WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that she’s “not aware” of any plans for President Biden and first lady Jill Biden to attend an upcoming New York gallery event with potential buyers of his son Hunter Biden’s artworks.
The first son is asking as much as $500,000 for his novice pieces, which ethics experts say are inflated prices based on his dad’s official position.
“I’m not aware of plans for them to attend,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing.
The question came from New York Times reporter Zolan Kanno-Youngs, who noted that the gallerist “tasked with ensuring the buyers of Hunter Biden’s artwork remain anonymous — he said that Hunter will be attending his opening next month and said that friends and family will be attending as well.”
Hunter Biden often is accused of profiting from his father’s official roles, including while he was vice president.
Psaki declined to comment on the president’s interactions with his son regarding the art sale in response to a follow-up question Wednesday from The Post.
“I have spoken extensively to the arrangements, which are not White House arrangements. They are arrangements between Hunter Biden’s representatives and [the gallery]. I don’t think I have anything to add in that regard,” she said.
Walter Shaub, director of the US Office of Government Ethics under President Barack Obama, has called for the sales to be canceled or for the names of buyers to be disclosed to prevent secretive influence-buying.
“Hunter Biden should cancel this art sale because he knows the prices are based on his dad’s job. Shame on POTUS if he doesn’t ask Hunter to stop. If that fails, he should ask that the names of buyers be released & pledge to notify us if any buyer ever meets with admin officials,” Shaub recently tweeted.
Richard Painter, a failed 2018 Democratic Senate candidate and the chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, has also slammed the art sales.
“Bottom line: secrecy never works in ethics. Whether it’s secret sales of Hunter Biden’s art or the University of Pennsylvania’s secret donations from China and Saudi Arabia. Secrecy never works,” Painter recently wrote.
Psaki has repeatedly defended the sale and secrecy around buyers’ identities, saying that Hunter Biden has a “right” to an “artistic career” and that the supposed anonymity of buyers means that influence-peddling is impossible.
The elder Biden’s links to his son’s business ventures have long been murky.
Documents and photos from a laptop that formerly belonged to Hunter Biden indicate that Joe Biden attended a 2015 dinner at Cafe Milano in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood with a group of his son’s associates — including a trio of Kazakhs and Russian billionaire Yelena Baturina and her husband, ex-Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov. A Senate report released in September said a firm linked to Hunter Biden received $3.5 million from Baturina in 2014.
A photo depicts the elder Biden posing with the Kazakhstani group — and one day later, Vadym Pozharskyi, an executive at Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, which paid Hunter Biden $83,000 per month to sit on its board, emailed the then-second son to thank him for the opportunity to meet his father.
Photos and emails published by The Post also indicate that Joe Biden in 2015 hosted his son and a group of Mexican business associates at the vice president’s official residence. In 2016, Hunter Biden apparently emailed one of those associates while aboard Air Force Two for an official visit to Mexico, complaining that he hadn’t received reciprocal business favors after “I have brought every single person you have ever asked me to bring to the F’ing White House and the Vice President’s house and the inauguration.”
Hunter Biden still co-owns a Chinese investment firm known as BHR Partners, which was formed 12 days after he joined his father aboard Air Force Two for a December 2013 trip to Beijing, according to recently reported business records. The Wall Street Journal reports that BHR is co-owned by Chinese state-owned entities.
A 2017 email recovered from Hunter Biden’s laptop described a 10 percent set-aside for “the big guy” as part of a prospective deal involving a Chinese energy company. That deal did not materialize, but former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski said Joe Biden was the “big guy.”