White House press secretary Jen Psaki was questioned on Wednesday about the ethics behind an appearance of a nominee to an ambassadorship who attended an art show held by presidential son Hunter Biden in Los Angeles last week.
The art exhibit featured Hunter Biden rubbing shoulders and hobnobbing with celebrities and political leaders including L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has been nominated by President Biden to become the U.S. ambassador to India, according to Mother Jones. Garcetti was also a national co-chair of Biden’s 2020 campaign.
When asked about it, Psaki initially responded, “We’ve spoken to the arrangement that is run by the gallerist and Hunter Biden’s representatives that the White House provided suggestions for.
She then referred the report to the “gallerist for questions about the event as well as the representatives of Mr. Garcetti in terms of his attendance.”
The reporter followed up with the statement that “this is exactly what ethicists said they were worried about” when it came to concerns that the sale of Hunter Biden’s artwork at inflated prices would be purchased by people seeking to influence his presidential father.
To that point, according to Mother Jones, Hunter Biden’s gallerist, George Bergès, “is looking to fetch between $75,000 and $500,000 apiece for Biden’s paintings.”
“And this has raised ethical issues the White House has not fully addressed. After all, what is the potential for influence-buying when a person can hand the president’s son hundreds of thousands of dollars for artwork that would carry a much lower price tag if the artist did not share DNA with the chief executive?” Mother Jones’ David Corn wrote.
While Bergès has claimed that the president’s son won’t be told who bought his paintings and for what price, though Corn said that “the safeguards in this arrangement are paint-thinner thin, and government ethics experts have howled.
“Coincidentally or not, the art market is notorious for facilitating under-the-table transactions, the hiding of assets, and money-laundering,” added.
But Psaki appeared to dismiss the association when she was pressed about the appearance of Garcetti at the exhibit.
“What is, specifically,” she asked, adding “that [Garcetti] reportedly attended an event?”
“If you have attendees at that event who might be seeking either jobs in this administration or favors from this administration, isn’t it an awkward situation to put the president in?” the reporter explained in follow-up.
“We’ve spoken to the specifics to what the gallerist has agreed to and what recommendations were made,” Psaki responded. “I’ve done that several times. I don’t have additional details for it from here.”
After another reporter asked if Hunter Biden being pictured “alongside prospective buyers” is a problem for the White House, Psaki again referred them to the “gallerist,” leading the reporter to remark that the president ran on “being transparent.”
“And we were very transparent about what recommendations were made to the gallerist,” the press secretary said, once more referring the reporter to the gallerist “or the many times I’ve spoken about that from here.”
Concerns about Hunter Biden’s influence-peddling have come up often during his father’s career, most recently in a Senate report last year concluding, in part, that his position with Ukrainian energy firm Burisma while his father was vice president “negatively impacted the efforts of dedicated career service individuals who were fighting to push for anticorruption measures in Ukraine.”
Hunter Biden also introduced his then-VP father to a Burisma executive less than a year before the elder Biden pressed Ukrainian officials to fire a prosecutor who had been investigating the company.
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