Senate panel approves LA mayor Garcetti for India ambassador

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Senate panel approves LA mayor Garcetti for India ambassador

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti won approval from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday to be President Biden’s ambassador to India — months after Garcetti controversially attended first son Hunter Biden’s Hollywood art show.

The Garcetti pick was voted out of committee along with a larger batch of nominees and now goes before the full Senate.

Biden nominated Garcetti, 50, in July. He drew negative headlines in October after promoting the novice art career of Biden’s son, which ethics experts have slammed as a possible vehicle for influence-peddling.

Reporters pressed White House press secretary Jen Psaki at the time about whether Garcetti’s attendance at the art show validated concerns that the first son’s new career would create conflicts of interest with his dad’s job.

Hunter Biden earned $375,000 from the unknown buyers of five prints ahead of the West Coast show. He’s seeking as much as $500,000 for his debut works.

Eric Garcetti
LA Mayor Garcetti was seen at Hunter Biden’s art show three months after President Biden nominated him to serve as ambassador of India.
Getty Images / Amy Sussman

“Should we expect to see more people who seek jobs in this administration attending events like this in the future?” CBS News Radio reporter Steven Portnoy asked Psaki at an October press briefing.

Portnoy noted that ethicists “have expressed concern that the president’s son selling art” could involve “people who seek jobs in this administration or favors from this administration.”

The White House says the art sales will be anonymous, purportedly making influence-peddling impossible.

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden earned $375,000 from unknown buyers of five prints.
Paul Morigi

“I’d refer [you] to the gallerist for questions about the event as well as the representatives of Mr. Garrcetti in terms of his attendance,” Psaki said.

Portnoy, who is president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, pressed Psaki: “But just to follow up, this is exactly what ethicists said they were worried about.”

“What is, specifically? That he reportedly attended an event?” Psaki said.

Portnoy responded: “That the president’s son would be selling artwork and then meeting potentially with people who would seek to buy it. If you have attendees who might be seeking either jobs in this administration or favors from this administration, isn’t this an awkward situation for the president?”

Psaki replied: “Again, the gallerist has spoken to, we have spoken to the specifics that the gallery has agreed to and what recommendations were made. I’ve done that several times. I don’t have additional details for you from here. I’d point you to them.”

ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega took up Portnoy’s line of questioning.

“Does this White House not have any concerns about the photos that have emerged showing Hunter Biden at that gallery alongside prospective buyers?” Vega asked.

Exterior of Milk Studios in Hollywood.
Hunter Biden’s art show took place in Milk Studios in Hollywood.
Google Maps

Psaki repeated, “I’d point you to the gallerist on the specifics of the restrictions that were put in place.”

Vega persisted: “Right, but what about the position of this White House and for the president who ran on being transparent?”

Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics under former President Barack Obama, has called on Biden to ask his son to cease his art sales — or for the names of buyers to be disclosed.

“If it was Trump, Xi, or Putin, you would have no doubt that this creates a vehicle for funneling money to the First Family in exchange for access or favors. You also wouldn’t doubt that the appearance of monetizing the Presidency was outrageous,” Shaub tweeted in October.

But Biden brushed off concerns from ethicists. “You gotta be kidding me,” Biden told The Post in October when asked if he was concerned about potential corruption involving his son’s art sales.

Garcetti, who is expected to be approved by the full Senate, faced questions from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) at his December confirmation hearing over what he knew about a staff member’s sexual misconduct.

The links between the elder Biden and his son’s business ventures often are murky — as are the precise details of those ventures. Hunter Biden said in December 2020 that he was under federal investigation for possible tax fraud.

When Biden led the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy as vice president, Hunter Biden took a reported $1 million per year job on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, despite no relevant industry experience.

Hunter Biden’s attorney Chris Clark said less than a week after President Biden’s November summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping that the first son had divested a 10 percent stake in an investment fund controlled by Chinese state-owned entities. Hunter Biden and the White House provided no further details.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
Mayor Garcetti is expected to be approved by the full Senate.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images / Genaro Molina

The firm, BHR Partners, was registered 12 days after the then-second son joined Vice President Biden aboard Air Force Two for a 2013 trip to Beijing. The entity was influential in facilitating a 2016 deal in which a Chinese company bought a Congolese cobalt mine from US and Canadian companies. Cobalt is a key material for electric car batteries.

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