The Hunter Biden story has always been a Joe Biden story. It has been clear all along that Hunter Biden, like some other relatives of high officeholders, spent years trying to cash in on his father’s government position. And we’ve known for a while that Justice Department investigators are looking into whether Hunter paid taxes on the money he got from various overseas deals, and whether he fully complied with foreign agent registration requirements.
What we still don’t know is what Hunter’s father, former vice president and now President Joe Biden, knew about his son’s business dealings. It’s hard to imagine a son traveling all around the world, trading on his father’s name and position, and the father not knowing a single thing about it. And yet that is what Joe Biden claims.
“I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings,” Biden said in Iowa in 2019, during the Democratic presidential primary campaign. That’s a pretty definitive statement. Since then, Biden or his spokespersons have stood behind that denial; so today, in July 2022, the president’s position is that he has never spoken to his son about his son’s overseas business dealings.
Now there is a new story that will test Biden’s denials once again. What follows is based on reporting by Jon Levine and Joshua Rhett Miller in the New York Post:
Among his many other foreign business interests, in 2011 and 2012, Hunter Biden pursued a possible lucrative deal in Colombia. He was actually trying to get in with a Brazilian construction company called OAS. An article in Reuters described OAS as “one of many Brazilian engineering and construction groups accused of paying bribes and rigging public contracts in Brazil’s biggest-ever corruption scandal.”
OAS was exploring a number of projects in Colombia, including “two wastewater treatment plants estimated to [cost] $380 million and $350 million … a $1.8 billion hydroelectric power plant, and a $3 billion upgrade to the Bogota subway system,” according to the Post.
How could Hunter and his business partners get a piece of it? By using Hunter’s father’s connections, of course. Joe Biden, then the vice president of the United States, had a longtime relationship with Andres Pastrana, who was president of Colombia from 1998 to 2002. During that period, Biden was a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and had dealings with Pastrana. The relationship was a long one; on Nov. 7, 2020, the night Biden was declared winner of the U.S. presidential election, Pastrana tweeted congratulations with a picture of himself, Sen. Biden and another Foreign Relations Committee stalwart, Republican Sen. Jesse Helms. Pastrana called Biden a “great friend” of Colombia. And former President Pastrana remained an influential man in Colombia — the kind who could help a well-connected friend get a big contract.
According to documents found on the Hunter Biden laptop, Hunter and his partners began corresponding about the OAS/Colombia business in February 2011. They planned to pitch OAS — $20,000 a month, plus a 5% “success fee” — for Hunter’s help in getting the Colombia projects.
“If it works, we’ll all be rich,” one of Hunter’s partners emailed to him in August 2011. In September, Hunter signed a contract with OAS for $25,000 a month. Hunter and his partners estimated their part of a “success fee” would be around $5 million.
In November 2011, Hunter went to Bogota, where he had dinner with Pastrana. “Emails contained on the hard drive suggest Mauricio Cardenas Santamaria, the country’s minister for mines and energy, shared the meal,” reports the Post. “That same day, Hunter also met with Catalina Crane Arango, a counselor to Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, according to the calendar.”
Soon it would be time to bring Vice President Biden into the deal personally. In February 2012, according to the Post, Hunter wrote a note to Pastrana: “Dear Mr. President, I look forward to seeing you when you are in Washington. I was hoping we could meet for lunch or coffee depending upon your schedule … I’d like to discuss an opportunity that I think you have already been initially briefed regarding OAS. I am checking on my dad’s schedule.”
“I am checking on my dad’s schedule.” Sure enough, Pastrana visited Washington and met with Joe Biden the next month, on March 2, 2012. Hunter Biden’s calendar shows that Eric Schwerin, a business partner of Hunter’s, was invited to “Meet with Pres. Pastrana and Dad at NavObs,” according to Hunter’s calendar on the laptop. “NavObs” was a reference to the Naval Observatory, which is the vice president’s official residence. After the meeting, Hunter scheduled a lunch with Pastrana at Washington’s Cafe Milano, according to the Post.
By May 2012, Pastrana was back in Washington, this time with his son, Santiago. Father and son met with Hunter Biden. In an interview with the New York Post, Santiago Pastrana said, “The conversation was around the gratitude my father had for then VP Biden and all his support towards Colombia.”
Did it all pay off? That’s where things are a little murky. The Post reported: “The Colombian infrastructure projects were eventually built but it is unclear if OAS won any related contracts, or if Hunter Biden and his business partners pocketed ‘success’ bonuses.”
But here’s the bigger question: Did Joe Biden really not say a word to his son about Pastrana and the Colombia project? Did Hunter not say a word to his father about it? Did the vice president not know that his son and Pastrana were involved in a business initiative, whether or not it resulted in contracts and payouts at the end?
And what of Hunter’s other business deals? The New York Post reported that Hunter “met with his father at least 30 times at the White House or the vice president’s residence, often just days after he returned home from overseas business jaunts.” The Post continued: “Eric Schwerin … is named as a calendar invite recipient on 21 of 30 listed meetings, with a green check frequently indicating his confirmed receipt of the invite for meetings with the vice president.”
Remember what Joe Biden said: “I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.” At some point, at some time, the president will have to explain himself.