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'New Yorker' Examines Hunter Biden's Business And Personal Struggles

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign is bringing new questions about the past business dealings and personal travails of his eldest son. Hunter Biden's business relationships, his lobbying work and drug use are at the center of a new profile by Adam Entous for The New Yorker magazine. Adam is in our studios this morning.

Thanks for coming in.

ADAM ENTOUS: Great to be here.

MARTIN: So Hunter Biden worked for many years as a lobbyist. What is it, though, specifically about his past business dealings that is now coming into question?

ENTOUS: The issue is when his father is vice president and he's given some opportunities to do some business activities in China and Ukraine while his father is actively involved in overseeing policy in both of those countries. And I think, you know, some of the vice president's senior aides were concerned about the optics, that it would look like his - that Hunter Biden was taking advantage of his last name in order to gain advantage in the business area, and that maybe the people who are offering these opportunities to Hunter were doing so in part because they were looking to curry favor with the United States. And so this was a concern from some of the aides. But you know...

MARTIN: At that time, people raised concern about...

ENTOUS: At that time - although, you know, I have to say they sent mixed messages. When Hunter joined the board of a Ukrainian company called Burisma, the State Department spokesperson went out and publicly said that there were no concerns about a conflict of interest because he was a private citizen. At the same time, some of the aides told me that, behind the scenes, there were concerns.

MARTIN: Did you find any evidence of wrongdoing beyond optics, which are - we shouldn't dismiss that. I mean, optics are important in politics.

ENTOUS: I think, you know, it's the appearance of a conflict of interests that I can point to rather than an actual, real conflict of interest. Some of the accusations that have been flown - thrown about, including that Biden used his personal office somehow to protect his son or to advance him, I see no credible evidence to back that up.

MARTIN: So as you mentioned, I mean, this is some of the narrative now. Right-wing outlets in particular have seized on to Hunter Biden and his past in order to try to discredit his father. Can you talk about what those - who is waging those attacks, what they've looked like?

ENTOUS: Yeah. I mean, so obviously, Fox News, Breitbart have been among those that have taken a close look at some of his business dealings. More so, I think, rather than actually take a close look at the dealings, they're just trying to, I think, kind of weaponize a narrative that the vice president used his office to advance his son's interests. And like I said, I see no evidence to back that up.

MARTIN: They also focus on his personal trauma. And Hunter Biden has had a lot, as has the entire Biden family. But Hunter Biden does have a history of addiction that became more severe after his brother Beau's death in 2015. You write about a specific instance where a crack pipe was actually found in Hunter Biden's rental car. This is a substance that he had admitted to using. Political opponents are focusing on this because no charges were filed. Do we know why not?

ENTOUS: Well, they - I spoke to the people in the area that they had found the car. And they said that they couldn't find any evidence on the pipe - that there were no fingerprints, latent fingerprints, on the pipe that they could link back to Hunter.

What happened before that incident was he was in a deep spiral in Los Angeles, and he goes to a homeless encampment area where he asks a homeless person where he can buy crack. And a homeless person takes him to an area where all these tents are. And he peeks - you go in between the tents, and that's where he buys crack. And during one of the purchases, a person puts a gun to his head because he - they think he maybe is a cop or something and he doesn't really fit in in the area.

MARTIN: Why did he talk to you? What does he want to come out of this?

ENTOUS: You know, it didn't start off with him being very - talking about a lot of these more personal issues. But over time, he became more interested, I think, in talking about that and clearing the air. Maybe the idea here is that as the campaign moves on, there's going to be a series of stories that will come out. And if he can - maybe he thinks he can get ahead of it by having the full narrative out.

MARTIN: Adam Entous of The New Yorker, thank you.

ENTOUS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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