Ex-Obama Ethics Chief Slams Psaki's Handling of Questions About Hunter Biden's Art Sale

© AFP 2022 / MARK WILSONWalter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, participates in a briefing on about President Trump's refusal to divest his businesses and the administration's delay in disclosing ethics waivers for appointees, on Capitol Hill November 1, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, participates in a briefing on about President Trump's refusal to divest his businesses and the administration's delay in disclosing ethics waivers for appointees, on Capitol Hill November 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.10.2021
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Psaki essentially sent a message saying "the White House thinks the public has no right to ask about ethics,” Shaub claimed on Twitter.
Walter Shaub, US attorney and former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics during the Obama administration, has criticised White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s response to a reporter’s question about sales of paintings by Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden.
According to the New York Post, at least five prints by Hunter were sold for $75,000 each ahead of a Hollywood show this month, with a team of lawyers moving to vet prospective buyers for a bigger show in New York.
When a reporter for the newspaper asked Psaki whether the identity of those who bought Hunter’s art will remain anonymous, she replied that “it still is the purview of the gallerist.”
“We still do not know and will not know who purchases any paintings. And the President remains proud of his son,” she added.
Psaki then immediately inquired whether the reporter had “another question on something else.”
“Otherwise, we’re going to move on to some other topics. Lots going on in the world,” she said.
Shaub, however, did not seem particularly amused by Psaki’s reaction, tweeting that it is “disappointing” to hear her “send a message that the White House thinks the public has no right to ask about ethics.”
“There is no ethics programme in the world that can be built around the head of state’s staff working with a dealer to keep the public in the dark about the identities of individuals who pay vast sums to the leader’s family member for subjectively priced items of no intrinsic value,” he argued in a follow-up tweet.
“If this were Trump, Xi, or Putin, you’d have no doubt whatsoever that this creates a vehicle for funnelling cash to the first family in exchange for access or favours,” Shaub added. “Nor would you doubt that the appearance of monetising the presidency was outrageous.”
He also went on to complain about White House staffers hiding from the public things like the names of the buyers of Hunter’s art, therefore “leaving members of the public unable to monitor anther the buyers gain access to government officials after major purchases.”
“They told us Hunter wouldn’t know who the buyers are. Then the media discovered he was attending the showings,” Shaub remarked. “But they emphasised that no prospective buyers would be dealing with the government. Then a man who’s up for an administration job was caught at the showing.”
He further argued that while this situation isn’t exactly comparable to “the corruption of the Trump admin,” he does regard it as “a failure to lift the nation out of the mire into which Trump sunk it.”
“Now, look, many Twitter users have made clear they hate hearing this. But it is objectively bad. It would be better not to pretend this isn’t bad,” Shaub mused. “Those individuals should just admit that, like Trump supporters, they don’t care about ethics when their guy is in charge.”
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