WASHINGTON — White House spokespeople repeatedly refused to confirm or deny President Biden’s involvement in first son Hunter Biden’s attempt to coerce a Chinese government-linked businessman following the release of an alleged text message in which Hunter said he was “with my father” and threatened retribution.
Amid intense questioning from the White House press corps, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council spokesman John Kirby wouldn’t address the text message or share Joe Biden’s whereabouts when Hunter sent the bombshell missive on July 30, 2017.
The text message was released Thursday by the House Ways and Means Committee after receiving closed-door testimony from IRS supervisory agent Gary Shapley, who led the tax fraud investigation of the first son for more than three years, and from another agent on the case since 2018.
The tax agents detailed an alleged coverup by Biden Justice Department officials who allegedly steered the focus away from Joe Biden and blocked felony charges against Hunter, 53, resulting in a probation-only plea deal announced this week.
Photos from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop show that he was at his father’s Wilmington, Del., home on July 30, 2017, and a social media posting from two days prior included a photo of Joe Biden at a restaurant near his home.
Newsmax journalist James Rosen read the text message in full to Kirby, who was the first spokesperson to field questions.
“The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday released documents, their authenticity nowhere challenge, that included a July 2017, WhatsApp message sent by Hunter Biden to Henry Zhao, a Chinese Communist Party official, which said in full, ‘I am sitting here with my father and 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. 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. I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father.’”
Rosen asked Kirby if the message “undermine[s] the president’s claim during the 2020 campaign and the reaffirmations of that claim by his two press secretaries since then that he never once discussed his son’s overseas business dealings with him?”
“No,” said Kirby. “And I’m not going to comment further on this.”
When pressed, the NSC rep added: “Let me save you some breath … I’m just not going to address this issue from this podium. I’m just not going to do it.”
“Why not?” a journalist shouted — as Kirby abruptly exited the briefing room and relinquished the podium to Jean-Pierre.
Zhao, chairman of Harvest Fund Management, was a key player in both of the Biden family’s major ventures in China — with the partially state-owned investment fund BHR Partners and the government-linked CEFC China Energy.
CEFC reportedly sent $100,000 to Hunter’s law firm Owasco on Aug. 4, 2017, less than a week after the threatening text message.
CEFC also wired $5 million to the firm Hudson West III on Aug. 8, 2017, according to a 2020 report by Republican-led Senate committees. That entity in turn paid nearly $4.8 million in “consulting fees” to Owasco over the following 13 months, the report said.
Years earlier, the Harvest Fund collaborated with Hunter’s firm Rosemont Seneca Partners in 2013 to launch BHR Partners — just 12 days after the then-second son joined his vice president father aboard Air Force Two for an official trip to Beijing, the Wall Street Journal reported.
During that trip, Hunter introduced Joe Biden to BHR CEO Jonathan Li and Joe Biden later wrote college recommendation letters for Li’s children.
“Kirby wouldn’t answer James’s question… Are you going to answer the question?” New York Times reporter Peter Baker asked Jean-Pierre.
“It’s not an unreasonable question to ask whether the president of the United States was involved, as this message seems to suggest, in some sort of a coercive conversation for business dealings by his son… If he wasn’t, then maybe you should tell us,” he added.
Jean-Pierre claimed that White House counsel’s office spokesman Ian Sams had addressed the matter — though journalists were unable to immediately locate Sams’ response to the text message.
“I believe my colleague at the White House counsel [office] has answered this question already, has dealt with this, has made it very clear. I just don’t have anything to share outside of what my colleagues have shared and so I would refer you to him and the DOJ,” Jean-Pierre said.
Daily Caller reporter Diana Glebova pressed, “[Sams] hasn’t said anything about the text message specifically.”
When Jean-Pierre repeated her answer, saying Sams “has dealt with this,” a reporter for The Post pressed further, “Yes or no, was the president involved in the shakedown attempt?”
“I just answered the question… It’s not up to you how I answer the question,” Jean-Pierre snapped.
Weijia Jiang of CBS News followed up, “Can you just remind us what your colleague said?”
Jean-Pierre refused to say, responding, “I would refer you to them and they will share their statement with all of you.”
Rosen interjected: “My question is about your statements from that podium. You’ve stated that the president stands by his comment from the 2020 campaign that he never once discussed his son’s overseas business dealings with his son. And you stood at that podium and reaffirmed that. Do you stand by your reaffirmation?”
“What I will say is nothing has changed, nothing has changed,” she answered.
The Post pressed, “There’s evidence that the first son was at the president’s home and that the president was there two days prior.”
Jean Pierre deflected, “I’m calling on your colleague right now.”
Jiang, whom the press secretary was calling on, took up the line of questioning, saying, “To follow up on my colleague… was the president there or not?”
“I would refer you to my colleagues at the White House counsel. They have addressed this and I would refer you to them,” Jean-Pierre said.
NBC reporter Monica Alba tried a slightly different approach, asking Jean-Pierre if she had asked President Biden about “whether he was there with his son on July 30.”
“This is not a conversation that I’ve had with the president. Again, I would refer you to the White House counsel,” Jean-Pierre replied.
Sams, the much-cited spokesman for the counsel’s office, did not directly address the text message in a subsequent statement.
“As we have said many times before, the president was not in business with his son,” Sams said — side-stepping the central questions raised by the text message about whether Biden was indeed with his son on the date in question and whether he spoke with his son about the message.
Hunter Biden’s attorney Chris Clark did not dispute the authenticity of the text message, but said Friday afternoon, “Any verifiable words or actions of my client, in the midst of a horrible addiction, are solely his own and have no connection to anyone in his family”
“A close examination of the document released publicly yesterday by a very biased individual raises serious questions over whether it is what he claims it to be,” Clark said, without specifically refuting any details.
“It is dangerously misleading to make any conclusions or inferences based on this document.”
There’s evidence that Joe Biden interacted with his son Hunter and brother James Biden’s associates from China, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine, according to laptop records, photos and witness recollections.
Hunter wrote in emails retrieved from his former laptop that he had to give “half” of his income to Joe Biden, and the House Oversight Committee in May identified nine Biden family members who allegedly received foreign income.
The Oversight Committee is also investigating an FBI informant’s claim that an executive at Ukrainian gas company Burisma paid Joe and Hunter Biden $10 million in bribes near the end of his vice presidency. The then-second son additionally was paid up to $1 million per year to serve on Burisma’s board from 2014-2019, beginning when his father assume control of the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy.
The Biden family had at least two major business ventures in China — the BHR deal, and a separate venture with CEFC China Energy, which congressional Republicans say compromises President Biden’s ability to represent US interests on matters such as halting fentanyl shipments from China that are fueling record-high US drug overdose deaths, and on determining the origins of COVID-19, which killed more than 1 million Americans after possibly leaking from a Chinese lab doing risky research.
Hunter Biden’s “paid-in capital” to establish BHR Partners was $425,000, according to corporate registration records, the Journal reported. In late 2021, Clark said his client’s 10% stake had been divested. However, records suggest the first son still holds the stake, and neither Clark nor the White House provided further information on the supposed transaction, such as the dollar amount or buyer’s identity.
In the second venture, Hunter and James Biden received at least $4.8 million from CEFC — a reputed arm of Beijing’s foreign-influence “Belt and Road” initiative — in 2017 and 2018, according to the Washington Post’s review of laptop records. Vuk Jeremic, a former foreign minister of Serbia, appears to have helped Biden family members connect with CEFC leaders in late 2015 when Joe Biden was still vice president.
A May 13, 2017, email recovered from Hunter’s laptop said the “big guy” would get 10% of the CEFC deal. Former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski alleges that he discussed the CEFC deal with Joe Biden and both Bobulinski and another former Hunter Biden partner, James Gilliar, identified Joe Biden as the “big guy.”
An October 2017 email identified Joe Biden as a participant on a call about CEFC’s attempt to purchase US natural gas.