Vice President Joe Biden's aides were worried about "the optics" of his son, Hunter, working for a Ukrainian energy company in 2014, but they refused to raise the issue so as to not risk "a scolding" from the elder Biden, according to a report by The New York Times.
The aides "enlisted State Department officials to gather facts to determine how to handle the story" of Hunter Biden's work on the board of Burisma Holdings, to which he was appointed that year, the Times reported Sunday.
"Hunter Biden's activities struck many of the officials working on Ukraine policy as an unnecessary distraction, or worse," according to the Times.
But "few, if any, had raised the issue with Mr. Biden directly when it first arose."
That was because Biden had "reacted angrily" when aides to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, Ill., "raised the issue of his son's lobbying during the 2008 campaign."
However, one person who "briefly discussed the matter" with the vice president told the Times that he was "anguished by his son's personal problems and unsure how to help him recover."
News of Hunter Biden's work broke shortly after his appointment in 2014 — and that is when the vice president first learned of it, the younger Biden told The New Yorker this past July.
"I hope you know what you are doing," was what Hunter Biden told the magazine his father said to him in 2014.
But the Times said that one State Department official, Amos Hochstein, former coordinator for international energy affairs, confronted Biden directly after he unsuccessfully tried to get "several" aides "to broach the subject with him in 2014."
The report cited "three Obama administration officials with knowledge" of Hochstein's actions, saying that "it is not clear" how the vice president responded.
Hochstein, whom the Times interviewed, "did not disclose details of their interaction."
However, "former administration officials involved in the response to the story, speaking on the condition of anonymity," said that the primary reason they did not approach Biden about Hunter's activities was "the vice president's shaky emotional state" regarding the illness and death of his oldest son, Beau, from cancer in 2015.
During his closed-door testimony before House investigators last month, George Kent, now deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, told investigators that he raised concerns about Hunter's activities in 2015.
But Kent testified that a White House official told him that, because of Beau Biden's death, the vice president lacked the "further bandwidth to deal with family-related issues at that time."
Biden's campaign aides slammed the Times in the report, saying that it fueled President Donald Trump's attacks on the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
"Let's not forget that this was covered on A22 of the Times in 2015," said Kate Bedingfield, the Biden campaign's communications director, "because it did not fall outside the White House's ethical guidelines and was simply not a major story.
"What's different now?" she asked. "It's that Donald Trump is aggressively lying about it every day in the hopes that it winds up on the front page."
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