The Justice Department investigation into Hunter Biden’s business activities has heated up in recent months, with a flurry of witnesses providing testimony to federal investigators and more expected to provide interviews in the coming weeks, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
The probe, led by the US Attorney in Wilmington, Delaware, began as early as 2018 and concerns multiple financial and business activities in foreign countries dating to when Biden’s father was vice president. Investigators have examined whether Hunter Biden and some of his associates violated money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying laws, as well as firearm and other regulations, multiple sources said.
To do so, law enforcement has gathered information from lobbyists connected to Hunter Biden, from his business partners, and from others who’ve observed his financial engagements, including a woman with whom he had a child.
Hunter Biden has not been charged with any crimes and has denied any wrongdoing. His father, President Joe Biden is not being investigated as part of the probe of his son’s business activities, according to sources who have been briefed.
But the ongoing investigation has persistently raised questions about the ethics and behavior of the President’s son and fueled right-wing political attacks. In 2019, then-President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens over Hunter’s work for Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, eventually leading to Trump’s first impeachment.
In 2020, Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, helped orchestrate news stories centered on a laptop purported to belong to Hunter Biden and said to include his business documents and other potentially salacious materials. CNN previously reported that the FBI took possession of the laptop in late 2019, according to a computer repairman in Delaware who showed reporters a copy of a subpoena.
Activity in the investigation has ebbed and flowed for years — with coronavirus disruptions and pausing around the 2020 election — and in some instances, investigators have not followed up for months after making initial outreach to possible witnesses.
But in recent months, investigative activity in the Biden probe has intensified along with discussions among Justice Department officials about the strength of the case, and whether more work is needed before seeking a decision on possible charges, according to people briefed on the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
Those discussions have involved investigators from the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation agency and prosecutors in Delaware and at Justice Department headquarters, one person briefed on the matter said. Hunter Biden has publicly discussed his own substance abuse struggles, and some Justice officials have debated whether his open discussions of his past drug use could potentially weaken their case should they bring one.
Some officials have noted that Biden could argue he wasn’t aware of wrongdoing because he was on drugs, the source said. Others have countered that Biden’s own public accounts of his recovery show he was fully responsible for actions now under scrutiny, according to the person briefed on the matter.
Investigators have at various times inquired about multiple facets of Hunter Biden’s life — initially focusing on tax issues and money transfers related to business activities in China, according to multiple people familiar with the probe. They’re also examining Biden’s role while on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma years ago, the sources said.
Biden has told associates he paid outstanding tax bills, and public records show more than $450,000 in state liens in Washington, DC, were lifted in 2020, indicating those liabilities were likely paid off.
But those payments haven’t resolved his legal issues. Investigators have examined the source of funds to pay the tax bills.
The gun incident
Prosecutors also have examined a 2018 incident in which a firearm owned by Hunter Biden ended up tossed by his then-girlfriend into a dumpster in Wilmington, a person briefed on the matter said. Biden described in media interviews last year that he was addicted to drugs, which raised the possibility he broke federal law when he bought the firearm.
Biden has denied wrongdoing in his business activities. In late 2020 after being notified by the Delaware US attorney about the investigation, Hunter Biden said in a statement issued by his father’s presidential transition office: “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.”
Hunter Biden’s attorney, Christopher Clark, did not respond to multiple requests for comment in recent days.
The Delaware US Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department declined to comment.
In recent months, Biden has tried to turn a page, publishing a memoir and debuting his work as an artist with shows in Los Angeles and New York. But even apparent attempts to avoid controversy have backfired. The White House acknowledged it played a role in the arts sales, setting up a legal process to shield the identity of buyers of Hunter Biden pieces, for the stated purpose of ensuring that no one could curry favor with the President by buying his son’s art. But critics noted that art sales and anonymity of buyers have long raised concerns about money laundering.
Biden’s involvement in Ukraine has been a major source of his legal and political issues. He served on the board of Burisma, paid as much as $50,000 a month, from 2014 to 2019, according to a Republican-led Senate report on Biden’s business activities released in 2020. That partly overlaps with a period during which his father was vice president and tapped by then-President Barack Obama to handle Ukraine issues. The overlap raised concerns about a conflict of interest among some Obama administration officials at the time.
Joe Biden has said his son’s work in Ukraine had no influence on his decisions at the time, and State Department critics of Hunter Biden’s Ukraine ties say they were never influenced improperly, according to transcripts of Senate testimony.
Federal prosecutors from Justice headquarters in Washington and in Delaware have focused at least in part on whether a lobbying firm working with Burisma called Blue Star Strategies approached US government officials in an attempt to burnish the Ukrainian firm’s reputation after State Department officials criticized the oligarch who founded it.
The firm’s founders have testified to Congress previously that they were merely interested in understanding the US government’s views of the foreign company.
All these allegations keeps piling up, all that is left is for the grand Jury to pass his verdict.