Joe Biden’s ethically contested presidency

It’s worse coming from the man who campaigned for the job insisting he stood up for “honor and telling the truth”.

(Doug Mills | The New York Times) President Joe Biden delivers remarks from the White House in Washington, August 31, 2021. We can no longer accept his “word as Biden,” New York Times columnist Bret Stephens .

There is little doubt that President Joe Biden was not telling the truth when, days after the Taliban victory, he told ABC News that his top military advisers had not urged him to keep some 2,500 troops in. Afghanistan. The president’s claim was flatly contradicted last week in sworn testimony from General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Kenneth McKenzie Jr., chief of the US Central Command.

During the generals’ testimony, White House press secretary Jen Psaki sought to defend her boss by pointing to a line from Biden’s interview in which he appeared to suggest that military advice ” were shared ”.

Another huge one. What split? As Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and David Sanger of The Times reported in April, just after Lloyd Austin was sworn in as defense secretary in January, he and his top generals “were on lockdown to recommend that ‘about 3,000 to 4,500 troops remain in Afghanistan. When asked if there were any senior military advisers who argued otherwise, Psaki ducked the question.

Biden’s cover-up, regarding the worst major foreign policy decision executed in years, would be an outrage in any presidency. It’s worse coming from the man who campaigned for the job insisting he stood up for “honor and telling the truth”.

A week earlier, Politico’s Ben Schreckinger had published a scrupulously reported book on the Biden family. This convincingly proves that some of the most explosive emails from Hunter Biden’s purported laptop were entirely genuine – a claim that Schreckinger confirmed with multiple sources, including a Swedish government agency, and which has never been explicitly denied by Hunter himself.

This includes an email from 2017 in which one of Hunter’s potential business partners offered a “tentative deal” with now-defunct CEFC China Energy to share percentages of ownership in a new venture, with “10 Jim “and” 10 held by H for the big boy? ” Jim Biden is the president’s brother. “The big guy,” according to Tony Bobulinski, an email recipient, is Hunter’s father.

This does not mean that the President received, or even expected to receive, money from this alleged company, or even that he was aware of it.

But it gives good reason to believe that the media gave way too much credit to his claim that the leaked emails were “a Russian plant,” as he put it during his second debate with Donald Trump. It’s harder to ignore Bobulinski’s claim that he met Joe, Jim and Hunter Biden in May 2017 to discuss the general terms of the deal. And it is worth considering whether the president may have been willing to be of service to his family, even if he did not personally or directly benefit from their dealings.

“The Bidens pride themselves on their integrity and like to promise ‘my word as Biden’ when they really mean something,” Schreckinger writes. “The evidence gathered in the last few weeks of the campaign is based on an image in which those close to Joe regularly exchange about their ties to him, while the separation between their private relationships and his public duties is not as wide as he claimed it. “

It would all be bad enough if it was just history. But what are we to make of Hunter’s recent adventure as a visual artist – an area in which he has no formal training and no business experience?

In case you missed it: A gallery owner in SoHo intends to sell 15 works by Hunter for prices of up to $ 500,000 each. To protect property from these transactions, the White House has issued “ethical guidelines” that are supposed to keep things above all else. hidden the identity of the buyers of Hunter and the White House. And it is up to the gallery owner – that is, the person who stands to gain from the commissions – to control the guidelines by rejecting suspicious lucrative offers.

It screams scam. “The Treasury Department warned last year that the anonymity of high-value art transactions could make the market attractive to those who engage in illegal financial activities or to those subject to US sanctions,” he said. Zolan Kanno-Youngs reported from The Times in July.

In another report of questionable activities, Mattathias Schwartz wrote in Business Insider about emails indicating that in 2015, while his father was vice president, Hunter allegedly explored a “success fee” deal of more than $ 2. million dollars with two Democratic donors to help recover Libya. assets frozen following US sanctions. The effort came to nothing – Hunter’s reputation for difficult life didn’t help – but at least one of the donors was drawn to Hunter’s offer because he is “the son of the n ° 2 who has a dossier on Libya ”.

“When it comes to opening doors in Washington,” Schwartz notes, “the illusion of access can be as valuable as hard currency.”

Some readers may be inclined to dismiss this as a simple indictment of a troubled son. They might wonder what conclusions they would draw if it was, say, Eric Trump. Some readers will also think that it is not the president’s job to watch over his adult son. But he is his job to ensure that Hunter and other members of his family do not take advantage of his position in government.

It would be corruption. The president will have to do better than give us his “Biden word” that he will end it.

Bret Stephens | The New York Times, (Tony Cenicola / The New York Times)

Bret stephens is a columnist for The New York Times.

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