Attorney General William Barr was perfectly aware of federal investigations involving President-Elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden’s business and financial dealings for months and worked overtime to shield them from the public during the 2020 presidential election, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday evening.
A source told the Wall Street Journal that Barr knew since before spring about federal investigations centered in Delaware and Manhattan looking into Biden’s business and financial dealings. Barr’s attempts to stop the Hunter’s probes from being made public, according to the newspaper were in accordance with Justice Department rules that restrict prosecutors from taking public investigative steps that could affect the outcome of an election.
Barr’s actions are a reversal of what former FBI Director James Comey did during the 2016 presidential election in disclosing to congressional committee chairs that the FBI discovered additional emails relevant to the investigation into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s server. The letter released a week and a half before the General Election made Congressional Democrats furious and demanded immediate answers on his decision of the letter and more answers. Comey didn’t respond to the demands but revealed two days before Americans headed to the polls in a subsequent letter that the FBI found no additional evidence in the new emails.
The “Comey Effect” letter is considered by Democrats as one of the potential factors that attributed to Hillary losing the 2016 election. But, in 2018, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog on Comey’s public disclosures released a 500-page investigation report that ultimately found that the former FBI director did not exhibit political bias or try to influence the election; nor did he contest the decision not to charge Clinton with a crime when he made the “October Surprise” announcement.
Nonetheless, Barr staved off pressure from Republicans in Congress for information into the investigations. House Republicans urged Barr in October to appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter after the New York Post published emails reporting how Joe Biden was introduced by his son to a top executive at Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings in 2015, a year before the then-vice president allegedly pressured the country’s government to fire a prosecutor who had launched an investigation into the company. They also demanded that Barr respond to their inquiry within five days, which ultimately went nowhere.
Along with nearly a dozen House Republicans, President Trump followed suit, calling on Barr “to appoint somebody” and to “act fast” to review Hunter’s “laptop from hell” that included a discussion of “remuneration packages” for six people in a business deal with a Chinese energy firm. The email identified Hunter as “Chair/Vice Chair depending on an agreement with CEFC,” an apparent reference to now-bankrupt CEFC China Energy Co.
“We’ve got to get the attorney general to act,” Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends in October. “He’s gotta act, and he’s gotta act fast, and he’s gotta appoint somebody. This is major corruption, and we have to know about this before the election. The attorney general has to act.”
Hunter announced, using his father’s governmental transition team to circulate a statement revealing that he learned about the investigation for the first time Tuesday through his legal counsel and is under investigation for “tax affairs.”
“I learned yesterday for the first time that the US Attorney’s Office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs,” Hunter said in the 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 advisors.”
The Biden transition team declined to say when Joe Biden learned of the investigation.
The investigation of Hunter’s finance began as early as 2018 and some of those transactions involved people who the FBI believes sparked counterintelligence concerns. Investigators are focused on Hunter’s business activities connected to China. Some of his business dealings in China are publicly known through interviews and documents released in a report in September by Senate Republicans on the Finance Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs who conducted an investigation.
Earlier this year, Senate Republicans on both committees looked into Hunter’s finances, examining a series of payments it alleged he received from entities linked to CEFC, among others. Their investigations found based on documents obtained from the Treasury Department that Hunter’s law firm, Owasco PC, received nearly $5 million from CEFC.
Now that the media is taking this story seriously after initially downplaying and refusing to report on the matter in the lead up to the General Election, numerous outlets are reporting the investigation is much broader in scope than what Hunter announced.
In addition to Delaware, the securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York also investigated Hunter’s finances, as well as in early 2019 investigators in Delaware and Washington were also probing potential money laundering and Hunter’s foreign ties, according to the person with direct knowledge who spoke to Politico.
The New York Times reported that prosecutors in Delaware served subpoenas on Tuesday that sought information related to Hunter’s taxes.
Thursday’s reporting about Barr’s role in keeping Hunter’s investigations a secret from the public will likely infuriate Trump, who is already frustrated with the attorney general and reportedly was on the brink of firing him in recent weeks.
“Why didn’t the Fake News Media, the FBI and the DOJ report the Biden matter BEFORE the Election. Oh well, it’s OK, we won the Election anyway – 75,000,000 VOTES!!!” Trump tweeted Thursday night with Twitter labeling the tweet as disinformation.
Why didn’t the Fake News Media, the FBI and the DOJ report the Biden matter BEFORE the Election. Oh well, it’s OK, we won the Election anyway – 75,000,000 VOTES!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2020