At the same time that Department of Justice officials were using spying and corruption statutes to aggressively pursue Donald Trump’s allies based on what turned out to be rumor and innuendo, they declined to use those same laws to investigate evidence of wrongdoing involving Biden family members and one of their corrupt Chinese business partners, DOJ documents and federal court records reveal.
In 2016-2017, the evidence shows, the FBI raided the offices and intercepted the communications of Chi Ping “Patrick” Ho, a Chinese national suspected of espionage even as he was negotiating business deals with former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and brother James.
DOJ later used information obtained from the searches and wiretaps – which included conversations with the current President’s son and brother – to convict Ho of bribery and money laundering, as part of a separate corruption case involving United Nations officials. But it declined to tap into its trove of evidence – including “over 100,000 emails” – to explore the connections between Ho and the Bidens, who received millions of dollars from Ho and a Chinese intelligence front and discussed sharing office space.
At Ho’s 2018 trial, prosecutors hid Hunter’s connection to Ho, redacting his name from court exhibits (see sidebar) while describing Ho as “the person who flies around the world paying bribes to advance the interest of the oil company [CEFC China Energy],” according to hearing transcripts.
A federal database shows the Bidens failed to register as foreign agents while engaged in activities on behalf of CEFC, a state-owned entity suspected of being a front for Chinese intelligence. Federal anti-spying laws require anyone acting as a lobbyist for a foreign power to register with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The DOJ did not prosecute either Biden family member for potential violations of FARA for representing the interests of the Chinese.
This stands in stark contrast to the DOJ’s aggressive pursuit of alleged FARA violations involving no fewer than six Trump campaign officials. In August of 2016, shortly after receiving a tip that a low-level Trump campaign volunteer, George Papadopoulos, had allegedly been told that the Russians might have dirt on Hillary Clinton, the bureau opened FARA investigations into Papadopoulos and three other Trump associates with no clear ties to Papadopoulos: national security adviser Michael Flynn; campaign manager Paul Manafort; and campaign adviser Carter Page. The FBI subsequently investigated Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates; and Trump’s Mideast adviser Walid Phares under the same statute.
As RCI has previously reported, the FBI used FARA as the basis for a wide-ranging probe that included tailing them, staking out their homes, digging through their trash, and using confidential sources to secretly record them. Only one of the six was convicted for FARA-related violations, and none was charged with any espionage or conspiracy crimes involving Russia.
“It’s 100% a double standard, and it’s absolutely corrupt to the core,” former assistant FBI director Chris Swecker told RCI. “And meanwhile, [current FBI Director] Chris Wray fiddles.”
Other veterans of the bureau say the Obama and Biden administrations have politicized and weaponized FARA.
“Starting in 2016, the Obama-Biden administration used FARA and the criminal justice system as tools to attack and eliminate the opposition,” said 27-year FBI veteran Michael Biasello, adding that many of the same officials are “back in charge and making sure those tools won’t be turned onthemselves.”
An FBI spokeswoman said the agency had no comment on why it did not apply the foreign lobbying law equally. The Justice Department did not return requests for comment.