Two previously unpublished emails sent by business contacts of Hunter Biden indicate that the president’s son requested an annual retainer of $2 million to help recover billions in Libyan assets frozen by the Obama administration.
The emails, obtained by Insider during reporting on an unrelated matter, are not connected to the controversial emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop, which his supporters have claimed were distributed as part of a disinformation campaign. And while it appears from the new emails that the Libya deal was never consummated, the documents offer a window into the mechanics of Beltway influence peddling, and the stock that was put in Biden’s political connections — particularly his relationship with his father, who was vice president at the time.
The first email, dated January 28, 2015, was sent from Sam Jauhari, a Democratic donor with businesses in the Persian Gulf, who was helping spearhead the Libya project. It was addressed to Sheikh Mohammed al-Rahbani, another Obama campaign donor involved in the proposal. In the email, Jauhari is frank about what Biden would bring to the table, and what he says Biden wanted in return:
Per phone conversation I met with #2 son. He wants $2 per year retainer +++ success fees. He wants to hire his own people – it can be close circle of people for confidentiality. His dad is deciding to run or not.
His positives are he is Chairman of UN World Food Program, son of #2 who has Libya file, access to State, Treasury, business partner SofS [Secretary of State] J. [John] Forbes K [Kerry] son and since he travels with dad he is connected everywhere in Europe and Asia where M. Q. [Muammar Qaddafi] and LIA [Libya Investment Authority] had money frozen. He said he has access to highest level in PRC [China], he can help there.
His negatives are that he is alcoholic, drug addict – kicked [out] of U.S. Army for cocaine, chasing low class hookers, constantly needs money-liquidity problems and many more headaches.
We should meet in Gstraad or London to decide next steps.
At least one aspect of Jauhari’s assessment of Biden is erroneous: Biden was discharged from the Navy Reserve, not the Army, and it was never confirmed that Biden’s positive test for cocaine was the reason. But the tally of his “positives” reflects a keen sense of what he could offer the project. Biden’s position at the United Nations meant he enjoyed face-to-face access to heads of state. In his memoir, Biden recalls a sit-down with King Abdullah II of Jordan. “The only reason the king had agreed to meet,” he wrote, “was out of respect for my dad. I guess you could chalk it up to nepotism, in the best possible way.”
Biden’s apparent offer to provide “access to the highest level” in the Chinese government is also telling. China, which was attempting to strengthen its position in Africa, had been a particular source of frustration for Libya’s new government, which was struggling to free up $15 billion in foreign assets that had been frozen by Obama during the Qaddafi regime. In 2013, according to The New Yorker, Hunter Biden had traveled with his father on an official visit to Beijing, where he had arranged for the vice president to briefly meet one of his business partners in the lobby of the American delegation’s hotel.
Such access may, in fact, have been worth the price that Biden was cited as quoting. Two people close to the negotiations told Insider that the “$2 per year retainer” mentioned in the email meant $2 million. “My recollection was that anything that had to do with Hunter started at $2 million,” said one. Jauhari and his partners, according to other documents obtained by Insider, expected to pocket as much as 5% of whatever sanctioned money they could free up for Libya. That meant a possible payday in the hundreds of millions. It’s unclear whether any “success fees” for Biden would have been pegged in some way to those proceeds.
The second email, dated February 26, 2016, indicates that the talks with Biden continued into the following year. In it, Jauhari and al-Rahbani receive a report by John Sandweg, a Washington lawyer who had served as acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under Obama. Sandweg had reached out to Biden’s team about the Libya deal:
I spoke with HB’s team yesterday. They are interested in the project, but emphasized that for them to get involved, the team (lobbyists, lawyers and PR) would need to be a small group of folks they have a tight relationship with. They do not want a large group involved and they only want people with whom they have a close relationship with due to the sensitivities surrounding their involvement.
Sandweg, who at the time was working at a law firm called Frontier Solutions, confirmed that he was in touch with one of Biden’s associates about the project. “They indicated they would consider it and I passed the message back,” he told Insider. “Jauhari wound up hiring a different law firm instead.”
Neither Jauhari nor an attorney for Hunter Biden responded to Insider’s requests for comment. The White House declined to provide a statement. Martin Auerbach, an attorney for al-Rahbani, said his client “has no recollection of seeing those emails contemporaneously” and “knows to a certainty that he never spoke to and has no recollection of talking about Hunter Biden.”
In the past, both Joe and Hunter Biden have repeatedly said they never discussed the younger Biden’s clients, and there is no evidence that Hunter Biden ever used his relationship with his father to deliver anything of substance for his clients. But what the emails do offer is a glimpse into the way influence peddling works in Washington. Both Jauhari and al-Rahbani were mid-tier political donors who had paid handsomely to attend Obama-Biden campaign events, where Jauhari posed for photographs with both Obama and Biden. Even if Hunter Biden couldn’t provide them with direct access to his father, they understood his name could help win the backing of influential officials and investors. When it comes to opening doors in Washington, the illusion of access can be as valuable as hard currency.
The emails are also striking for what they reveal about the dual mindset of Beltway insiders who take part in such deals. Both Jauhari and Sandweg discuss Biden’s potential involvement in the Libya project as a straightforward business proposal. At the same time, they make reference to “confidentiality” and “sensitivities,” demonstrating an awareness that Biden’s involvement could complicate his father’s potential run for the White House. There is no mention of ethics, only optics.
As for the emails derived from Hunter Biden’s laptop, some of which deal with his well-compensated efforts as a board member of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, neither the Biden family nor the White House has come forward to challenge their authenticity. “The Bidens,” a new book released on Tuesday, confirms that at least some of them are genuine.