April 22, 2022 Steven Nelson
WASHINGTON — The US Secret Service has dubiously claimed to The Post that it has “no records” of visitors to President Biden’s two Delaware residences and therefore cannot divulge that information in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Biden was at his residences in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach on about one-quarter of all days during his first year in office, but little is known about who stopped by for official meetings or less formal lobbying efforts — such as by members of his family and their associates.
The Post sought more than one year of visitor log records, including for Biden’s first year in office, but Secret Service Freedom of Information Act officer Kevin Tyrrell wrote in a response dated Monday that “[t]he Secret Service FOIA Office searched all Program Offices that were likely to contain potentially responsive records, and no records were located.”
First son Hunter Biden is under criminal investigation for possible tax fraud and unregistered foreign lobbying after routinely seeking business in countries where his father held sway as vice president. The younger Biden worked on some overseas projects with his uncle Jim Biden.
Documents and photos from a laptop that formerly belonged to Hunter Biden indicate that he introduced his dad to business associates from China, Mexico, Russia and Ukraine — including at the vice president’s residence in Washington.
Biden was at one of his Delaware homes for 99 days during his first year in office, including for official business, such as an Oct. 24 breakfast where Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) lobbied centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to support Biden’s Build Back Better Act social spending plan.
The president sometimes speaks about how his houseguests influence his views on policy. For example, in January, Biden said that a family friend gave him an education about rising prices amid four-decade-high inflation.
“I was sitting in my kitchen yesterday and here’s a sunroom off the kitchen and my wife was there with her sister and a good friend named Mary Ann,” Biden recounted. “And she was saying, ‘Do you realize it’s over $5 for a pound of hamburger meat? $5?’”
Transparency groups have fought for presidential visitor logs with mixed success, incurring notable defeats from federal appeals courts based in Washington and New York.
The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) successfully sued to obtain limited records pertaining to a Japanese delegation visit to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, but the records weren’t detailed.
“While we won access to those records, we never got much, as the Secret Service came out and said they were not vetting the president’s meetings, the Trump Organization was,” said CREW spokesperson Jordan Libowitz.
“I have not seen any reporting that there is a ton of official business and outside meetings being done when Biden goes to his personal residence in Delaware for the weekend, mainly just going to church,” Libowitz added. “If he were meeting with foreign heads of state at his house in Delaware, that would obviously be a different matter, though.”
Tom Fitton, president of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which also has sued for presidential visitor logs, accused the Secret Service of playing a “shell game” — potentially claiming that the Delaware logs belong to the White House rather than the protective agency.
“Obviously the Secret Service knows and tracks who is visiting President Biden at his homes in Delaware and they are playing a shell game with the public to keep that information secret,” Fitton said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last year and again in January that Biden would not voluntarily publish visitor logs from Delaware.
“Well, the president goes to Delaware because it’s his home. It’s also where his son and his former wife are buried. And it’s a place that is obviously close to his heart,” Psaki said at a January press briefing. “A lot of presidents go visit their home when they are president. We also have gone a step further than the prior administration in many administrations in releasing visitor logs of people who visit the White House and will continue to do that.”
Presidents can pick and choose what they reveal through visitor logs thanks to a federal appeals court ruling written by now-Attorney General Merrick Garland in 2013.
Garland wrote for a three-judge DC Circuit panel that the president’s constitutional right to confidential communications means that the Freedom of Information Act doesn’t apply to visitor logs kept by the Secret Service — even though they seem to meet the definition of “agency records” under FOIA.
Judicial Watch had sued the Obama administration for complete White House logs, arguing that they were reviewable under FOIA and that any national security or privacy concerns could be addressed with specific FOIA redactions. In 2009, the Obama administration began releasing some visitor logs as a matter of policy to resolve lawsuits from CREW, but withheld others, leading to accusations of phony transparency.
The Trump White House used Garland’s ruling to scrap the disclosure of logs. Then-White House communications director Michael Dubke said the decision was made in part due to “the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.”
The Biden White House initially applauded itself last year for resuming the partial release of visitor logs, saying in May, “These logs give the public a look into the visitors entering and exiting the White House campus for appointments, tours, and official business — making good on President Biden’s commitment to restore integrity, transparency, and trust in government.”
The links between Joe Biden and his son’s business ventures often are murky.
Then-President Donald Trump’s defense team at his 2020 impeachment trial cited Obama-era visitor logs that indicated then-VP Biden met with his son’s business partner Devon Archer around the time Hunter Biden joined the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, where he earned a reported $1 million per year.
Trump attorney Pam Bondi argued that Trump should not have been impeached for pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens because the elder Biden may have had his own hand in the deal.
Documents and a photo subsequently obtained by The Post indicate that Joe Biden attended a 2015 DC dinner with a group of his son’s associates — including a trio of Kazakhs, the Russian billionaire Yelena Baturina and her husband, ex-Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov. A Senate report released in 2020 said a firm linked to Hunter Biden received $3.5 million from Baturina in 2014.
A photo depicts Joe Biden posing with the Kazakh group at the dinner. One day after the gathering, Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi emailed the then-second son to thank him for the opportunity to meet his father.
Before running for president, Joe Biden allegedly was involved with his son’s dealings with CEFC China Energy, which the Washington Post reported this month paid Hunter Biden and his uncle Jim Biden $4.8 million in 2017 and 2018.
Former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski says that he spoke with Joe Biden in May 2017 about pursuing business in China. A May 13, 2017 email recovered from a laptop that formerly belonged to Hunter indicated that the “big guy” would get a 10% equity stake in a corporate entity established with CEFC. Bobulinski alleges that the president was the “big guy.”
Also in China, Hunter Biden cofounded an investment firm called BHR Partners in 2013 less than two weeks after flying with his father to Beijing aboard Air Force Two. Hunter introduced Joe Biden to BHR CEO Jonathan Li in the lobby of a hotel in China’s capital. The fund is controlled in part by state-owned entities and facilitated the 2016 sale for $3.8 billion of a Congolese cobalt from a US company to the firm China Molybdenum. Cobalt is a key component in electric car batteries.
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 divested a 10% stake in BHR Partners. Hunter Biden and the White House provided no further details.
Photos and emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop 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.”
Since his father became president, Hunter Biden has launched a new art career and is seeking as much as $500,000 from anonymous buyers of his novice works, which experts say is a situation ripe for potential influence-peddling. Hunter received at least $375,000 last year for five prints at a Hollywood art show attended by one of his father’s ambassadorial nominees, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Although the Trump White House did not formally release visitor logs, those records did occasionally leak, revealing that former Trump strategist Steve Bannon hosted child sex offender George Nader 13 times, though Bannon said he was unaware of Nader’s rap sheet. The leak was designed to hurt Bannon, who was said to be returning to Trump’s good graces.