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Twitter did not violate election laws when it throttled Hunter Biden article, FEC rules


Story by Jessica Guynn

Story   Source

Published on September 14, 2021 8:59 AM
 
 
Trump, who was banned from the major social media platforms after the Jan. 6 insurrection, escalated his war with Big Tech in July when he filed suit against Facebook, Google and Twitter and their CEOs, claiming the companies violated his First Amendment rights. Dozens of states are considering legislation to restrict how social media platforms regulate people's speech, though few have gotten this far.
 
Twitter did not violate election laws when it limited the spread of a New York Post article about then Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's son Hunter shortly before the election, the Federal Election Commission has determined.

In a ruling expected shortly, the FEC rebuffed GOP accusations that Twitter suppressed the article to tip the election to Biden, finding instead that Twitter did so for business reasons, according to a published report in the New York Times.

The decision by Facebook and Twitter to throttle the spread of the article about Hunter Biden's business dealings last October fueled the ire of former President Donald Trump and top conservatives.

The Republican National Committee claimed Twitter was in cahoots with the Biden presidential campaign and that the company's actions were an illegal "in-kind" contribution.

The FEC said Twitter "credibly explained" why it blocked the New York Post article, the New York Times reported.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Emma Vaughn told the newspaper that the committee was weighing its options to appeal "this disappointing decision."

The FEC declined to comment. Once an enforcement matter is resolved, the FEC has up to 30 days to post the related documents on its website.

Twitter also declined to comment.

Twitter quickly reversed its decision on the Hunter Biden article. CEO Jack Dorsey said the company made a mistake in blocking its distribution and ...

Background on Hunter Biden

Robert Hunter Biden is an American lawyer and painter who is the second son of U.S. President Joe Biden and his first wife Neilia Hunter Biden. Biden is also a hedge fund, venture capital, and private-equity fund investor who formerly worked as a lobbyist, banker, public administration official, and registered lobbyist-firm attorney.

Biden served on the board of Burisma Holdings, one of the largest private natural gas producers in Ukraine, from 2014 until his term expired in April 2019. Since the early months of 2019, Biden and his father have been the subjects of unevidenced claims of corrupt activities in a Biden–Ukraine conspiracy theory pushed by then-U.S. President Donald Trump and his allies, concerning Hunter Biden's business dealings in Ukraine and Joe Biden's anti-corruption efforts there on behalf of the United States during the time he was vice president.

Biden currently works as a painting artist. In April 2021, Biden published a memoir discussing his struggles with addiction, titled Beautiful Things.

Biden was born on February 4, 1970, in Wilmington, Delaware. He is the second son of Neilia Biden and Joe Biden. Hunter Biden's mother and younger sister Naomi were killed in an automobile crash on December 18, 1972. Biden and his older brother Beau were also seriously injured but survived. Beau sustained multiple broken bones while Hunter sustained injuries to his skull. Both spent several months in the hospital, where their father was sworn into the U.S. Senate in January 1973. Hunter and Beau later encouraged their father to marry again and Jill Jacobs became their stepmother in 1977. Biden's half-sister Ashley was born in 1981.

Like his father and brother, Biden attended Catholic high school Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Georgetown University in 1992. During the year after he graduated from college, he served as a Jesuit volunteer at a church in Portland, Oregon, and met Kathleen Buhle, whom he married in 1993. After attending Georgetown University Law Center for one year, he transferred to Yale Law School and graduated in 1996.

Early career After graduating from law school in 1996, Biden accepted a position at the bank holding company MBNA, a major contributor to his father's political campaigns. By 1998, Biden had risen to the rank of executive vice president. He then left to serve at the United States Department of Commerce until 2001, focusing on ecommerce policy for President Bill Clinton's administration. Biden then became a lobbyist, co-founding the firm of Oldaker, Biden & Belair. According to Adam Entous of The New Yorker, Biden and his father established a relationship in which 'Biden wouldn't ask Hunter about his lobbying clients, and Hunter wouldn't tell his father about them.'

Hunter Biden was appointed to a five-year term on the board of directors of Amtrak by President George W. Bush in 2006. Biden was the board's vice chairman from July 2006 until 2009; he resigned in January 2009, shortly after his father became vice president. Biden said during his father's vice-presidential campaign that it was time for his lobbying activities to end.

Biden is a capital investments professional with an interest in funding early-stage natural resource extraction and technology companies. In 2006, Biden and his uncle James Biden purchased international hedge fund Paradigm Global Advisors; Hunter was interim CEO of the fund for five years, until 2011. In September 2008, Biden launched a consultancy company named Seneca Global Advisors that offered to help companies expand into foreign markets. Biden, Devon Archer, and Christopher Heinz founded the investment and advisory firm Rosemont Seneca Partners in 2009. He also co-founded venture capital firm Eudora Global. He held the position of counsel in the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP in 2014. Biden was on the board of directors of World Food Program USA, a 501 charity based in Washington, D.C. that supports the work of the UN World Food Programme from 2011 to 2017; he served as board chairman from 2011 to 2015.

In December 2020, Biden made a public announcement via his attorney that his tax affairs are under federal criminal investigation. The New York Times and CNN, citing sources familiar with the investigation, described the investigation as having started in late 2018 and being related to potential violations of tax and money laundering laws and his business dealings in foreign countries, principally China. The Wall Street Journal reported that Biden had provided legal and consulting services that generated foreign-earned income, citing a Senate Republicans' report that says millions of dollars in wire transfers from entities linked to Chinese energy tycoon Ye Jianming were paying for such services. The New York Times reported that according to people familiar with the inquiry, FBI investigators had been unable to establish sufficient evidence for a prosecution of potential money laundering crimes, including after the seizure of a laptop purportedly belonging to Biden, and so the investigation progressed onto tax issues. BHR Partners Main article: BHR Partners From 2013 to 2020, Biden served as a member of the board of the China-based private equity fund BHR Partners, of which he acquired a 10% stake in 2017 at a discount. The founders of BHR Partners included Biden's Rosemont Seneca Partners investment firm , along with US-based Thornton Group LLC and two asset managers registered in China. The Chinese-registered asset managers are the Bank of China and Deutsche Bank-backed Harvest Fund Management. The BHR Partners fund invests Chinese venture capital into tech startups like an early-stage investment in Chinese car hailing app DiDi and cross-border acquisitions, in automotive and mining, such as the purchase of a stake in Democratic Republic of Congo copper and cobalt producer Tenke Fungurume Mining.

In September 2019, while President Trump was accusing Hunter Biden of malfeasance in Ukraine, he also falsely claimed that Biden 'walk out of China with $1.5 billion in a fund' and earned 'millions' of dollars from the BHR deal. Trump publicly called upon China to investigate Hunter Biden's business activities there while his father was vice president. Hunter Biden announced on October 13, 2019 his resignation from the board of directors for BHR Partners, effective at the end of the month, citing 'the barrage of false charges' by then-U.S. President Trump. According to his lawyer, Biden had 'not received any compensation for being on BHR's board of directors' nor had he received any return on his equity share in BHR. Biden's lawyer George Mesires told The Washington Post that BHR Partners had been 'capitalized from various sources with a total of 30 million RMB , or about $4.2 million, not $1.5 billion'.

Burisma Holdings See also: Biden–Ukraine conspiracy theory and Trump–Ukraine scandal Biden joined the board of Burisma Holdings owned by Ukrainian oligarch and former politician Mykola Zlochevsky, who was facing a money laundering investigation just after the Ukrainian revolution, in April 2014. Biden was hired to help Burisma with corporate governance best practices, while still an attorney with Boies Schiller Flexner, and a consulting firm in which Biden is a partner was also retained by Burisma. Christopher Heinz, John Kerry's stepson, opposed his partners Devon Archer and Hunter Biden joining the board in 2014 due to the reputational risk. Biden served on the board of Burisma until his term expired in April 2019, receiving compensation of up to $50,000 per month in some months.

Because Joe Biden played a major role in U.S. policy towards Ukraine, some Ukrainian anti-corruption advocates and Obama administration officials expressed concern that Hunter Biden having joined the board could create the appearance of a conflict of interest and undermine Joe Biden's anti-corruption work in Ukraine. While serving as vice president, Joe Biden joined other Western leaders in encouraging the government of Ukraine to fire the country's top prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who was widely criticized for blocking corruption investigations. The Ukrainian parliament voted to remove Shokin in March 2016.

Former President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed in 2019, without evidence, that Joe Biden had sought the dismissal of Shokin in order to protect his son and Burisma Holdings. Actually, it was the official policy of the United States and the European Union to seek Shokin's removal. There has also been no evidence produced of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden in Ukraine. The Ukrainian anti-corruption investigation agency stated in September 2019 that its current investigation of Burisma was restricted solely to investigating the period from 2010 to 2012, before Hunter Biden joined Burisma in 2014. Shokin, in May 2019, claimed that he was fired because he had been actively investigating Burisma, but U.S. and Ukrainian officials have stated that the investigation into Burisma was dormant at the time of Shokin's dismissal. Ukrainian and United States State Department sources note that Shokin was fired for failing to address corruption, including within his office.

In July 2019, Trump ordered the freezing of $391 million in military aid shortly before a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump asked Zelensky to initiate an investigation of the Bidens. Trump falsely told Zelensky that ' Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution' of his son; Joe Biden did not stop any prosecution, did not brag about doing so, and there is no evidence his son was ever under investigation. The United States House of Representatives initiated a formal impeachment inquiry on September 24, 2019 against Trump on the grounds that he may have sought to use U.S. foreign aid and the Ukrainian government to damage Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign. Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko said in May 2019 that Hunter Biden had not violated Ukrainian law. After Lutsenko was replaced by Ruslan Riaboshapka as prosecutor general, Lutsenko and Riaboshapka said in September and October 2019 respectively that they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden.

During 2019 and into 2020, Republican senators Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley investigated Hunter Biden's involvement with Burisma, as well as allegations that Democrats colluded with the Ukrainian government to interfere in the 2016 election. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Republican senator Richard Burr privately expressed concerns to the senators that their inquiries could assist efforts by Russian intelligence to spread disinformation to disrupt American domestic affairs. American intelligence officials briefed senators in late 2019 about Russian efforts to frame Ukraine for 2016 election interference. Johnson said he would release findings in spring 2020, as Democrats would be selecting their 2020 presidential nominee, but instead ramped up the investigation at Trump's urging in May 2020, after it became clear that Joe Biden would be the nominee. Trump tweeted a press report about the investigations, later stating that he would make allegations of corruption by the Bidens a central theme of his re-election campaign.

Johnson decided in March 2020 against issuing a subpoena for former Ukrainian official Andrii Telizhenko, a Giuliani associate who had made appearances on the pro-Trump cable channel One America News, after the FBI briefed him about concerns Telizhenko could be spreading Russian disinformation. The State Department revoked Telizhenko's visa in October 2020, and CNN reported the American government was considering sanctioning him as a Russian agent. CNN reported that Vladislav Davidzon, the editor of Ukrainian magazine The Odessa Review, told CNN that in 2018 Telizhenko offered him money to lobby Republican senators in support of pro-Russian television stations in Ukraine. When Johnson released the final report on the investigation, it contained no evidence that Joe Biden had pushed for Shokin's removal in order to benefit Hunter or Burisma.

In June 2020, former Ukrainian prosecutor general Ruslan Riaboshapka stated that an audit of thousands of old case files he had ordered in October 2019 had found no wrongdoing by Hunter Biden. Riaboshapka was described by Zelensky as '100 percent my person' during the July 2019 call in which Trump asked him to investigate Biden.

Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, an associate of Rudy Giuliani with links to Russian intelligence, released in May 2020 alleged snippets of recordings of Joe Biden speaking with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko during the years Hunter Biden worked for Burisma. The recordings, which were not verified as authentic and appeared heavily edited, depicted Biden linking loan guarantees for Ukraine to the ouster of the country's prosecutor general. The recordings did not provide evidence to support the ongoing conspiracy theory that Biden wanted the prosecutor fired to protect his son. Poroshenko denied in June 2020 that Joe Biden ever approached him about Burisma.

The United States Department of the Treasury sanctioned Derkach in September 2020, stating he 'has been an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services'. The Treasury Department added Derkach 'waged a covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election' including by the release of 'edited audio tapes and other unsupported information with the intent to discredit U.S. officials'.

Close associates of Derkach were also sanctioned by the Treasury Department in January 2021. United States intelligence community analysis released in March 2021 found that Derkach was among proxies of Russian intelligence who promoted and laundered misleading or unsubstantiated narratives about Biden 'to US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, including some close to former President Trump and his administration'.

Two Republicans on a Senate investigation committee in 2020 claimed that Russian businessperson Yelena Baturina, the wife of former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, wire-transferred $3.5 million in 2014 to an investment firm linked to Hunter Biden. The report cited unspecified confidential documents. The report gives no indication that Hunter Biden personally accepted the funds. Biden's attorney denied the report, saying Biden had no financial relationship with the woman and no stake in the partnership that received the money, nor did he co-found the partnership. However, Trump's White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah repeated the claim, and in a press conference President Trump repeatedly claimed that Biden received millions of dollars from the former mayor's wife.

Naval career Biden's application for a position in the U.S. Navy Reserve was approved in May 2013. At age 43, Biden was accepted as part of a program that allows a limited number of applicants with desirable skills to receive commissions and serve in staff positions. Biden received an age-related waiver and a waiver due to a past drug-related incident; he was sworn in as a direct commission officer. Joe Biden administered his commissioning oath in a White House ceremony.

The following month, Biden tested positive for cocaine during a urinalysis test and was subsequently discharged administratively. Biden attributed the result to smoking cigarettes he had accepted from other smokers, claiming the cigarettes were laced with cocaine. He chose not to appeal the matter as it was unlikely that the panel would believe his explanation given his history with drugs and also due to the likelihood of news leaking to the press; it was ultimately revealed to The Wall Street Journal by a Navy official who provided the information.

Personal life
Biden with family at his brother Beau's funeral in June 2015 Biden married Kathleen Buhle in 1993 and they have three daughters: Naomi, Finnegan, and Maisy. The couple separated in 2015 and divorced in 2017. Biden began dating Hallie Biden, widow of his brother Beau, in 2016; the relationship ended by 2019.

Biden is also the father of a child born to Lunden Alexis Roberts in Arkansas in August 2018. Roberts filed a paternity suit in May 2019, which was settled in March 2020.

Biden married South African filmmaker Melissa Cohen in May 2019. Their son Beau was born in March 2020 in Los Angeles.

Biden spent decades struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. He said, 'There's addiction in every family. I was in that darkness. I was in that tunnel—it's a never-ending tunnel. You don't get rid of it. You figure out how to deal with it'.

Creative works Biden currently works as a full-time artist. In February 2020, The New York Times reported that Biden, with no formal art training, had been painting as an 'undiscovered artist' in his Hollywood Hills home. The report also displayed some of his paintings including 'Untitled 4 ' and 'Untitled 3 '. Biden's art dealer, Georges Bergès, plans to host a private viewing for Biden in Los Angeles in Fall 2021, followed by an exhibition in New York. In July 2021, The Wall Street Journal editorial board said that Biden was preparing for an art exhibition later in the year where his paintings could be sold at prices from US$75,000 up to US$500,000. The editorial also discussed potential ethical issues regarding the art sales.

Biden released a memoir discussing his addiction struggles titled Beautiful Things on April 6, 2021. In The New York Times, reviewer Elisabeth Egan described the book as 'equal parts family saga, grief narrative and addict's howl'.

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