Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Wednesday that in all his decades in public office, he has never talked to any family members about their private business dealings. And he promised “an absolute wall” between government and his family’s financial interests should he be elected president.
Biden’s remarks followed scrutiny of the business activities of his son Hunter and his brother James — a spotlight that Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have been eager to shine on Democrats’ 2020 polling leader.
“I have never discussed with my son or my brother or anyone else anything having to do with their businesses. Period,” Biden told reporters at a campaign stop in South Carolina.
Politico reported earlier this year that Hunter and James Biden sometimes tried to leverage Joe Biden’s political ties to attract investors for a hedge fund.
Trump’s allies, including former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani and Republican Party operatives, also have highlighted Hunter Biden’s service on the board of an energy firm owned by a Ukrainian oligarch at the same time that Joe Biden played a key role in the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy.
The Washington Examiner newspaper reported earlier this week that the younger Biden’s decision to join the board of Burisma Holdings in 2014 was enough to make his business partner Christopher Heinz, the stepson of then-Secretary of State John Kerry, raise questions with the State Department and later cut business ties with Hunter Biden.
Joe Biden’s campaign answered that Trump simply wants to deflect from his own conflicts of interest from foreign business deals.
Biden said that he’d impose the same standards in his administration that were in place when he served as President Barack Obama’s second-in-command.
“There will be an absolute wall between personal and private and the government,” he said. “There wasn’t any hint of scandal at all when we were there, and I will impose the same kind of strict, strict rules. That’s why I never talk with my son or my brother or anyone else in the distant family about their business interests, period.”
The issue offers a glimpse of how a potential general election matchup between Biden and Trump might go, and it highlights Trump’s penchant for turning, sometimes quite effectively, his own political weaknesses and potential legal problems back on his opponents.
Biden is building his candidacy around the argument that Trump is morally unfit for office and a danger on the world stage, themes he hit again Wednesday as he campaigned in South Carolina and North Carolina.
At the North Carolina home of former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, Biden told about 140 donors that Trump has coddled dictators including “that thug Putin,” a reference to the Russian president, and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, “a pure unadulterated butcher.”
“He’s damaging our security in an immense way,” Biden said, separately blasting Trump for ignoring Russian interference in U.S. elections and pushing to have Russia returned to the G-8 after being expelled following Vladimir Putin’s 2014 annexation of Ukrainian Crimea.
Putin could be readmitted to the council of the world’s leading economies, Biden said, only by “leaving the Urkaine, getting all their little green men out, not trying to continue interfering with elections in Europe and the United States of America.”
Biden stopped short of expressly linking his characterization of Trump’s relationship with Putin to Trump’s finances. But Biden noted that Trump has yet to release tax returns.
Although Trump has refused to disclose all his personal financial ties, the president and his allies appear more than eager to cast Biden and his family as the ones with corrupted dealings in Putin’s orbit.
It’s a similar tactic to what Trump did to Hillary Clinton in 2016. When scrutiny on his business dealings and his affinity for Putin was reaching its peak in the fall campaign — complete with an FBI investigation — Trump repeatedly lobbed unsubstantiated allegations of impropriety at the Clinton Foundation and reminded voters that the FBI was examining the Democratic nominee’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.