The hole in a key Republican accusation against Hunter Biden

WASHINGTON — When the Justice Department announced last week that a man Republicans believed to be a witness against the Biden family was actually a fugitive on the run, Republicans said the criminal charges against him had no only bolsters their case against the Bidens.

Prosecutors said Gal Luft failed to register as a foreign agent while working for the China Energy Fund Committee, a nongovernmental organization linked to a Chinese energy conglomerate with government ties.

“They charged him with being an unregistered foreign agent. Well, that’s what Hunter Biden was doing for the same company,” House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said on Fox News last week.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, requires anyone doing political, public relations, or lobbying work on behalf of a foreign individual, organization, or government to register with the Department of Justice, which makes information public in order to combat covert foreign influence in domestic politics.

Luft allegedly worked with the China-linked organization known as CEFC to recruit and pay a ‘former senior US government official’, apparently former CIA director James Woolsey, to spread pro propaganda. -Chinese in the United States and influencing politics.

When the Trump campaign announced that Woolsey would serve as an adviser in 2016, Luft triumphantly emailed an associate: “We made it! Other emails cited in the indictment show Luft ghostwriting for Woolsey’s public remarks and even his private correspondence with another unnamed Trump adviser.

As Republicans correctly pointed out, Hunter Biden also worked with CEFC. He told the New Yorker in 2019 that he tried to help the company find investment opportunities in the United States, including a potential deal for CEFC to invest in a liquefied natural gas project in Louisiana. The deal never materialized.

In less than two years, young Biden received several million dollars from CEFC before one of his main contacts there was indicted for foreign bribery and the other was owned by the Chinese government. (He was not charged with wrongdoing in either case.)

While it’s clear that Hunter Biden had a working relationship with the same foreign leaders as Luft, it’s less clear that Biden engaged in the type of political activity that would require him to register as a foreign agent. His work for the company did not include any public advocacy, and there is only circumstantial evidence of a behind-the-scenes lobbying effort.

“I haven’t seen anything he’s done yet that could be considered political activity,” said Benjamin Freeman, a researcher at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a nonpartisan think tank founded in 2019 to advocate for favor of restraint in American foreign policy. “Being an adviser or consultant to a foreign entity, in and of itself, is not something that would trigger FARA registration.”

The Louisiana natural gas project, Freeman said, would likely count as the type of business activity exempt from reporting under the Foreign Agents Act.

Hunter Biden at a 4th of July BBQ and Concert on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2023.

Hunter Biden at a 4th of July BBQ and Concert on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2023.

Hunter Biden at a 4th of July BBQ and Concert on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2023.

Hunter Biden also served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company called Burisma. Republicans have dubiously claimed that the Burisma connection prompted then-Vice President Joe Biden to push for the ousting of the Ukrainian prosecutor in 2016 to protect the company. Former President Donald Trump tried to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce a fake investigation into the Bidens in 2019, and Republicans are still pursuing the case to this day.

State Department officials said under oath during the impeachment proceedings that the elder Biden acted on the consensus of the foreign policy establishment regarding the Ukrainian prosecutor and that he did not bailed out his son. However, they also said the young Biden’s presence on the board of a foreign company was inappropriate and made it more difficult for them to report conflicts of interest in other countries.

Republicans have pointed to emails found on a laptop Hunter Biden left at a repair shop, suggesting he may have tried to arrange meetings between business associates and government officials, including his father, when Joe Biden was vice president.

In a complaint filed with the Justice Department in 2020, the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a conservative nonprofit, alleged that Hunter Biden should have registered as a foreign agent, citing, among other things, an email from a Burisma executive thanking him for arranging a meeting with his father in 2015. Other people present at the meeting told the New York Times it was a fleeting encounter at a charity dinner.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also asked the Justice Department to review Hunter Biden’s compliance with registration requirements that year with a letter that focused more on CEFC’s intentions than Biden’s actions. . “When the available evidence is taken as a whole, it is clear that CEFC intended to make inroads in the United States in an effort to expand its operations and used Hunter Biden and his business associates to help bring this to fruition. this intention,” Grassley wrote.

Federal prosecutors have been investigating Hunter Biden for years and announced last month that he would plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of non-payment of taxes. Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a holdover from the Trump administration, oversaw the case and said it was still ongoing.

Paul Kamenar, legal counsel for the NLPC, said if there wasn’t already enough evidence to indict Hunter Biden for failing to register as a foreign agent, then Weiss should at least try to mount a such file.

“There’s definitely enough information, if not to charge Hunter with a FARA violation, there’s definitely enough for Weiss to subpoena those involved in setting up these meetings,” Kamenar told HuffPost. .

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said the case is in Weiss’ hands and he’s likely already considered unregistered foreign agent charges .

“We have a justice system, and Hunter Biden has been thoroughly investigated, scrutinized and charges are brought against him,” Raskin said last week.

Hunter Biden may not have done a ton of work for the foreign nationals who paid him. He said he was “plagued by addiction” to alcohol and cocaine following the death of his brother and the dissolution of his first marriage. He would have stopped responding to emails from his primary contact at Burisma.

In response to Luft’s indictment, Comer asked the FBI to turn over his documents commemorating his interviews with Luft, who claimed to have derogatory information about the Bidens. (In addition to being an unregistered foreign agent, Luft is accused of lying to investigators and illegally arranging international arms sales.)

While Comer wasn’t shy about saying he believed the Biden family was guilty of multiple federal crimes, he also wasn’t shy about admitting he didn’t really know what the younger Biden had actually done. in exchange for its foreign compensation.

“He got millions and millions of dollars from foreign nationals in some of the worst countries on our planet,” Comer said on Fox News earlier this month. “Still, we don’t know a single thing he did to make money.”

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