- Joe Biden’s aides in 2014 tried to get him to address questions over his son’s job at a Ukrainian gas company but were hampered because of a family tragedy, The New York Times reported.
- Hunter Biden’s role at the company, Burisma, prompted criticism at the time and later emerged as a target of President Donald Trump’s.
- White House officials from Biden’s time as vice president told The Times that attempts to get Biden to push back in public against criticism were “simply not worth risking a scolding.”
- Hunter Biden was struggling with alcohol and drug addiction at the time, and his brother, Beau Biden, had brain cancer. Times sources say this clouded Biden’s action.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Aides to Joe Biden in 2014 prompted him to confront criticism of his son Hunter’s decision to join a Ukrainian gas company but were rebuffed because of a family tragedy, The New York Times reported Sunday.
The younger Biden’s decision to join the board of Burisma Holdings raised questions in the US media given his father’s position as vice president at the time and involvement in the conflict between and Russia and Ukraine.
Citing White House officials from the time, The Times said “the vice president’s shaky emotional state over Beau’s illness and death” was the primary reason aides did not push the potential conflict of interest, which President Donald Trump has since sought to exploit for political gain.
He “was anguished by his son’s personal problems and unsure how to help him recover,” The Times wrote of Biden’s attitude toward Hunter, citing an aide who spoke with the elder Biden about the issue.
One told The Times that bringing up anything to do with Hunter Biden was “simply not worth risking a scolding.”
Aides were, at one point, so concerned over the Burisma situation that they asked the State Department for facts on Hunter Biden, The Times said.
In another case George Kent, a State Department official overseeing Ukraine, said he tried to get the White House staff to deal with the Hunter Biden question.
He said he was told by an official that Biden lacked the “further bandwidth to deal with family-related issues at that time.”
The Times cited the example of an October 2014 flight from the US to Ukraine, where he was due to give an anti-corruption speech.
“Several aides recalled a surreal split-screen of activity onboard, as Mr. Biden’s team focused mostly on the speech (he urged them to make it tougher), but peeled off for intermittent huddles on how to handle the Hunter story (Mr. Biden dismissed the story as a distraction, and did not engage),” The Times said.
Biden’s aides eventually chose to take the public line that Hunter Biden was a lawyer and private citizen. The Times’ sources said the two Bidens made a point of not discussing the younger Biden’s business arrangements as a safeguard.
“The vice president would not even discuss taking the step that could make all questions vanish: asking his son to quit the Burisma board,” The Times wrote.