WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday said that the identify of people who buy first son Hunter Biden’s art will remain anonymous despite The Post’s reporting that prospective buyers are being vetted ahead of a delayed New York gallery show.
Psaki told The Post at her daily press briefing that the White House also doesn’t know the identity of buyers who reportedly paid $75,000 each for five prints of the first son’s art ahead of a Hollywood show this month.
Psaki insisted that the reported vetting of prospective buyers does not signal an end to a widely criticized White House-brokered arrangement where the purchasers will remain secret, purportedly making influence-peddling impossible.
“It still is the purview of the gallerist. We still do not know and will not know who purchases any paintings. And the president remains proud of his son,” Psaki said.
She then cut off the line of questioning, saying, “Did you have another question on something else? Otherwise we’re going to move on to some other topics, there’s a lot going on in the world.”
The Post reported last week on the novice artist’s initial sales after months of warnings from ethics experts that the sales are vulnerable to ethics issues involving people seeking to influence President Biden’s administration.
The first son earned $375,000 from the print sales ahead of the West Coast art showing, which was attending by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Biden’s nominee to be ambassador to India, which sparked new ethics questions.
The Georges Berges Gallery — the first son’s art dealer — has put in place stringent screening ahead of a New York show that’s been delayed until next year, a source told The Post last week. A team of lawyers is vetting potential would-be buyers who’d like to attend, the source said.
It’s unclear who hired the lawyers doing the vetting.
As Biden left the White House on Friday, he was asked if he’s concerned about potential corruption involving his son’s art sales.
The president looked a reporter for The Post in the eyes and said, “You gotta be kidding me.”
Richard Painter, who was President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer, said last week that anonymous sales weren’t realistic and that “I think the White House needs to go to Plan B.”
“Buyers buy artwork to hang on the wall, not put in a closet,” Painter said.
Painter said there should be “full transparency” of the buyers’ identities and Biden and his appointees should all sign pledges “to ensure these people can’t get access to the White House.”
Walter Shaub, director of the US Office of Government Ethics under former 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.
Shaub, a harsh critic of former President Donald Trump, tweeted recently that “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.”
The elder Biden’s links to his son’s business ventures often are murky.
When Biden was 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, while his father led the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy.
And Hunter Biden still co-owns a Chinese investment firm that 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 the company is co-owned by Chinese state-owned entities.
Documents and photos from a laptop that formerly belonged to Hunter Biden indicate that Joe Biden attended a 2015 dinner in DC with a group of his son’s associates — including a trio of Kazakhs and the 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 Burisma, 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.”
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. Former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski said Joe Biden was the “big guy.”
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