As vice president, Biden said Ukraine should increase gas production. Then his son got a job with a Ukrainian gas company.
KIEV, Ukraine — As Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced in April that he was seeking the presidency, his son Hunter quietly left his position here with Ukraine’s largest private gas company after serving for five years.
From the moment Hunter Biden took the job in 2014, Republicans have said it presented a conflict of interest for the Bidens. Joe Biden, then the vice president, was the point person on Ukraine policy in the Barack Obama administration. Biden offered U.S. aid to Ukraine to increase gas production, which could benefit the Ukrainian energy industry.
Now Hunter Biden’s service on the board of Burisma Holdings has emerged as an issue facing his father’s campaign, drawing attacks from President Trump and his allies. Just as Trump has faced repeated questions about whether his family has sought to benefit financially from his presidency, a similar focus is being given to Hunter Biden’s dealings.
Trump has said it would be “appropriate” for him to ask Attorney General William P. Barr to launch an investigation into what the president said could be “a very big situation.” Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has urged the public to demand a congressional inquiry.
A former Ukrainian prosecutor, who was removed after Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian government, told The Washington Post that the appointment of Hunter Biden to the Burisma board was “rather questionable” because he lacked relevant experience.
Joe and Hunter Biden declined interview requests but defended their actions via statements and spokesmen.
“The narrative that has been suggested and developed by the right-wing political apparatus [is] demonstrably false,” Hunter Biden said in a statement to The Post.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, said in a statement that the elder Biden “acted at all times in a manner consistent with well-established executive branch ethics standards. He carried out the Obama-Biden administration’s policies without regard to any interests other than the public’s and neither discussed this with his son nor was involved in any way with his son’s private business pursuits.”
The focus on Hunter Biden’s business dealings have spotlighted how, for more than two decades, his professional work often tracked with his father’s life in politics, from Washington to Ukraine to China.
The younger Biden received new attention earlier this month with the publication of an interview in the New Yorker, in which Hunter Biden talked candidly about his drug use, saying: “There’s addiction in every family. I was in that darkness.” His father, he said, “never gave up on me.”
For both Bidens, protectiveness of each other is ingrained in their family history.Hunter Biden was 2 years old when he was a passenger in the family car in Delaware on Dec. 18, 1972. A truck crashed into the station wagon, killing his mother, Neilia, and his 13-month-old sister, Naomi. His brother Beau, then 3 years old, suffered numerous broken bones but survived. Hunter suffered a serious head injury but recovered. Since then, much of Hunter Biden’s career has coincided with his father’s work as a senator and vice president. He has been a lobbyist for clients with interests before Congress; a senior vice president at a bank, MBNA, that was a major contributor to his father; and a board member of a company backed by Chinese entities, joining the firm just after his father met with leaders of that country.
All of those positions have led to criticism from Republicans, but it was Hunter Biden’s decision to join the board of Burisma Holdings that has drawn the heaviest fire.
At the time, Ukraine was in the midst of crisis. In February 2014, as revolution swept the streets, President Viktor Yanukovych fled. Russia, which was allied with Yanukovych, viewed his ouster as illegal. In March, Russian forces took control of Crimea and then the southeast of Ukraine, dividing the nation.
The Obama administration decried the Russian intervention, and Vice President Biden arrived in the country in April, bearing gifts. A key part of U.S. strategy, he said, focused on the way Russia could cut off part of Ukraine’s energy supply. He repeated his frequent plea that Ukraine’s natural gas production be increased, and he announced an aid package designed to enable Ukraine to boost energy production.
Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: ‘Keep your gas,’ ” Biden said. “It would be a very different world.”
As it turned out, that was a world Hunter Biden wanted to join.