White House defends plans for Hunter Biden art sale

The White House on Friday defended the sales arrangement put in place to guard against potential conflicts of interest involving the art career of President Biden’s oldest son, Hunter.

“After careful consideration, a system has been established to allow Hunter Biden to work in his profession within reasonable safeguards,” press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing with reporters. “Of course he has the right to pursue an artistic career, just like any child of a president has the right to pursue a career.”

Psaki said a professional gallery owner will set prices on Biden’s artwork and handle all transactions. Any offer above the sales price or deemed suspect will be rejected as part of the arrangement, she said. 

“I think it would be challenging for an anonymous person who we don’t know and Hunter Biden doesn’t know to have influence. So that’s a protection,” she said when asked whether a private gallery owner might be unfamiliar with individuals seeking to buy Biden’s artwork to curry favor with the administration.

The gallery handling Biden’s art told CBS News on Friday that the paintings could fetch between $75,000 and $500,000 each.

The Washington Post first reported on Thursday details of the arrangement surrounding Biden’s art, with a sale expected to take place this fall.

The arrangement is intended to prevent buyers from purchasing pieces to gain access or favor with the White House, but it represents the latest ethical headache for the president involving the work of his son, and ethics experts warned that the plan could backfire.

“The idea’s that even Hunter won’t know, but the WH has outsourced government ethics to a private art dealer,” tweeted Walter Shaub, who led the Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to 2017. “We’re supposed to trust a merchant in an industry that’s fertile ground for money laundering, as well as unknown buyers who could tell Hunter or WH officials? No thanks.”

Republicans are likely to hold up the Post report on Hunter Biden’s artwork as another example of the president’s son using the family name for personal profit.

A number of Republican lawmakers have already pushed for an investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings, and his work for the Ukrainian gas company Burisma when his father was vice president was at the center of Trump’s first impeachment.

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