The Never-Ending Hunter Biden Saga

Yet more allegations.

After five years of breathless coverage of his various peccadillos, Hunter Biden finally pled guilty to misdemeanor charges last week. This morning, the nation’s two most prestigious newspapers have yet more coverage based on “whistleblower” testimony.

NYT (“I.R.S. Agent Told Congress of Hunter Biden Invoking His Father in Business Deal“):

The lead I.R.S. agent investigating whether Hunter Biden committed tax crimes told Congress his team uncovered evidence that Mr. Biden had invoked his father, who was then out of office, while pressing a potential Chinese business partner in 2017 to move ahead with a proposed energy deal, House Republicans said.

In testimony made public on Thursday, Gary Shapley, an I.R.S. agent since 2009 who supervised the tax agency’s investigation into Hunter Biden, said his team used a search warrant to obtain a July 30, 2017, WhatsApp message from Mr. Biden to Henry Zhao, a Chinese businessman.

In a summary of the message, provided to the House Ways and Means Committee by Mr. Shapley, Mr. Biden told Mr. Zhao that he was sitting with his father and that “we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled.”

“Tell the director that I would like to resolve this now before it gets out of hand, and now means tonight,” Mr. Biden wrote, referring to other participants in the proposed deal. “And, Z, if I get a call or text from anyone involved in this other than you, Zhang, or the chairman, I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction.”

Taken at face value, the message would undercut President Biden’s longstanding claims that he had nothing to do with his son’s international business deals.

WaPo (“IRS whistleblower says Justice Dept. slowed, stifled Hunter Biden case“):

An IRS agent who supervised the investigation into President Biden’s son Hunter told lawmakers that Justice Department officials slowed and stymied the investigation, whittling away the most serious evidence of alleged tax crimes, according to a transcript of his account released Thursday.

The agent, Gary Shapley, offered a detailed and potentially damning account of prosecutors who were either timid or uninterested when it came to examining the financial misdeeds of Hunter Biden, which Shapley said includedinstances in which the president’s son treated prostitutes and their travel costs as his business expenses.

The agent’s account to the House Ways and Means Committee also directly challenged congressional testimony from Attorney General Merrick Garland, in which he said that Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss — a holdover from the Trump administration — had full authority to lead the investigation into Hunter Biden and could do whatever he wanted in the case.

A Justice Department spokesman stood by Garland’s previous comments, and the lead Democrat on the House committee said the allegations should not have been released publicly while lawmakers are still vetting them.

There’s quite a bit more, especially to the WaPo report, but those are the opening paragraphs of the stories. There’s very little here that changes my mind about the whole affair.

Hunter Biden is, frankly, a rather horrible human being who has spent much of his adult lifetime leveraging his father’s name to live a lifestyle he hasn’t earned. He’s the black sheep of the family. In fairness, though, he has endured more than his fair share of tragedy. To paraphrase the late Townes Van Zandt, he weren’t his papa’s favorite boy, but his only one it seems. His being severely messed up is hardly a surprise.

The evidence that his father leveraged his office, whether as Vice President in the original controversy or as President during this one, is, at best, circumstantial. My bias, because I find him generally decent and honorable, is that any such help was marginal and within the general bounds of propriety. And, ultimately, that’s the much more important question than anything surrounding his wayward son.

Was Hunter Biden differently than if he had been Hunter Jones? Almost certainly. But, of course, that goes both ways. First, he probably wouldn’t have been in the position to imply that his father could reward or punish in that instance. Second, and more to the point, Hunter Jones wouldn’t have been subject to five years of intense public scrutiny and had anywhere near this level of Justice Department resources put into an investigation of comparatively minor crimes. But, third, of course the bar for charging the President’s son with felonies is going to be higher than it would be if his father was just some rich businessman. Not because we live in some sort of aristocracy or the President’s family is above the law but because the stakes are radically higher.

Because no conversation about Biden can be had without a “whatabout Trump,” the same has obviously applied in the many cases surrounding him. In the two in which he’s thus far been charged—the Manhattan business fraud case and the Federal Espionage Act case—prosecutors bent over backward to avoid prosecution. The Manhattan case appeared to be dropped entirely until a change of administration put in a new prosecutor with a different (and quite probably dubious) theory of the case. And the DOJ went out of their way to plead with Trump to simply give the stolen documents back, giving him months to do so, before finally issuing a subpoena and, after allowing it to be ignored for some time, finally raided the compound to seize them.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    The boy who cried wolf…

  2. Jen says:

    Yes, this is poor behavior. Yes, the bar is higher. Yes, compare and contrast to Trump will happen.

    I just find it hard to care about this. It’s standard-issue “using dad’s name”-type stuff. The “my dad is sitting right next to me” sounds ridiculous, it’s likely a safe bet Biden (the father) wasn’t anywhere near when Hunter made that silly and ill-advised threat.

    Being a sleazy person skating by on a father’s name draws comparisons to Trump for rather obvious reasons.

  3. SKI says:

    But, third, of course the bar for charging the President’s son with felonies is going to be higher than it would be if his father was just some rich businessman. Not because we live in some sort of aristocracy or the President’s family is above the law but because the stakes are radically higher.

    Counter-point – the DoJ guidelines call for more aggressive charging in cases well known people as the deterrent impact on the rest of us would be higher.

    Bottomline is that there is nothing new here. Hunter Bident was/is sleazy and sought to make money by trading off his father’s name. Boasting about influence for someone like that is light years away from showing that the influence was actually there or used. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was nowhere near his father when he sent that message.

  4. Rick DeMent says:

    The what-about-isum isn’t just a comparison to Trump and his kids, but anyone with rich parents. As much as most of use would like it to be, invoking then name of your rich\influential\famous parents ins not in any way shape or form illegal. If it was Hollywood would implode. That’s not the world we live in where relationships be that interpersonal, familial, or business is pretty much the coin of the realm.

    I don’t really give a rat’s ass about authorities looking into Hunter Biden, but the GOP has already made it abundantly clear that they are not satisfied with treating Hunter like anyone else, citing their dismay of the result of his tax and gun charges (how many people could we disarmed in perpetuity by strictly enforcing the “no lying on a gun form” law). Hunter was hit harder then any Republican with similar charges (or any other normal person as James made clear in the OP) just because the GOP wanted a scalp.

    But this forth grad tit-for-tat that the house republicans are dealing in is an interesting tactic given that they are getting nothing done for anyone(either for the in group or anyone), but I guess politics has finally enter the WWE phase in it’s long decline since the GOP harnessed the power of evangelical grievance. The Adam Schiff thing would be hysterical if it did not portend the authoritarian bender they have been getting drunk on since they won a razor thin margin in the house.

    I’m just waiting for tag-team floor fights in the house with Vince McMann as speaker.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Jen: @SKI: @Rick DeMent: Indeed, my first post on the topic—even before the laptop saga begin, was a September post titled “Hunter Biden’s Socially Acceptable Corruption.”

  6. Surely a known drug user (indeed, addict), who had an affair with his brother’s widow, would never lie about who was sitting next to him in an attempt to leverage a business deal!

  7. Daryl says:

    Impeach Hunter Biden!!!

  8. Han says:

    I am fully on board with Hunter Biden being barred from ever holding public office.

  9. gVOR10 says:

    I’m glad Republicans weren’t quite as extreme during the Carter administration. I couldn’t have taken endless investigations into Billy Beer. (For the younguns, there’s a WIKI page.) Now, if we could see equal zeal in investigating the allegation that Jared ratted out opposition Saudis to MBS as part of his two billion dollar deal.

  10. steve says:

    These claims and investigations will go on until Biden leaves office. Then it will be dropped like the dropped Lois Lerner when she couldn’t be used against Obama.


  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Han: Who’s going to elect Hunter Biden to an elective office? Let’s get real.

  12. Jen says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: That’s the joke, I think. 🙂

  13. Mister Bluster says:


    Republicans will never stop hounding Democratic Presidents.
    They will continue their persecution till the corpse of disgraced former Republican President Richard Nixon is restored to the Oval Office.

    Yeah, I know. That would be an improvement over another term of Republican Donald Trump.

  14. just nutha says:

    @Mister Bluster: Still, even the disgraced corpse of Richard Nixon would be a better choice than they’ve offered so far!

  15. gVOR10 says:

    @Mister Bluster: Quite right. This business of Hunter did something based on internet rumors and Trump tried to bribe Zelenskyy based on a call transcript being equal is very post-modern. Having two nearly equal parties is a historical aberration. The only way out of this investigation madness, and the rest of our predicament, is to banish Republicans to the outer darkness for awhile. Three or four decades of weeping and gnashing of teeth should straighten them out.

    Vote Blue, no matter who.

  16. Mister Bluster says:

    @gVOR10:..Vote Blue, no matter who.

    Two+ years ago I posted this:

    Mister Bluster says:
    Wednesday, 7 April 2021 at 14:23
    This Is HUGE!

    MAKANDA — Makanda Township* voters appeared to have handily chosen Democratic candidates for township office in all contested races in the consolidated election on Tuesday, with two of four precincts reporting.
    Incumbent Mildred “Millie” Weatherford, a Republican, was defeated by challenger Regina T. Einig for township clerk. Einig received 278 votes to Weatherford’s 195.
    Incumbent Highway Commissioner Danny Williams lost his seat to challenger Ed Hoke. Williams had 174 votes to Hoke’s 303.
    In the race township trustee, the following candidates were elected: Debbie Stanley with 287 votes, Fred G. York with 272, Clay Kolar with 270 and Michael Holub with 255, defeating Jim Crane, 188; Gary Heern 201; Cheryl Mayer, 185; and Herb Russell, 176.

    I have lived in and been a property owner in Makanda Township since 1985. As long as I can remember the Republicans have ruled here. I have voted in these Township elections for years never expecting to see a Democratic landslide like this.

    *The photo in the link is of the locally famous Makanda Boardwalk which lies within the political boundries of The Village of Makanda home of the annual Buzzard Fest. While the Village lies entirely within Makanda Township it is an independent entity with it’s own Government apart from Makanda Township. I live in the Township not the Village.

    This morning on the radio I heard this:

    The former (Republican)Makanda Township Road Commissioner is indicted
    In April, State’s Attorney Joe Cervantez requested an ISP investigation, which identified several instances where (Republican) Williams used his official position to steer contracts toward a contractor who would pay him in return.

    It was common knowledge that a construction company that belonged to one of his relatives did much of the work for the Makanda Township Road Commission. They even rebuilt the road I live on about 10 years ago.

    Disclaimer: All defendants, including Republicans, are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.

  17. al Ameda says:

    Here we go … again.

    Just as the Right went after Hillary Rodham Benghazi Clinton for the better part of two years, all for openly expressed desire to damage her polling numbers and her inevitable candidacy, the Right is more than happy to run this Hunter Crime Family Biden stuff out for another 16 months or so in the hope that Hunter’s father will be damaged.

    Begs the question: Does America want to take another dive into the Republican toilet?
    Maybe it’s not a question of whether or not we want to, rather whether or not we’ll like it?