In 2018, while Hunter Biden was reportedly under investigation for his dealings with Chinese businessmen, Joe Biden left a voicemail message telling Hunter: “I think you’re clear.” This latest development in the Biden family pay-to-play scandal provides further proof a special counsel is needed to oversee the ongoing criminal probe.
In an exclusive, The Daily Mail on Monday reported that a voicemail recovered “from a backup of Hunter’s iPhone XS,” stored on his abandoned MacBook laptop, captured Joe Biden leaving this message for Hunter on December 12, 2018: “Hey pal, it’s Dad. It’s 8:15 on Wednesday night. If you get a chance just give me a call. Nothing urgent. I just wanted to talk to you. I thought the article released online, it’s going to be printed tomorrow in the Times, was good. I think you’re clear. And anyway if you get a chance, give me a call, I love you.”
The New York Times article referenced by the now-president, entitled “A Chinese Tycoon Sought Power and Influence. Washington Responded,” detailed the dealings of two corrupt Chinese businessmen, Ye Jianming and Patrick Ho—both of whom had connections to the Biden family through CEFC China Energy.
Ye acquired CEFC in 2006, according to the Times article, with the business focused on “securing the rights to overseas oil fields in strife-torn places like Chad, South Sudan, and Iraq.” “From 2009 to 2017, CEFC’s revenues jumped from $48 million to $37 billion,” the Times reported, noting that Ye’s first outreach to the Biden family came in 2015.
The Washington Post, which independently authenticated Hunter’s abandoned laptop months after its pre-election discovery, likewise reported that emails recovered from the hard drive showed that an intermediary for CEFC first “reached out to Hunter Biden in December 2015 to set up a meeting between the then-vice president’s son and Ye.”
The proposed 2015 dinner didn’t happen, but the Times article reported that an aide to Ye would later meet Hunter. Then, in May 2017, Hunter met with Ye in Miami. During that meeting, Hunter reportedly “offered to use his contacts to help identify investment opportunities for Ye’s company, CEFC China Energy, in liquefied-natural-gas projects in the United States.” As a thank you, Ye sent a note of gratitude and a 2.8-carat diamond to Hunter’s hotel room.
While the natural gas project discussed never materialized, in early August 2017, Hunter executed a consulting agreement with CEFC. It provided him a retainer of $500,000 and a monthly stipend of $100,000 while James Biden, Joe’s brother and Hunter’s uncle, pocketed $65,000 a month. According to the Washington Post, “over the course of 14 months, the Chinese energy conglomerate and its executives paid $4.8 million to entities controlled by Hunter Biden and his uncle.”
Then in November 2017, Ho, the CEFC vice-chairman and secretary-general, transferred to one of Hunter Biden’s entities $1 million, ostensibly for “representation.” Hunter, however, seemed to have no role in defending Ho, who was charged that month for crimes related to alleged bribes to officials in Chad and Uganda and attempting to arrange for CEFC to serve as a middleman with Iran to avoid sanctions. Following his arrest, Ho also called James Biden, although James believed the call was likely meant for Hunter.
In 2018, when the article that prompted Joe Biden’s messages hit, the millions in payments from CEFC to business ventures controlled by Hunter Biden were not known. Thus, at the time, the Times merely reported, “it is unclear whether Hunter Biden struck any business deals with CEFC or Mr. Ye.” Since then, the public has learned both of the multi-million-dollar connection between Hunter and CEFC and of a video showing Hunter calling Ho “the f-cking spy chief of China who started the company that my partner [Jianming], who is worth $323 billion, founded and is now missing.”
Also unknown when the Times ran its December 2018 story was that Hunter Biden was himself purportedly under investigation for his business dealings with CEFC. A month after the 2020 election, however, CNN reported that federal prosecutors in Delaware were investigating Hunter Biden’s business dealings, specifically his dealings in China and with CEFC. Significantly, in its report, CNN claimed that two people briefed on the Hunter Biden investigation claimed it “began as early as 2018.”
That Joe Biden told his son “I think you’re clear” in relation to reporting discussing Hunter’s connection with CEFC, and that this assurance came just one week after Ho’s conviction while Hunter Biden was reportedly under investigation for his business dealings with Ye and Ho, raises the question of whether Joe Biden had any inside information concerning the investigation of his son.
A related question concerns the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wiretapping of Ho. According to The Daily Mail article that broke news of Joe Biden’s voicemail message, the outlet had obtained a copy of a FISA surveillance order that “revealed that federal agents were monitoring Ho as a potential spy for China.” That surveillance likely continued, at a minimum, until Ho’s arrest in late 2017, meaning that the FISA surveillance likely swept up some communications with or about Hunter Biden.
Even if not, the evidence continues to mount against the Biden family, leaving two fundamental questions: What is taking the Delaware U.S. attorney so long? And why hasn’t a special counsel been appointed yet?
Margot Cleveland is The Federalist’s senior legal correspondent. She is also a contributor to National Review Online, the Washington Examiner, Aleteia, and Townhall.com, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Cleveland is a lawyer and a graduate of the Notre Dame Law School, where she earned the Hoynes Prize—the law school’s highest honor. She later served for nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk for a federal appellate judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cleveland is a former full-time university faculty member and now teaches as an adjunct from time to time. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of a young son with cystic fibrosis, Cleveland frequently writes on cultural issues related to parenting and special-needs children. Cleveland is on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.