The White House has weighed in on the growing scandal around a controversial deal brokered to allow Hunter Biden's artwork to be sold to anonymous buyers, with no disclosure to the public.
"After careful consideration, a system has been established that allows for Hunter Biden to work in his profession within reasonable safeguards," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.
Great questions from @CBSNews's @Weijia Jiang to Jen Psaki about whether the White House had "any role in crafting the sales agreement with the NY Gallery" to hide the identity of people who purchase Hunter Biden's art.— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) July 9, 2021.
Psaki confirms it out of a need for "reasonable safeguards" pic.twitter.com/rrgIgTQfzp
She pointed out that the US President Joe Biden’s son had the right to “pursue an artistic career just like any child of a president has the right to pursue a career".
Psaki said during the WH press briefing that sales of Hunter Biden’s work will be conducted by professionals with the "highest industry standard". Emphasising that the anonymous nature of the transactions is intended as a safeguard against any improprieties, she added:
"I think it would be challenging for an anonymous person who we don't know and Hunter Biden doesn't know to have influence," Psaki said.
Last year Hunter Biden, 51, who was in the crosshairs over allegedly questionable business dealings, particularly in China and Ukraine, besides being the target of a probe by the US Attorney's Office into his tax affairs, revealed he had taken up painting full-time.
The aspiring artist, who has battled drug addiction in the past, is now hoping to sell his paintings, which could be listed as high as $500,000 each, at upcoming exhibitions in Los Angeles and New York.
However, to dodge potential ethics considerations being raised, the White House penned an agreement to keep the names of the buyers confidential from Biden himself and the public, The Washington Post reported.
Walter Shaub, then-President Barack Obama’s former ethics chief, went on Twitter to lambaste the administration for trying to "make sure we will never know" the identities of the buyers, while linking to The Post's report.
The idea’s that even Hunter won’t know, but the WH has outsourced government ethics to a private art dealer. We’re supposed to trust a merchant in an industry that’s fertile ground for money laundering, as well as unknown buyers who could tell Hunter or WH officials? No thanks./2— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) July 8, 2021
Georges Bergès, Hunter Biden’s art dealer, is planning to host a private viewing for Biden in Los Angeles this autumn, followed by an exhibition in New York. He was cited by Artnet as revealing that prices potentially range from $75,000 for works on paper to $500,000 for large-scale paintings.
Hunter Biden was quoted by the outlet last year as describing painting as a means of “getting to the truth”.
"I don’t paint from emotion or feeling, which I think are both very ephemeral. For me, painting is much more about kind of trying to bring forth what is, I think, the universal truth," said Biden.
Commenting the news on social media, users deplored the WH scheme that would leave the public “in the dark”.
Relying on independent gallerists to prevent influence peddling AND money laundering concerns is dangerous. AML/BSA seems to be almost automatically an issue here.— Frazer Rice (@frazerrice) July 9, 2021
a "child of the President" making money makes Hunter sound like a 12 year old wanting to mow neighborhood lawns.— ChrisPaulRoney (@ChrisPaulRoney) July 9, 2021
Although tax laws can be tricky, it would be possible for an art investor to pay $500,000 for a work of art from Hunter and then sell it for $5,000. The tax loss on the sale would be a way of making Biden family bribes tax deductible.— TomfromLA (@TomfromL) July 9, 2021
Nothing stops the purchaser from letting Biden know he has purchased one of Hunter’s art works. The public will be left in the dark.— Charles (@csmccalliv) July 9, 2021
Regardless of who crafted the “plan,” it’s a total joke. All this family has ever done is trade on the Biden name to line their pockets. Why would this new scheme be any different?— Debra Howell (@DebraHo56974547) July 9, 2021
money laundering— infoCivic 🇺🇸 (@realinfoCivic) July 10, 2021
Not gonna sit here and say modern art in general is overpriced and doesn’t sell high but his art being worth 800k for spreading colorful diarrhea is absurd pic.twitter.com/biiqjmJFv2— Charlie (@Cornpop45866149) July 9, 2021
Why does the family of Presidents feel the need to do this?— Jeff DeCola (@JeffDeCola) July 9, 2021
Wait at least till they're out of office and then sell your crappy art or shoes or whatever.
But then again, I can't really blame them. A few million doing nothing is hard to pass up. 'Murica!!
The deal regarding the sale of Hunter Biden’s artwork raised “red flags” for ethics watchdogs about possible conflicts of interest between him and his father.
This comes after the President’s son’s foreign business dealings and the contents of his purported “laptop from hell” marred Joe Biden’s presidential campaign throughout 2020.
A report in the New York Post had alleged evidence discovered on a laptop, believed to have belonged to Joe Biden’s son, suggested that Hunter Biden, who was then on the executive board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, organised a meeting between his father and one of his colleagues from the company when Biden senior was still vice president.
The findings contradicted Joe Biden's own earlier claims that he had never mixed his government service with his son's foreign business affairs and that he had never profited from them.