President Donald Trump’s Justice Department officially opened an investigation into Hunter Biden’s tax affairs and business dealings, Biden announced Wednesday. Investigators are looking into whether Biden properly reported income from his business dealings in foreign countries, with specific focus on China. The U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware is leading the investigation, which was first opened in late 2018, and is working with the IRS Criminal Investigation agency and the FBI, CNN reports.
“I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs,” Hunter Biden said in a statement. “I take this matter very seriously, but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisers.”
When they first launched their inquiry, the U.S. attorney’s office was investigating alleged criminal violations of tax and money laundering laws, but the FBI failed to gather enough evidence with regards to the latter inquiry, The New York Times reported. Now, the Justice Department is moving forward, just in time for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.
The investigation is primarily focused on Hunter Biden and some of his associates. Prosecutors in Delaware on Tuesday issued two subpoenas, with at least one seeking more information regarding Biden’s taxes, according to the Times. Further, the inquiry will look into Biden’s foreign ties. Biden served as a board member for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, the founder of which was accused of corruption last year, and provided legal advice to Romainian businessman Gabriel Popoviciu, who was also accused of corruption.
However, the criminal investigation will focus primarily on China, two people briefed on the matter told CNN. In 2018, Biden met with Ye Jianming, the founder and former chairman of CEFC China Energy, to invest in U.S. energy and infrastructure, the New York Times reported at the time. While the deal apparently fell through, Biden was scrutinized over a 2.8-carat diamond he received from Ye, though he said he felt uncomfortable accepting the gift and insisted he gave it away to other associates. Chinese authorities later detained Ye on allegations of corruption, while his associate Patrick Ho who also met with Biden in 2018 was convicted of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act the same year.
As part of the investigation, FBI agents and federal prosecutors in Delaware served a subpoena in 2019 to obtain a laptop and an external hard drive that reportedly belonged to Biden. According to the Times, the FBI examined the computer but nothing on the device served to further the money-laundering investigation. Even so, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani claimed the contents of the laptop show evidence of corruption.
Though it remains unclear whether there is sufficient evidence for the probe to lead anywhere, the investigation threatens to further cast a shadow of doubt over President-elect Joe Biden’s administration even before he takes office. The announcement of this investigation comes as Team Trump continues its fight in court to reverse Joe Biden’s election victory, while the president further weaponizes his Department of Justice in yet another investigation into his political enemies.
The Biden-Harris transition team released a statement of its own regarding the matter: "President-elect Biden is deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger," the transition team said.
If nothing more, the timing of the investigation means that Joe Biden’s presidency will start with an open investigation into his son, and the incoming president will have to prove he can keep his own DOJ separate from personal matters.