Jul 27, 2019

Hunter Biden's Ukraine job raises conflict of interest questions

Hunter Biden and Joe Biden in 2016. Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for World Food Program USA

If Joe Biden wins the Democratic presidential nomination, it's clear that the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden, will get a lot more scrutiny — especially his former position with Ukraine's biggest private gas company. The Washington Post had a good look this week at why.

Why it matters, per the Post: "Just as [President] Trump has faced repeated questions about whether his family has sought to benefit financially from his presidency, a similar focus is being given to Hunter Biden’s dealings."

The backstory: Hunter Biden's role has become a hot topic on the right, with Trump and others calling for investigations into his position on the board of Burisma Holdings. (He left that position when Joe Biden entered the presidential race.)

The details, per the Post:

  • Joe Biden led Ukraine policy during Barack Obama's presidency, and offered a package of U.S. aid to help Ukraine increase its gas production.
  • Weeks later, Hunter Biden joined the Burisma board. His lawyer wouldn't say how much he was paid.
  • “At no time have I discussed with my father the company’s business or my board service,” Hunter Biden said in a statement to the Post. He also insisted that “the narrative that has been suggested and developed by the right-wing political apparatus [is] demonstrably false."
  • Antony Blinken, a former national security adviser to Joe Biden, said there was no connection because the vice president was simply "stating long-standing U.S. policy, supporting Ukraine energy independence.”

But Yoshiko M. Herrera, an expert on Russia and Eurasian policy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, told the Post that Hunter Biden's position in itself was "a conflict of interest even if it doesn’t break any laws."

  • There's also a subplot with a Ukranian prosecutor, ousted under pressure from Joe Biden, who says he would have questioned Hunter Biden if he had stayed in the job. But the Post notes that "is unclear how seriously Shokin — who was under fire by U.S. and European officials for not taking a more aggressive posture toward corruption overall — was scrutinizing Burisma when he was forced out."
  • The Post also notes that "for more than two decades, [Hunter Biden's] professional work often tracked with his father’s life in politics, from Washington to Ukraine to China."

What to watch: Whether more specific details emerge about Hunter Biden's time with the Ukraine company — like how much he was paid — or about any other potential conflicts of interest in his other jobs during Joe Biden's career.

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