Federal tax probe into Hunter Biden moves forward

US President Biden's son faces further investigation into his income and payments involving a Ukraine company

US President Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden hug with other family members at his inauguration in Washington, on January 20, 2021. AP
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A federal grand jury has heard testimony in recent months about Hunter Biden’s income and payments he received while serving on the board of a Ukraine energy company, according to two people familiar with the probe.

It remains unclear whether he might be charged. But the grand jury activity underscores that a federal tax investigation into President Joe Biden’s son that began in 2018 remains active as prosecutors continue to examine foreign payments and other aspects of his finances.

The people familiar with the investigation could not discuss details of the continuing probe publicly and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

No matter how the investigation resolves, it has already presented a political headache for the Biden administration, particularly if Republicans who have already seized on the probe to attack the president retake control of the House in midterm elections later this year. Republicans would then control congressional committees and shape the focus of any investigations.

A White House that has sought to deflect questions about law enforcement matters to the Justice Department was asked this week whether it stood by the president’s assertion in a 2020 debate that his son had not had unethical business dealings with Ukraine or China. White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said yes.

The investigation could also force a delicate decision for a Justice Department that has sought to assert its independence and publicly stressed its willingness to let the facts and evidence, not political decisions, guide its investigative and charging decisions.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has not shed any light publicly on the investigation. But the Justice Department did leave in place the top federal prosecutor in Delaware — David Weiss, a Trump administration holdover — presumably as a way to ensure continuity.

Hunter Biden confirmed the existence of an investigation into his taxes in December 2020, one month after the presidential election. He said in a statement that he was “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 advisers".

Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden, is seen stepping off Air Force One in Nantucket, Massachusetts on November 23, 2021. AFP

The Associated Press reported later that month that a subpoena served on the younger Biden sought information related to more than two dozen entities. One was Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company whose board he had joined when his father was vice president. That move sparked concerns about a potential conflict of interest given that elder Biden was deeply involved in US policy towards Ukraine during the Obama administration.

The breadth of the subpoena highlighted the wide-ranging scope of the investigation into Hunter Biden, though there is no indication that the probe includes any scrutiny of the president himself. Mr Biden has said he did not discuss his son’s international business dealings with him and has denied having ever taken money from a foreign country.

Witnesses in recent months have been questioned about payments Hunter Biden received while serving on the Burisma board, the people familiar with the probe said.

Republicans tried making Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine a prominent issue during the 2020 presidential election.

A year earlier, then-President Donald Trump tried pressuring his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to launch investigations into the Bidens at the same time Mr Zelenskyy was seeking military aid from the US.

Mr Trump was later impeached by the House over the phone call but was acquitted by the Senate.

Hunter Biden holds his son Beau outside the the White House in Washington, DC, on November 21, 2021. EPA
Updated: April 01, 2022, 10:32 PM