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- Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s middle child, is at the center of a controversy that is being stirred by President Donald Trump’s administration over a possible conflict of interest involving a business he was involved in and the Ukrainian government.
- Biden’s personal life has created tension as it has played out amid his father’s political life for years, and despite being cleared of any wrongdoing, his entanglement in the administration’s contact with Ukraine is proving controversial.
- See how Biden rose through the ranks of Washington to land in President Donald Trump’s latest scandal.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The 49-year-old’s personal life has created tension as it has played out amid his father’s political life for years, and is now coming into sharper focus as his dad has led the field of Democratic voters for months.
See how Hunter Biden rose through the ranks of Washington and found himself involved in Trump’s latest scandal.
Joe Biden’s sons have been well-known fixtures in his public life since they were children.
Foto: Sen. Joseph Biden takes the oath of office from the US Senate’s secretary, Frank Valeo, with his father-in-law Robert Hunter and son Joseph Beau Biden at his side, in Beau’s hospital room.sourceBettmann / Contributor via Getty Images
Joe Biden was sworn into office for a Delaware Senate seat in a Wilmington, Delaware, hospital where his two young sons, Hunter and his brother Beau, were taken after being severely injured in a car accident that killed Biden’s wife and baby daughter, Naomi, in 1972.
The senator’s daily 90-minute train commute to Washington, DC, and back to Delaware to care for his sons earned him the nickname “Amtrak Joe.”
Biden later married Jill Jacobs, Hunter and Beau’s stepmother, in 1977. The brothers’ half-sister, Ashley, was born on June 8, 1981.
Hunter Biden followed in his father’s political footsteps and worked his way up in Washington.
Foto: Sen. Joe Biden with his family after announcing his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.sourceCynthia Johnson/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Image
Hunter Biden studied at Georgetown University and graduated in 1992. It was while earning his undergraduate history degree that he began to differ from his teetotaler father as he began to ramp up his social drinking habit into smoking Marlboro Reds and occasionally using cocaine, according to a 2019 interview with The New Yorker.
In 1997, Hunter Biden returned to the family’s roots in Wilmington, Delaware, where he began a career that immediately caused conflict-of-interest questions.
Hunter Biden bought a historic estate in Wilmington in 1997, where he lived with his wife, young daughters, and brother Beau. He assumed a role as an executive vice president at MBNA bank but later said he disliked the stiff corporate culture.
“If you forgot to wear your MBNA lapel pin, someone would stop you in the halls,” he later told The New Yorker.
His role at the bank raised eyebrows as MBNA was known as a massive donor to several of Joe Biden’s campaigns over the years, but he stayed with the company for nearly five years.
In 1998, he reached out to William Oldaker, a Washington, DC-based lawyer who had worked on Joe Biden’s 1987 presidential campaign about getting a job in President Bill Clinton’s administration, according to The New Yorker.
Hunter Biden flexed his connections and rose up the ranks in the Washington scene.
Foto: Former President Bill Clinton.sourceTime Life Pictures/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Oldaker connected Hunter Biden with Commerce Secretary William Daley, who had worked with Joe Biden and bonded with Hunter over being from political families, according to The New Yorker.
Hunter Biden was then appointed to the department by President Bill Clinton and served from 1998 to 2001 as a director in the Department of Commerce focusing on e-commerce-policy issues.
Hunter Biden moved his young family to a tony Washington, DC, neighborhood for the role, where he began to establish himself as a DC player, even though he later revealed his salary barely covered the family’s house, the children’s schooling, and the living expenses that kept them in pace with high DC society.
From 2001 to 2008, he worked at Oldaker, Biden, and Belair LLP, a federal lobbyist firm he cofounded but resigned from to preserve the optics of his father’s campaign.
Foto: sourceGetty/Chip Somodevilla
CNN reported that Hunter Biden resigned from the firm when then-Sen. Barack Obama, who said he would refuse donations from lobbyists, asked Joe Biden to join his presidential ticket.
Hunter Biden later told The New Yorker that no one from the Obama campaign had directly told him to break his lobbying ties but that he knew “the writing was on the wall,” so he resigned from the firm and from an unpaid seat on the Amtrak board in preparation for the election.
“I wanted my father to have a clean slate,” Hunter Biden told the outlet. “I didn’t want to limit him in any way.”
As his father found his place at the top of Washington, Hunter Biden launched several new business efforts that raised eyebrows.
Foto: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with Hunter Biden at a campaign stop in Dubuque, Iowa.sourceScott Olson/Getty Images
In September 2008, Hunter Biden launched a consulting firm, Seneca Global Advisors, and in June 2009, Hunter cofounded the private-equity firm Rosemont Seneca Partners. The New Yorker said that through his companies and his partners, Hunter Biden established various business connections to figures in China and Russia.
His blooming international business relationships came to a head when his father adopted policy priorities to crack down on corruption in Ukraine, but he was not accused of any formal wrongdoing.
Into adulthood, Hunter Biden became known for his tumultuous personal life.
Foto: Beau Biden, Hunter Biden, and Ashley Biden while Joe Biden speaks at the Democratic National Convention on September 6, 2012.sourceStreeter Lecka/Getty Images
Hunter Biden’s tumultuous personal life became tabloid fodder during and after his father’s time with the administration.
He sparked confusion when he, then 44 years old, enlisted in the Navy Reserves in 2012, less than two years before reports broke that the Reserve discharged him in 2014 after he tested positive for cocaine.
Hunter Biden eventually confirmed the news and said in a statement that it was “the honor of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge. I respect the Navy’s decision. With the love and support of my family, I’m moving forward.”
After tragedy struck the family through 46-year-old Beau Biden’s death from cancer in 2015, Hunter Biden’s personal life remained in the headlines.
After he divorced his first wife and the mother of his three daughters, Kathleen, the Biden family acknowledged he was dating Hallie Biden, Beau’s widow.
Hunter Biden raised eyebrows with a candid New Yorker interview in which he said he spent the aftermath of his brother’s death on a bender that included him buying crack from homeless people. He also said that he and Hallie Biden discovered they were “sharing a very specific grief” and spent a lot of time together in 2016 before they became a couple.
The couple apparently tried to keep the relationship secret, but the former vice president found out when Page Six called him for comment on a story on the relationship, after which he and Jill Biden issued a supportive statement.
“We are all lucky that Hunter and Hallie found each other as they were putting their lives together again after such sadness,” the statement said. “They have mine and Jill’s full and complete support and we are happy for them.”
It’s unclear when Hunter and Hallie Biden stopped dating, but their breakup was reported in early May, shortly before TMZ reported the “secret” wedding between Hunter Biden and the South African model Melissa Cohen, which happened on May 16.
Despite his personal affairs, Hunter Biden’s biggest public troubles came from questions into his business dealings.
Foto: Joe Biden, right, and his son Hunter Biden.sourceTeresa Kroeger/Getty Images for World Food Program USA
In May 2014, Hunter Biden signed on as a board member of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s largest gas-production company. He found the company through his business contacts at a controversial time, and as part of the board’s anti-corruption efforts, he recommended the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, where he was “a counsel.”
A press release announced upon Hunter Biden’s hiring said he was in charge of the company’s international legal relations with different companies, but he later denied that characterization.
The appointment caused concerns as it came at a tense time between the White House and Russia over Ukraine and its energy dependence, sparking criticism that Hunter Biden’s role with the energy giant was a blatant conflict of interest.
But the Bidens dismissed the controversy, telling media outlets that Hunter Biden is a private citizen and his business interests don’t represent or affect the views of the government.
The controversy was revived nearly five years later.
Foto: Rudy Giuliani and President Donald Trump.sourceDrew Angerer/Getty Images
Within one month of his term on the board expiring, a bombshell New York Times story published on May 1 detailed Joe and Hunter Biden’s ties to Ukraine and said the former vice president had successfully gotten a Ukrainian prosecutor removed from office.
The move raised questions about a possible conflict of interest and if Joe Biden was trying to shield his son from an investigation into the company, whose founder faced multiple investigations into allegations of tax evasion and money laundering.
The former vice president was reported to be just one part of a larger push coming from former President Obama’s administration for the Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin to be removed over concerns of corruption in his office. Joe Biden has since publicly detailed his threat to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees from the country if Shokin wasn’t fired.
However, it’s since been reported that there was not an active investigation into Hunter Biden when the former vice president made the push for Shokin’s firing, and Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, later said that he had no evidence of wrongdoing against either Biden.
Despite the absence of proven wrongdoing by the Bidens, the back-and-forth has been used by the Trump administration to obscure Rudy Giuliani’s communications with Ukraine that were made public earlier this year and the growing concern that Trump actively collaborated with a foreign power to gain political leverage.
As Trump ramped up his hits against the Bidens, House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Foto: Family members gather for a road naming ceremony with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, centre, his son Hunter Biden, left, and his sister Valerie Biden Owens.sourceAP
On September 24, House Democrats announced they were opening an impeachment inquiry amid revelations about Trump’s conduct with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the former vice president and his son.
A bombshell whistleblower complaint revealed days earlier put a finer point on the administration’s contact with Ukraine, as the report alleged Trump had acted inappropriately in pushing for a foreign power to take aim at the Bidens, specifically in a July 25 phone conversation between the leaders.
The call reportedly came just days after Trump withheld nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine. A memo released by the White House about the specifics of the call quotes Trump urging Zelensky to launch an investigation and instructing him to speak with US Attorney General William Barr and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer.
Another damning detail from the call was identified when Zelensky promised Trump that “the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person” and “will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue.”
On October 4, Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, announced that authorities were reviewing past investigations into Burisma as part of a larger probe that will take a second pass at several previous investigations by the agency that was plagued by corruption concerns.