Hunter Biden is stepping down from the board of a Chinese-backed private equity company and promising to forego all foreign work if his father, former US vice-president Joe Biden, is elected president in 2020.
After months of keeping a relatively low profile as President Donald Trump levelled a barrage of unsubstantiated accusations of corruption at him, the younger Biden is publicly vowing to avoid any conflict of interest.
According to a statement released on his behalf by his lawyer George Mesires, Mr Biden said he will resign at the end of the month from the management company of a private equity fund that's backed by Chinese state-owned entities. He also pledged he would not work for any foreign-owned companies or serve on their boards during a potential Biden administration. He reiterated that he never discussed his business activities with his father.
"Hunter always understood that his father would be guided, entirely and unequivocally, by established US policy, regardless of its effects on Hunter's professional interests," the statement said. "He never anticipated the barrage of false charges against both him and his father by the President of the United States. "
Mr Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have repeatedly claimed, without providing evidence, that Hunter Biden made millions of dollars from China while his father was vice-president. They've also made unsubstantiated claims that Joe Biden used his position as the US administration's point person on Ukraine to help quash an investigation in 2016 into the owner of one of the country's largest private gas companies, where Hunter sat on the board.
Would not interfere
Earlier this month, Mr Trump publicly called on China to investigate the Bidens. A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry rejected that notion, saying it would not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
"Under a Biden Administration, Hunter will readily comply with any and all guidelines or standards a President Biden may issue to address purported conflicts of interest, or the appearance of such conflicts, including any restrictions related to overseas business interests," the statement said. "He will continue to keep his father personally uninvolved in his business affairs."
The statement aims to set the record straight on Mr Biden’s past work in Ukraine and China, which Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani have fixated on as the 2020 campaign heats up. He served a five-year term on the board of Burisma, one of Ukraine’s biggest private gas companies, whose owner had been under investigation for alleged money laundering and abuse of power. The allegations predated his joining the board in April 2014. He stepped down earlier this year.
Mr Trump has alleged that, as vice-president in 2016, Mr Biden threatened to withhold billions of dollars in loan guarantees unless Ukraine fired the country's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, as a way to quash the inquiry and help his son. But US and Ukrainian officials said the investigation at the time was dormant and that Mr Shokin was fired for the opposite reason: failing to fight corruption.
“Despite extensive scrutiny, at no time has any law enforcement agency, either domestic or foreign, alleged that Hunter engaged in wrongdoing at any point during his five-year term,” the statement said.
At the time he joined the Burisma board, Hunter was "of counsel" at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, a US law firm, and had been advising the company on "its corporate reform initiatives", it said. He urged Boies Schiller to hire Nardello and Co, a consulting firm specialising in investigations, to assess Burisma's "corporate structure and governance practices".
Aleksander Kwasniewski, the former president of Poland, sat on the board of Burisma at the time and recruited Hunter as a non-executive director because of his advisory work for the gas company, the statement said. "At no time was Hunter in charge of the company's legal affairs," it said.
Hunter Biden also sought to counter increasing Trump campaign attacks on his ties to China. He denied Mr Trump's repeated allegations that he procured $1.5 billion from China for a private equity fund after he flew on Air Force Two with his father in December 2013 to Beijing.
Foreign business partners
Mr Biden's pledge to avoid foreign work if his father wins the White House sets him apart from Mr Trump's children, who have continued working with foreign business partners from Dubai to Indonesia and India while their father sits in the White House. After Mr Trump won the presidency in 2016, he handed the running of the Trump Organization to his sons, Don Jr and Eric, and said they would not carry out any new overseas deals.
However, they have continued to push the Trump Organization's existing foreign deals, including visits to promote luxury resorts in Indonesia, condo sales in India and an expansion of their golf resort in Scotland.
Mr Trump has launched increasingly personal attacks on Hunter Biden as Democrats in the Houses of Representatives ramp up their impeachment inquiry examining the president’s pressuring of Ukraine’s president to investigate what he claims is corruption by the Bidens in the country.
At a rally in Minnesota this week, Mr Trump lashed out at the Democratic front-runner's son, taunting him over his personal struggles with drug use and his low profile during his father's campaign.
“Whatever happened to Hunter? Where the hell is he?” Trump bellowed at the crowd. “Let’s do another t-shirt. Where’s Hunter?” Soon after the rally, Trump’s 2020 campaign website started selling $25 t-shirts emblazoned with “Where’s Hunter?”
Despite continuing to advance their own foreign business deals while their father is in the White House, the Trump sons have joined in on the attacks, accusing Hunter Biden of using his family name for personal gain while his father was vice president.
“At the VERY LEAST, there’s an appearance of impropriety,” Don Jr tweeted.
At the rally in Minneapolis, Eric Trump attacked Hunter, whipping up the crowd with chants of "Lock him up," a replay of his father's familiar campaign stump speech targeting Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Joe Biden has defended his son and vowed to make him a visible part of his campaign. "He's a fine man. He's been through hell," Mr Biden told the Reno Gazette Journal earlier this month. "I'm also confident the American people know me, and they know my son." – Bloomberg