US Attorney General William Barr has been aware of a slew of investigations into Hunter Biden's financial dealings since this spring or even earlier, but did his best to avoid them going public in the midst of his father Joe's presidential election campaign, The Wall Street Journal cited a person familiar with the matter as sharing.
As the GOP and President Trump have pressed Mr Barr for months to look into the younger Biden, the attorney general has been shrugging off the pressure to disclose data on the investigations, without providing any details on his work, the person revealed.
Federal investigators reportedly recognised the impact their work could have and thus made sure the case would be kept out of the public eye – something that instantly landed in critics' crosshairs because this largely meant silencing important information and in the long run "rigging the election" by doing so.
Whatever the case, Justice Department guidelines indeed advise investigators against taking overt actions in the run-up to an election for them not to be viewed as political meddling.
On Thursday night, incumbent President Donald Trump tweeted his utter disappointment about the Justice Department and the FBI's move to "conceal" the Hunter Biden investigations until now.
"Why didn't the Fake News Media, the FBI and the DOJ report the Biden matter BEFORE the Election", he posted.
Why didn’t the Fake News Media, the FBI and the DOJ report the Biden matter BEFORE the Election. Oh well, it’s OK, we won the Election anyway - 75,000,000 VOTES!!!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2020
Mr Trump fumed about Barr for a number of reasons including his acknowledgment last week that the Justice Department hadn't found any evidence of widespread election fraud that would overturn Biden's projected victory in the election.
Tax Affairs: Hunter's 'Difficult Challenges'
On 9 December, Joe Biden's son, Hunter, acknowledged learning "that the US attorney's office in Delaware had advised" his legal counsel that they were investigating his tax affairs.
Following Hunter Biden's confirmation of the ongoing investigation, the Biden-Harris transition team weighed in saying the projected president-elect was "deeply proud of his son". A statement from the team said Hunter had "fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger".
Hunter for his part said he was taking the matter "very seriously" and was "confident" he had handled his affairs "legally and appropriately". As per a government source cited by Fox News, he is a subject/target of a grand jury investigation. The source further drew parallels between the two noting that a "target" means there is a "high probability that a person committed a crime", while a "subject" is someone you "don't know for sure" has perpetrated a crime.
Conservative media outlets likewise expressed rage over what they deemed as putting up a wall of silence on the matter.
"It was all known about the probe long before last month's presidential election", said Fox News host Tucker Carlson, in an opening to the latest edition of "Tucker Carlson Tonight", and adding that his programme had covered a criminal probe launched into Hunter's business dealings with China well before the vote.
Appeals to investigate Hunter Biden were ramped up by the Senate in the weeks leading up to the election. After a Republican Senate investigation in September unveiled a report on Hunter Biden's finances and business interests outside the US, several Republican lawmakers demanded that the Justice Department look closely into the matter.
On 19 October, Republican congressmen proceeded to urge Mr Barr to appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden and his father, and demanded that Mr Barr respond within five days.
Shortly afterwards, when asked on Fox News whether he backed the motion, POTUS explained: "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".
Reports of 'Suspicious Activity' in US and Abroad
What underlies the investigation into Hunter Biden's taxes and business dealings at large (the latter was reported on by Politico) is "suspicious activity" reports filed by a bank that conducted his foreign transactions, a person familiar with the matter was quoted by the WSJ as saying.
Hunter's alleged foreign ties were the subject of speculation well before Hunter confirmed the current probe.
The New York Post earlier published an article that cited e-mails retrieved from a laptop purportedly owned by Hunter Biden, revealing that he had allegedly arranged meetings with foreign officials for his father during the latter's tenure as vice president under Barack Obama. Twitter temporarily banned the NY Post's account, but later unlocked it, though it failed to explain its previous claim that the material in the article was "hacked".
Biden, a lawyer, is said to have enjoyed various sources of income in the US and overseas.
In addition to legal work in recent years, he has been a partner in a string of US-based investment companies. Biden also did advisory work for the China CEFC Energy Co., as the company struck deals in Europe and the Middle East. He was a shareholder and was paid millions in a venture with the said company as it allegedly sought a foothold in the US, as per the Senate Republican report.
For around five years, until April 2019, Hunter was part of the board of directors of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings, where he was said to have been paid roughly $50,000 a month. According to an email purportedly spotted on Hunter's afore-mentioned laptop, a top executive of the company supposedly requested Hunter to use his connections for their benefit.
Burisma Holdings hit the headlines last year in connection with Donald Trump's calls to investigate the Biden family, implicated in potentially corrupt dealings in Ukraine while Joe was Barack Obama's vice president. Allegations of Trump ostensibly demanding a probe in exchange for aid for Kiev laid the foundation for his subsequent impeachment in December 2019 by the Dem-dominated House of Representatives. Yet, a month later he was fully acquitted by the Republican-held Senate.