Hunter Biden announced Wednesday he had been notified that he is under federal investigation for his tax affairs, reportedly to determine whether he properly reported income derived from China-related business deals. The U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware is leading the investigation that was first launched in late 2018 and has reportedly included potential criminal violations of tax and money laundering laws. Prosecutors, however, have not found sufficient evidence in the money laundering portion of the investigation to move forward with a prosecution, the New York Times reports. The true extent of the investigation is not completely clear, but its existence will further complicate the presidential transition for President-elect Joe Biden, who has emphasized his desire to depoliticize the Department of Justice after President Donald Trump treated the DOJ as his personal investigative agency.
“I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs,” Hunter Biden said in a statement. “I take this matter very seriously, but I am 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.”
The investigation appears to be intensifying in the final days of the Trump administration, though it remains uncertain how far-reaching the probe is or how credible any evidence of wrongdoing may be. Hunter Biden has reportedly not been interviewed or subpoenaed by the FBI, though there are indications that could happen soon. “The subject of an investigation typically is interviewed when prosecutors have amassed a good deal of evidence—though prosecutors seeking to serve subpoenas as recently as this week suggests there is more investigative work to be done,” the Washington Post reports. “A person familiar with the case said that the investigation continued during the election year but that agents took care not to take overt investigative steps as voting neared that would have made it more widely known. Those precautions, the person said, became unnecessary once the election was over.”
The DOJ under Trump has been uniquely political, as the president has publicly demanded investigations into political rivals and meddled in investigations of his own allies. The Trump administration appears to be going to great lengths to handicap the incoming Biden administration on its way out the door, potentially weaponizing any problems that result as campaign fodder if Trump decides to relitigate the 2020 election in 2024. Trump has also fumed throughout his presidency about the investigation into his extensive Russia ties and was later impeached for his attempt to enlist the prime minister of Ukraine to cook up a politically damaging investigation into Joe Biden’s son during the campaign. Trump never passes up an opportunity for a reprisal, personal or political, whether or not his allegation is based in reality. The problem with crying wolf a million times is, well, the obvious. Is Trump’s DOJ actually seeking out wrongdoing, or is it taking steps to keep Hunter Biden, a popular campaign point of attack for Trump, in the spotlight into the Biden administration?
Whatever the true motivation behind the case, it will give Republicans ammunition to make it a cause célèbre and muddy the waters in the early days of the Biden administration. “The timing means it is possible that one of the last decisions of the Trump Justice Department could be about a potential case against the son of the incoming president, if investigators uncover enough evidence to go forward,” the New York Times notes. “It also means that Mr. Biden will most likely come into office as the Justice Department is actively investigating his son, a case his political opponents are certain to seize on to try to damage the early days of his presidency.”