Hunter Biden lobbied Obama’s State Department for a corrupt foreign oligarch, raising concerns about unregistered foreign lobbying.
Emails and documents on Biden’s laptop reveal his involvement in a meeting with the US ambassador to Romania regarding the corruption case of Gabriel Popoviciu. Popoviciu paid Biden over $1 million while facing corruption charges in Romania. Biden, along with lawyers from the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, worked to intervene in the case. Biden and his partners did not register as foreign agents.
Critics, particularly Republicans, have expressed frustration at the apparent lack of attention given to Biden’s foreign business dealings, which may include unregistered lobbying activities. The Lobbying Disclosure Act mandates the disclosure of lobbying activity to Congress, while the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires disclosure of lobbying efforts on behalf of foreign nationals, such as Popoviciu, to the Justice Department.
Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, voiced his concern over the Justice Department’s seeming disinterest in investigating Hunter Biden’s lobbying activities, stating that it highlights a double standard: one set of rules for the president’s family and another for everyone else. Issa conveyed his skepticism regarding the Biden administration’s ability to impartially investigate allegations of corruption within their own family.
This is not the first instance where Hunter Biden, together with Boies Schiller, led by Democratic mega-donor David Boies, engaged with the State Department on behalf of foreign clients without registering as foreign lobbyists.
In 2014, Biden and lawyers from Boies Schiller devised a plan to hold meetings with State Department officials advocating for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company whose owner faced bribery accusations. A Boies Schiller partner informed Biden that she would arrange these meetings and undertake activities that skirted the line of requiring lobbyist registration.
Following a Justice Department investigation into foreign lobbying, Blue Star Strategies, a consulting firm involved with Biden on the Burisma case, registered its work under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This move came after their interactions with the State Department on behalf of the Ukrainian company.
Furthermore, Biden was also involved in an effort to lobby the State Department on behalf of the Chinese private equity firm BHR Partners. Biden’s business partners sought a meeting with the State Department to garner public approval for an initiative aimed at securing contracts in China. During this process, Biden offered his assistance, stating he would provide “whatever you need” in terms of contacts within the State Department.
Email correspondence reveals that Biden’s longstanding business partner, Eric Schwerin, met with State Department official Evan Ryan to discuss the initiative. Notably, Ryan is the wife of Secretary of State Tony Blinken and presently holds a White House Cabinet position.
In October 2017, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates were indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, while former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI. Flynn’s guilty plea included findings by Mueller’s team that he made false statements in his Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings regarding his work for Turkey.
Prior to the exposure of Manafort and Flynn’s wrongdoing, there were only three indictments for alleged FARA violations since the amendment of the Foreign Agents Registration Act in 1966, none of which resulted in convictions.
Numerous American firms have been engaged in business with foreign governments over the past decade, often conducting ad campaigns to address humanitarian crises or organizing events to introduce foreign leaders to U.S. officials. Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election ultimately came up empty, but exposed the foreign lobbying industry.
One lobbyist, who spoke to NBC News anonymously after filing under FARA, likened these firms to “little State Departments,” carrying out diplomatic work on behalf of foreign governments within the United States. The lobbyist explained that the reluctance to file under FARA often stemmed from the foreign clients’ desire to keep their lobbying expenditures undisclosed.