The NBC News headline quoted a prosecutor as saying that a well-connected Washington operative “used access to White House to help foreign government.” It was a “corrupt pursuit of money and power,” the online story quoted the prosecutor as saying in Brooklyn federal court.
The name Hunter Biden might come to mind. He had lots of access to the White House when dad Joe Biden served as vice president and son Hunter was raking in cash from Russian and Ukraine oligarchs and Chinese benefactors.
But the target, in this case, was Tom Barrack, a billionaire and longtime associate of former President Donald Trump who chaired his inaugural committee. In a trial going on in September and October, Mr. Barrack has been battling charges of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The Department of Justice says he broke the law by failing to file as a lobbyist while doing work for the United Arab Emirates. His attorney calls the charge “ridiculous.”
Mr. Barrack is one of at least seven Trump associates to be accused by the feds of violating FARA, a law rarely invoked by the Justice Department until Mr. Trump came to town in 2017. FARA requires registration with the Department of Justice if a person is paid by a foreign government or principal to advance their causes in Washington.
The Washington Post broke the story last week that FBI agents — after a four-year, laptop-infused investigation — believe there is sufficient evidence to charge Hunter Biden with tax evasion. Not mentioned in the story is any possible FARA violation.
Republicans think there should be, given this history:
The Obama White House named then-Vice President Biden as the point man on Russia-harassed Ukraine in 2014. Presto. Son Hunter found himself winning a lucrative seat ($90,000-plus a year) on the board of Burisma, Ukraine’s oligarch-owned energy conglomerate.
More details would come from Hunter’s infamous Apple computer whose contents emerged in the pages of the New York Post in October 2020. Tales from the laptop revealed Hunter’s reckless video-tapped lifestyle of illegal drugs, porn and prostitutes financed by overseas wire transfers.
A number of them triggered U.S. Treasury Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed by banks to signal possible money laundering. Republican Sens. Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson were able to obtain some in Mr. Trump‘s time. But President Biden’s Treasury Department won’t relinquish any more. The cover-up involves perhaps hundreds of SARs about money from who knows where.
A Grassley-Johnson Sept. 23, 2020 report, for example, said Hunter’s law firm, Owasco, received $4.8 million in “consulting fees” from Hudson West III. The money flow commenced on the same day in 2017 that Hudson received a $5 million transfer from a China energy giant CEFC. Hudson West was jointly owned by Hunter and a Chinese businessman.
In 2014, the same year Vladimir Putin’s troops seized Ukraine’s Crimea, a Moscow oligarch, Elena Baturina, wired $3.4 million in consulting fees to Hunter’s co-owned investment firm, Rosemont Seneca Thornton.
The New York Times reported that as the U.S. attorney in Delaware has gathered evidence surely based in part on SAR reports — Hunter Biden hurriedly paid $2 million in back taxes.
For example, an email from a Burisma Mr. Fixit thanked Hunter for arranging a White House meeting with the man himself, Joe Biden.
Former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinsky, in interviews with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, has confirmed emails that show their emerging company would set aside Chinese cash for the “big guy” — Joe Biden. The emails said Hunter Biden demanded $10 million a year from Chinese tycoons for making “introductions alone.”
To Republicans, the encounters are tantamount to selling access without registering as a foreign agent.
One Republican who is dismayed is John Ratcliffe, former director of national intelligence for Mr. Trump.
“What I am surprised at is that two years, after having corroborating information in a laptop and corroborating witnesses like Tony Bobulinsky talking about foreign agent registration violations and influence peddling corruption, that the leaks are not about those types of charges because I would have inspected that at this point in time,” Mr. Ratcliffe said Oct. 9 on Fox News’ “Sunday Night in America.”
FARA was one of the handiest weapons around for Russia Special Counsel (2017-19) Robert Mueller.
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, a Ukraine advocate in Washington, and business partner Richard Gates were convicted of FARA violations. The FBI raided the home of former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The search warrant said the suspected crime was a FARA offense.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements in his FARA filing related to work for NATO ally Turkey. Campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos said the feds threatened to charge him with illegally lobbying for Israel. The FBI assigned at least three confidential human sources to Mr. Papadopoulos in hopes he would incriminate himself over a Russia conspiracy that did not exist.
The FBI raided the properties of Mr. Manafort, Mr. Giuliani and Trump adviser Roger Stone. It placed a wiretap for a year on campaign volunteer Carter Page.
The FBI raided Mr. Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago home — a spectacular nighttime event that the FBI later illustrated with photos of seized documents fanned out on the floor as if a drug raid on El Chapo. This is how low the Biden-favoring FBI has stooped.
More than a year ago, at a congressional hearing of U.S. intelligence chiefs, including FBI Director Christopher Wray, Rep. Devin Nunes, now a Trump social media executive, asked, “As for the leaders of the intelligence community, I hope you plan on spending a reasonable amount of time in upcoming years on activities other than investigating conservatives and spying on Republican presidential campaigns.”
Said a congressional staffer, “Looks like Nunes’ plea to Wray was in vain.”
• Rowan Scarborough is a columnist with The Washington Times.
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