“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 on Wednesday. “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.”
Republicans — led by President Donald Trump — rushed to argue that the investigation, which has been reportedly ongoing since 2018, was proof positive that Hunter Biden should have been a bigger issue in the just-concluded 2020 campaign.
Spin aside, it’s worth asking the question: How much trouble could Hunter Biden actually be in?
The short answer is we simply don’t know yet. And the reason is, at least in part, because it’s just so hard to differentiate the spin from the facts. (Worth noting: Joe Biden is not implicated in any way in the investigation.)
What we know is that Hunter Biden had dealings with Chinese companies both during and after his father served as vice president. Consider:
What we also know is that in 2019, the FBI seized a laptop purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden and alleged to include business documents and other personal materials.
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani steered that information to media outlets in the closing days of the 2020 presidential race, insisting — again, without any proof — that the laptop was evidence of Hunter Biden’s shady dealings with China, among other countries.
“The involvement of Trump lawyers in the published news stories on the purported Biden laptop led to a flurry of activity by Republican lawmakers and the Trump campaign looking to amplify allegations of corruption ahead of the election. The FBI met with a former Hunter Biden business associate who publicly made claims about potential wrongdoing. The FBI issued a statement at the time saying that ‘as a general matter when contacted, the FBI reviews information from the public for consideration of any violations of applicable federal laws.'”
So, what can we conclude based on those facts?
Well, first and most obviously, it’s never a good thing to be the subject of a federal investigation. Like, you would rather not be under federal investigation — all other things being equal. (For those who think they see the hidden hand of Attorney General — and Trump consigliere — Bill Barr in this, the investigation reportedly predates Barr’s time as the nation’s top cop.)
And we know — and have known — that it was a bad look for Hunter Biden to be sitting on the boards of foreign companies (Hunter was also on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company) while his dad was the sitting vice president of the United States.
“I did nothing wrong at all,” Hunter Biden said. “However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is — it’s a swamp, in many ways? Yeah. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.” Later in the interview he added this: “You know what? I’m a human. And you know what, did I make a mistake? Well, maybe in the grand scheme of things, yeah. But did I make a mistake based on some unethical lapse? Absolutely not.”
That is the point on which all of this rests. While it may have been a mistake from a perception standpoint for Hunter Biden to sit on foreign boards, that doesn’t mean that any laws were broken. What passes for guilt in the court of public opinion often would get you laughed out of a court of law.
So that’s where we are. The investigation is ongoing. We need to wait to see what it turns up — if anything. Only then will we be able to definitely ascertain how much trouble Hunter Biden is actually in.