Hunter Biden said in a new interview he regrets that his position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company has created political fallout his father is now dealing with on the presidential campaign trail, but he insisted he didn’t do anything unethical in accepting the lucrative post.
In his first public comments on the issue, the younger Mr. Biden defended his past $600,000-a-year job on the board of Burisma Holdings and said he didn’t make “one cent” from a separate deal with a Chinese-backed company.
“Did I make a mistake? Well, maybe, in the grand scheme of things, yeah. But did I make a mistake based upon some ethical lapse? Absolutely not,” Hunter Biden told ABC in an interview that aired Tuesday.
Still, he acknowledged that his name and his father’s political clout landed him the job.
“I think it is impossible for me to be on any of the boards … without saying I’m the son of the vice president of the United States,” he said.
The elder Mr. Biden, a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, also has denied wrongdoing.
At Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, the candidate defended his son and said the focus should be on Mr. Trump’s corruption.
“My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong,” Mr. Biden said. “I did my job.”
Hunter Biden said in the interview that he doesn’t regret serving on the board of Burisma Holdings, a position he obtained while his father was the point man for Obama administration efforts in Ukraine.
“What I regret is not taking into account that there would be a Rudy Giuliani and a president of the United States that would be listening to this ridiculous conspiracy idea,” he said.
The elder Mr. Biden bragged last year about threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees from Ukraine if its leaders did not get rid of a top prosecutor in the country who reportedly was eyeing corruption in the country, including at Burisma.
“I carried out the policy of the United States government [in] rooting out corruption in Ukraine, and that’s what we should be focusing on,” he said at Tuesday’s debate.
The former vice president and his son also made a trip together to China aboard Air Force Two in 2013, which preceded a $1 billion deal Hunter Biden’s firm struck with a Chinese bank that later expanded to $1.5 billion, according to author Peter Schweizer’s recent book “Secret Empires.”
Mr. Trump, Mr. Giuliani, who is the president’s personal attorney, and other Republicans have attacked the sweetheart setups as products of nepotism and corruption.
He reaffirmed his commitment that he would not serve on the boards of foreign companies or entities if his father is elected president, after he had announced through his attorney this week that he would step down from the board of BHR, the Chinese-backed firm, by November.
Hunter Biden said he has not received “one cent” from the China deal, though he does still hold a 10% stake in the company, according to his lawyer.
“I made a mistake in retrospect as it related to creating any perception that was wrong, and so therefore I’m taking it off the table and I’m making that commitment,” Hunter Biden said.
“Now Sleepy Joe has real problems! Reminds me of Crooked Hillary and her 33,000 deleted Emails, not recoverable!” the president tweeted.
Mr. Trump’s reelection campaign said the interview failed to clear the air and raised more questions.
“Hunter Biden admitted he wouldn’t have gotten his sweetheart gigs if his dad weren’t Joe Biden, so the question remains: What did his employers and investors think they were getting for their money?” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign. “If there was nothing wrong with it, why does he have to promise not to do it again?”
The timing of the interview, which aired hours before Tuesday’s Democratic debate, raised questions about the Biden campaign’s judgment, analysts said.
“They just didn’t anticipate. … They were slow on the uptake,” said Ross Baker, a distinguished professor of political science at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
“It really does bring up a subject about how you can prosper by simply having the right last name,” Mr. Baker said. “It’s just in the nature of suspicions that people in power just have the ability to do things for family members.”
Some of the points the younger Mr. Biden made in the interview didn’t pass the smell test, including that he had only a passing conversation with his father on the Ukraine issue, said Richard Vatz, a professor of rhetoric and communication at Towson University in Maryland.
“Biden apparently, via his resignation, recognizes that he received a sweetheart deal because of his father,” Mr. Vatz said. “His claim that he never talked to his father about his Ukraine business dealings defies credibility.”
Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said he’s a bit surprised Hunter Biden waited so long to handle the issue, given the relentless GOP attacks.
“[It] probably would have made more sense to deal with it this way when it first came out as opposed to waiting a week,” Mr. Bannon said.
But Mr. Bannon predicted the situation will boost Mr. Biden in the end because the impeachment inquiry is examining Mr. Trump’s asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
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