Take it from the New York Times and Washington Post: nothing to see here, move along. Definitely not a bribe.
Emails recovered from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop reveal that while Joe Biden was vice president, a trust for his grandchildren – the children of his late son Beau Biden – received a hundred thousand dollars from a foundation controlled by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was a lawyer for 3 corrupt foreign businessmen, later convicted and imprisoned.
In the emails it is revealed that Freeh actually met with the sitting VP in 2016 "to explore with him some future work options," in addition to courting his son Hunter for collaboration.
Both the New York Post and the UK Daily Mail have published excerpts from the letters, though as of this writing, neither the Washington Post nor New York Times appear to have found the gift and emails worth mentioning.
The UKDM writes:
The 71-year-old, who served as FBI director under Bill Clinton and George Bush, ran a consultancy firm with highly controversial clients including a now-jailed Malaysian prime minister who stole billions of dollars from his country, a Romanian real estate tycoon convicted of bribery, and a French-Israeli diamond magnate later convicted of bribery and a $145 million property graft.
Freeh, a former judge, emailed Joe's son Hunter Biden in 2016, revealing he had spoken with the Vice President and proposed that they work together on private ventures once Biden left office.
In July that year, in an email marked 'confidential and privileged', Freeh wrote to Hunter that he 'would be delighted to do future work with you.'
'I also spoke to Dad a few weeks ago and would like to explore with him some future work options,' Freeh said. 'I believe that working together on these (and other legal) matters would be of value, fun and rewarding.'
Freeh brought up the idea again a month later – and mentioned that he was working for the then-Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, who was in the midst of a scandal over one of the world's biggest financial frauds, and was later sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2020.
'I would like to talk with you and Dad about working together next year,' Freeh wrote to Hunter.
One letter seems to indicate that’s the gift was to be refunded and re-donated so as to be able to qualify for tax-deductible status – meaning taxpayers subsidize the gift that weas made in the context of seeking business arrangements, as the NYP summarizes:
“As you know, our family foundation made a $100K contribution to Hallie’s children’s trust last year,” Freeh wrote on April 24, 2017.
But Freeh said that his accountants “now advise that since the grant did not go to a 501(c) organization, it was not a proper foundation gift” and that he planned to fix the situation by making “a new $100k gift” and having the trust “reimburse the foundation by paying it $100k.”
Clarice Feldman advises me that she can find nothing in the federal government’s policies regarding gifts to its employees that would require disclosure of a gift to grandchildren. Public Citizen’s review of rules for gifts to the president and vice president indicates in point ten:
Gifts to the President and Vice President. Both offices may accept any gift on his own behalf or on behalf of any family member, provided that such acceptance does not violate conflict of interest or anti-bribery laws, or the Constitution of the United States.
Was there any conflict of interest or bribery? I would guess that a quid pro quo would have to be proven to make a charge of bribery stick. AS for conflict of interest, again, I can’t see any specifics that would be involved.
What about gift taxes? Anything over $14,000 a year is subject to federal gift taxes. But did this gift qualify for tax exempt status after it was re-gifted? If not, the gift could have been structured to pay out $14,000 per year and avoid those taxes.
It appears that the relationship that was cemented with this six figure gift flourished, at least to the extent that Freeh joined the board of directors of the Beau Biden Foundation.
The entire situation reminds me of the old saying about DC that the problem about what’s going on is not so much what’s illegal, as what is perfectly legal.