacts of James Biden alleged in a lawsuit in 2019 that he promised that Joe Biden would incorporate their business model in his presidential campaign in order to entice them into a partnership. “All the promises were on the Biden name,” one of the executives involved in the suit told the Knoxville News Sentinel at the time. James Biden has denied the allegations.

Joe Biden’s youngest brother, Frank Biden, has also invoked the family name in the course of his business dealings. During the Obama administration, Frank Biden served as a lobbyist for, and the president of, a charter school company, Mavericks in Education, at a time when the expansion of for-profit schools was politically contentious.

In the course of seeking approvals for one of the company’s schools, Frank pledged to the Palm Beach County School Board in February of 2011, “I give you my word of honor on my family name that this system is sustainable.”

The company put out press releases describing Frank as “Brother of the Vice President of the United States and President and Director of Mavericks Education” and “brother of Vice President Joe Biden.”

In a 2011 interview with the Washington Post, Frank Biden said he did not trade on the Biden name but that he did benefit from it. “It’s a tremendous asset,” he said of the name. “I enjoy automatic acceptance or at least listening to what I have to say.”

In a leaked October 2011 email, Hunter Biden wrote of his appeal to a Chinese business partner, “It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with my last name.” That email was also authenticated by both forensics experts.

Fresh revelations contradict Joe Biden’s sweeping denials on Hunter – POLITICO

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