Hunter/Joe Biden/AG Bill Barr
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Hunter and Joe Biden • US AG Bill Barr
Attorney General William Barr has known about a disparate set of investigations involving Hunter Biden's business and financial dealings since at least this spring, a person familiar with the matter said, and worked to avoid their public disclosure during the heated election campaign.

Republicans and President Trump have pressed Mr. Barr for months to pursue Mr. Biden, especially as his father, Joe Biden, gained momentum in his ultimately successful [tentative] bid for president. Mr. Barr has staved off pressure from Republicans in Congress for information into the investigations, the person said, without elaborating on his actions.

One investigation became public this week after federal investigators served a subpoena on Hunter Biden. The subpoena sought detailed financial information in connection with a criminal tax investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in Delaware, according to people familiar with the matter.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan had also been looking at Hunter Biden's business and financial dealings, as part of a broader criminal investigation that two people familiar with the matter described as an international financial investigation that had been going on for at least a year. Hunter Biden is implicated in that investigation but was never a specific target for criminal prosecution, the people said. They declined to provide details on the substance of the probe.

The federal scrutiny dates back to 2018, the people familiar with the matter said. Neither the Delaware nor the Manhattan investigation implicates President-elect Biden, according to people familiar with the matter.

Hunter Biden said in a statement Wednesday that his lawyer advised him about the investigation into his "tax affairs" and said he had acted legally and appropriately. His lawyer, George Mesires, didn't respond to questions on Thursday.

The Biden transition team has declined to say when Joe Biden learned of the investigation. A statement circulated by that team on Wednesday said President-elect Biden is "proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger."

While the investigations in Delaware and Manhattan proceeded, investigators tried to keep the cases out of public view by taking few visible steps in the weeks before the November election, recognizing the impact their work could have, said one of the people familiar with the matter.

Comment: In other words, they suppressed information to the public as it might affect voting choices (as well it should!).

Mr. Barr was aware of the investigations involving Hunter Biden before the spring, the person said, though it isn't clear when or how he first learned of the inquiries.

Mr. Trump has fumed about Mr. Barr for a number of reasons including his acknowledgment last week that the Justice Department hadn't found widespread evidence of election fraud that would reverse Mr. Biden's victory.

On Thursday night, Mr. Trump tweeted his frustration about the Justice Department and the FBI's failure to disclose the Hunter Biden investigation earlier. "Why didn't the Fake News Media, the FBI and the DOJ report the Biden matter BEFORE the Election," he wrote.

Justice Department guidelines advise investigators against taking overt actions in a run-up to an election so as not to be seen as affecting the outcome.

Mr. Trump talked of involving Mr. Barr when he urged the president of Ukraine in a July 2019 phone call to announce an investigation into Joe Biden and his son. Mr. Trump said he would direct his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Mr. Barr to contact the Ukrainian president. The Justice Department said Mr. Trump never asked Mr. Barr to contact the Ukrainians. The request ultimately led to Mr. Trump's impeachment by the House.

Comment:The circumstances underlying and surrounding this travesty of justice were proven false. Trump was acquitted.

Appeals from Republicans to investigate Hunter Biden stepped up in the weeks leading up to the election. After a Republican Senate investigation in September produced a report on Hunter Biden's finances and overseas business interests, several Republican lawmakers demanded that the Justice Department investigate. Rep. Jim Jordan (R, Ohio), for example, the ranking member of the House Judiciary panel, wrote to Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray asking what steps the FBI had taken to investigate the information in the "explosive report."

An FBI spokeswoman said the bureau responded to the letter and declined to comment further.

On Oct. 19, Mr. Trump's Republican allies in Congress urged Mr. Barr to appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden and his father, and demanded that Mr. Barr respond within five days.

A day later, asked on Fox News whether he supported tapping a special prosecutor, Mr. Trump said:
"We've got to get the attorney general to act. He's got to act, and he's got to act fast. He's got to appoint somebody. This is major corruption and this has to be known about before the election."
The tax investigation into Hunter Biden was sparked in part by reports of suspicious activity filed by a bank that handled foreign transactions related to him, a person familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Biden, a lawyer, has had various sources of income from the U.S. and overseas. In addition to legal work in recent years, he has been a partner in some U.S.-based investment companies.

His earnings from work outside the U.S. included a board seat for around five years until April 2019 at Ukraine gas company Burisma Holdings, where he was paid roughly $50,000 a month for his work.

Mr. Biden also did advisory work for China CEFC Energy Co., as the company pursued deals in Europe and the Middle East, and in 2017 he was a shareholder in a venture with that Chinese company as it sought a foothold in the U.S. While the joint venture never got off the ground, the Senate Republican report in September alleged an entity linked to CEFC paid Mr. Biden's law firm millions of dollars for legal and advisory work.

Around the time CEFC was trying to break into the U.S., its activity became a focus of a corruption case brought by the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office, which resulted in the 2018 conviction of a former Hong Kong official on charges that he bribed African officials to secure business benefits for CEFC. The company, which is now effectively defunct, wasn't charged in the U.S. corruption case.

Mr. Biden is also a 10% shareholder in a Shanghai private-equity firm and earlier sat on its board, though the board position was unpaid and he is among investors who haven't recouped their investment, say people with knowledge of the situation. His investment was $420,000 for 10% of the firm, which owns stakes in several companies, most in China.