DAILY SIGNAL: Why Special Counsel Should Expand Probe to Penn Biden Center’s China Ties
President Joe Biden has had a difficult time explaining the increasing number of classified documents found at his home and at the Penn Biden Center, a think tank in the nation’s capital established in coordination with the University of Pennsylvania.
The National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group, first flagged the fact that some $60 million in donations from Chinese-connected entities were donated to the University of Pennsylvania for the Penn Biden Center.
The new special counsel named to investigate Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified information, Robert Hur, should expand his investigation to include China’s connections with the Penn Biden Center, National Legal and Policy Center counsel Paul Kamenar told The Daily Signal.
The watchdog group already has provided information to the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, as well as to the newly established House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, Kamenar said. But watchdog groups and the press only can request information under the Freedom of Information Act, and at best litigate if government agencies don’t comply.
Both a special counsel and a congressional committee can compel cooperation.
Kamenar joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the classified documents discovered at the Penn Biden Center and the president’s private home in Delaware; the China connection; where Biden’s son Hunter fits into all of this; and how the Justice Department, the National Archives, and the intelligence community have treated the Biden classified documents case differently than the documents case of former President Donald Trump.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Fred Lucas: I am here with Paul Kamenar. He is the counsel for the National Legal and Policy Center, which was the first watchdog organization to really jump in on the Penn Biden Center. Thanks for joining us, Paul.
Paul Kamenar: Thank you for having me, Fred.
Lucas: You were the first to really expose that the Penn Biden Center had these China ties with the $60 million in donations from China entities. Do you think the stakes are higher now with this classified document investigation being tied back to this organization?
Kamenar: Oh, sure. Absolutely. Yes, the National Legal and Policy Center, we’ve been investigating the Biden Center for the last several years, and in May 2020, we filed a complaint with the Department of Education that the University of Pennsylvania wasn’t fully disclosing the donations they received from China, from entities within China.
And at that time, they were receiving approximately some $63 million, of which $22 million was marked as anonymous. They did list, for the other donations, the name of the entity within China that was giving the money, whether it was a Chinese bank or some other institution there, that all these corporations and entities are connected, of course, to the Chinese Communist Party.
So yeah, we’ve been on that. And then of course, since our complaint filed in 2020, there’s been, I think, another $20 million or so that University of Pennsylvania has received up to July 2022, which was the last date of the reporting period, that university, as well as all universities have to report to the Department of Education money they’re getting from foreign sources.
Lucas: All right. Is this something that you think the special counsel, his role is to investigate the mishandling of classified documents, but is this something that his investigation could expand into?
Kamenar: Well, yeah. It certainly can. He’s charged by [Attorney General] Merrick Garland to investigate the classified documents. As we know, several of them were found at the Biden Center, and there’s a whole issue of how they got there and why [President Joe] Biden hired expensive private attorneys on Nov. 2 to move his office after being in the White House for almost two years. That makes no sense at all.
But yeah, the special counsel can get into that China connection, but I think if he does that, he would need to go back to Merrick Garland and ask for an expansion of his charter or jurisdiction to get into that.
I recall that’s how it kind of happened when Robert Mueller was a special counsel looking into the Russian hoax issues, and he was looking at Paul Manafort. And Paul Manafort, he found out, was having some tax problems with his connection with Ukraine and so forth.
And so that was not the Russian hoax, it was back taxes back even before [Donald] Trump decided to run. So what Mueller did is went back to Rod Rosenstein, who was the deputy attorney general, and said, “Hey, I’m uncovering some other possible criminal activity. Will you please give me the authority to go after Paul Manafort on his back tax issue?” Which he did, and of course he was convicted.
So yes, the current special counsel, Robert Hur—who, by the way, is not on the job yet, which is kind of interesting. It’s still being handled by John Lausch, the U.S. attorney in Illinois, because he’s the one that oversaw the investigation this weekend at Biden’s home.
But anyway. Yeah, it can expand into the China connection. But even if it doesn’t, James Comer, the chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, has already sent out a letter to the University of Pennsylvania on Friday asking for a lot of stuff about all their Chinese donations, all the connections and emails about that, about who had access to the Biden Center and so forth and so on. So one way or another, the Chinese money connection will be exposed on this.
Now, the University of Pennsylvania has been playing coy with us and the media by denying that the Biden Center receives any China money. Their standard line that they’ve been spewing for the last couple years is, “We do not solicit money to the Biden Center from China. Period.” Well, yeah, but when you start passing that statement, that very well may be true, that you don’t solicit money directly to the Biden Center, but China has not given the University of Pennsylvania all these millions of dollars for their music department. No.
It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out that they’re giving the money to the University of Pennsylvania to run their China programs, and they have several of them. And the Biden Center is part of that program that they have that’s called Penn Global.
And at their one China Summit back in January 2020 at the University of Pennsylvania, they had their annual China Summit kicked off with the ambassador from China, the consul general from New York, went down to Philly, was their keynote speaker, and sitting at the roundtable there was a representative of the Biden Center. And they’re all talking about how we can get along with China and this, that, and the other thing. Of course, this is just as the COVID broke, but there was not an area, a bad word about how China was the source of the COVID pandemic to begin with.
So that’s why the National Legal and Policy Center, after digging deeper into the China connection with the Biden Center and with Hunter Biden, we also filed a complaint with the Department of Justice that both Hunter Biden and the Biden Center have to register as foreign agents of China under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. So there’s the connection there that we’re making, and the Justice Department won’t confirm or deny that they’re working on that complaint.
But again, that’s something that, hopefully, with a new Congress, Republicans taking charge, they’ll have Merrick Garland testify and will hopefully get to the bottom of all this China connection with not only the University of Pennsylvania, but China connection with the Biden Center and with Hunter Biden, who we know is getting millions of dollars from the Chinese energy company there for his services, etc.
Lucas: Yeah, that’s one thing I was going to ask. And following up on whether the special counsel should expand the probe into the Penn Biden Center and that China money, that there wouldn’t necessarily be anything illegal about those donations, however, what the legal matter would be is whether the Penn Biden Center and Hunter Biden should be registered as foreign agents, right?
Kamenar: Well, yeah, but that’s illegal if they’re not. In fact, right now, Hunter Biden is under investigation by the U.S. attorney in Delaware for back taxes that he’s owed, that he evaded of some $2 million. And that’s been under investigation for the last couple years. But that also includes whether he should have registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.
And we’ve been calling, as others, that, “Hey, why don’t you have a special counsel for Hunter Biden? Why is that being handled in-house at the Justice Department?” So there’s a question there, whether that U.S. attorney will do a full investigation and prosecution of Hunter Biden in that separate matter. Now, it may dovetail with what the special counsel’s doing, and they may get together and compare notes and swap information in their investigation.
So one way or the other, Hunter Biden and a Chinese connection in the Biden Center is going to come to light, whether it’s through the special counsel, whether it’s through this U.S. attorney in Delaware, or more likely, with the House Oversight Committee, as well as a special select committee, as has been set up on the China connection here. And that’s being chaired by Wisconsin Congressman Mike Gallagher.
And so there’s multiple house committees that are investigating this whole thing with China and Hunter Biden and the Biden Center.
Lucas: Yeah. Do you expect the NLPC will be working and providing information to the committees, the Oversight Committee and the select China committee?
Kamenar: Oh, yes. In fact, we already have. We’re in contact with the House Oversight Committee and we’re sharing our information with them, and hopefully we will be able to help them find out where some of the dead bodies are, so to speak, and what avenues they should look at. They’re doing a good job, but we need to get more information and also get the actual funding sources from the University of Pennsylvania in terms of how the Biden Center is funded.
We need to see their internal financial documents because they could truthfully say, “Oh, we don’t solicit money for the Biden Center. So, Congressman Comer, we have nothing to give you on that. We don’t have any documents about soliciting,” but then we have to make them dig another layer deeper on that and follow the money. And then there, of course, the $900,000 that Joe Biden received as a honorary professor after he left the White House in 2017. And for that, he gave just a half-dozen lectures and appearances.
So the question is, where did that money come from? The University of Pennsylvania say, “Well, that came out of our General Treasury.” Well, we have to see about that or whether they dipped into a separate account that had a lot of the Chinese money in there. But we’ll get to the bottom of it one way or the other because there’s a lot of, as they say, “Follow the money.” And that’s what we hope to do here.
Lucas: Yeah. I wondered, what are your thoughts on the special counsel Robert Hur? Some say he’s got a really good reputation in putting away crooked Maryland politicians, but at the same time, others fear that he’s part of the DOJ swamp. Do you have any thoughts either way?
Kamenar: Yeah, he is part of the old boy network here. I mean, he has got good credentials, etc. Couple things about that. First of all, he was appointed a couple weeks ago, and yet he hasn’t been on the job yet, which, I’ve scratched my head because the search of Biden’s home on Friday that uncovered a bunch of documents was by the FBI, that was done under the auspices of the U.S. attorney, John Lausch, who was initially appointed in the end of December, early January to do a preliminary investigation. And after he did that, he went back to Merrick Garland and Merrick Garland said, “OK, you gave me enough evidence I need to appoint a special counsel.”
So on Jan. 11, basically almost two weeks ago, he appointed Robert Hur. But the questions were, why isn’t Robert Hur conducting this investigation of the search of Biden’s house over the weekend? Why is Lausch still handling it? There’s no clear answer to that.
I know Lausch is a current U.S. attorney in Illinois, but he’s leaving to go to private practice. That’s why he, just say, “Hey, I don’t want to be involved anymore. You better appoint a special counsel.” And then Robert Hur, he’s is currently in private practice. So I don’t know what’s taking him so long to get on the job and open up shop here in D.C. So there is some transition going on there.
But Robert Hur also has some complaints about him because during the Mueller investigation in the Russian hoax, he was basically a liaison between Mueller and Rod Rosenstein, who was the deputy attorney general that oversaw the Russian investigation. Because as we know, Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from that whole thing because it involved things dealing with the campaign that he worked with Trump on.
So Congressman [Devin] Nunes and Kash Patel have some complaints about Robert Hur because he was involved in getting some subpoenas against Nunes’ staff, etc., on this Russian hoax thing. So there’s some interesting background with Robert Hur being closely affiliated with the Robert Mueller hoax and investigation. So we’ll have to see how this shakes out.
But what we’re doing now is calling upon Robert Hur to finally get on the job please and then also search the University of Delaware. Because over the weekend, as we learned, there were some documents that they found at Biden’s home that dated back to when he was a senator.
And so the question is, well, if you found some of his Senate documents at home, I bet you’ll find some more of those in the 1,800 boxes that he shipped over to the University of Delaware back in 2009 that is to be his, so to speak, Senate library, etc.
Now those documents are under seal. The University of Delaware has a deal with Joe Biden that they won’t allow anybody to look at those documents until two years after Biden leaves the White House. And Biden doesn’t want anybody to see what’s in there.
But of course, the Justice Department can go in any time they want. Because Biden himself can say tomorrow, “Hey, Justice Department, Robert Hur, yeah, go look at my Senate records, have fun going through my 1,800 boxes,” and see what they find, whether there’s some classified documents that are there. And I wouldn’t be surprised because if he’s got some of them at his home, right, it’s likely that he got some of those in his Senate files that he shipped over to the University of Delaware.
Lucas: Right. And a special counsel is not really going to care that much about whatever agreement the university has with the president.
Kamenar: No, that’s right. And in fact, Biden will be forced to allow him to do that because, as we know, they searched his home, which they called a “consensual search.” Well, yeah, consensual. And that’s because the FBI went to Biden’s attorneys and said, “Hey, we need to search Biden’s home. I know you private attorneys did that, came up with some documents, but we don’t trust you guys did a good job. So we want to search the home. Is that OK?” Well, what’s Biden going to say? If he says no, then a subpoena is sent out, a search warrant is sent out.
That’s what happens all the time. When the FBI searches corporation offices, whatever, they contact the attorneys and they say, “Hey, there’s some crime we think is going on. We want to search your office, your records. You want to consent to that?” And everybody knows, like, well, if you say no, they’re going to get a search warrant.
So that was a hammer over Biden’s head, so he had no choice but to consent to it. But then he comes out and makes it look to the public, “Oh, we’re cooperating. See, we said to the FBI, ‘Please come in, blah, blah, blah.’” Well, they had to do that, otherwise a search warrant would have been issued, and then they would be right back square in the same boat as Donald Trump was when they had to do a search warrant. So they would lose that argument that, “Oh, we’re different than the Trump people because we invited the FBI in there.” Well, yes and no.
So anyway, the next thing we want them to do is to search the Biden documents at the University of Delaware. They’d be really derelict in their duties if they did not. And there’s also a couple other places that they should search.
First of all, they should go back to the Biden Center. Recall that the private attorneys uncovered documents back on Nov. 2 at the Biden Center. And then they started to go at the house and the garage, and they found some. But as we know, they did a bad job at the house. And that’s why the FBI went in and found some more. Well, I submit they also probably did a bad job at the Biden Center back on Nov. 2. So the FBI needs to go back there and not only search Biden’s office within the Biden Center that his attorneys did, but search the whole Biden Center.
There’s 14,000 square feet of office space that they have here downtown in the shadow of the Capitol building. And other people in the administration had their offices there, including Antony Blinken, who was the managing director of the Biden Center and now is our secretary of state. And he was also an aide to Biden when Biden was a vice president. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Tony Blinken was looking at some foreign policy classified documents. So they need to search his old office there as well.
And I’m still scratching my head as to, again, why Biden hired private attorneys to, as he said, “clear out my office in the Biden Center.” This is almost two years after he occupied the White House. Why did he wait so long to say, “Oh, I need to move my office out of the Biden Center”? And why did he hire expensive private attorneys to do that rather than call up the Biden staff and their interns and say, “Hey, can you clear out my office and send that stuff to my home in Delaware?” That would’ve been the normal course.
And now we learned that when they did clear out his office on Nov. 2, they didn’t really do that. They apparently stopped searching and clearing out once they got some of these classified documents. And then now we learned that some of the stuff was sent up to one of his private attorneys, this guy by the name of Patrick Moore, and his law office is in Boston. So there’s some maybe documents there that need to be searched.
I mean, this is like a scavenger hunt here, Fred. We got to find out where all the documents are. And then there was a temporary Penn Biden Center that was located here in town near Chinatown. That’s kind of coincidental, the location, because the Biden Center offices right now weren’t prepared back then and ready to move in, so they had a temporary office midtown D.C. before they moved to the Penn Biden Center, which is at 101 Constitution Avenue.
And then of course there’s another place they should search. There’s probably nothing there, but after Biden left the White House in 2017, he rented a huge mansion, 12,000 square foot in McLean, Virginia. A place that had the sauna, the swimming pool, can hold 20 cars in the parking lot in the front there. And it was owned by Mark Ein … who’s a big Democratic donor, owner of D.C.’s women’s professional tennis organization. Kastle is the name of the company. So there’s stuff maybe there.
Anyway, so you got multiple locations that have to be searched by the special counsel. But again, the bigger thing I think we need to get to the bottom is the China money connection and Hunter Biden on this.
Lucas: Right? Yeah. And yeah, as you were saying, I think there was this lapse in time after Biden left as vice president, before the Biden Center even opened up. So there was someone moving these classified documents and handling—they may or may not have been authorized to even handle these documents. So that’s opens up even another potential crime, right?
Kamenar: Well, yeah. In fact, his attorneys who first found the documents at the Biden Center, they realized that they didn’t have clearance and therefore they contacted the White House counsel, who does have clearance to come by the Biden Center office. And that’s when they took the documents and said, “Oops, we better turn this over to the National Archives.”
And then after that, his private attorneys went to the house in Wilmington, but it was the same private attorneys that didn’t have clearance. And when they uncovered some more documents in the garage, they did another oopsie and called the White House Counsel Office and say, “Hey, you better get over here because you have clearance and we don’t.” This whole thing was amateur hour, the way the whole thing was run, and none of this adds up.
And so, yeah, they’ve also investigated, or at least talked to this woman who’s now at the Defense Department, who apparently was one of Biden’s aides while he was vice president, Kathy Chung, who Hunter Biden had known and recommended her to work for his dad in the White House. And she was apparently one of the people that helped move Biden’s documents out of the White House to, well, at least there was a temporary transition office that [the General Services Administration] had across the street from the executive office building where Biden had his vice presidential offices, so there was some documents stored there first.
So they’re all over the place. It’s hard to find out, but hopefully these committees and the special counsel will get to the bottom of it.
Lucas: OK. Yeah. And in terms of distinguishing this from the Biden classified document case and the Trump classified document case, we’ve done some reporting here that the National Archives, they’re not commenting generally at all on the Biden classified documents. And that agency was sort of a public statement cannon during the Trump investigation. They sent out something like 10 public statements regarding the Trump document issues.
Lucas: Yeah, go ahead. Oh, yeah. And I was going to say, similarly, the Office of Director of National Intelligence, they launched a national security risk assessment regarding the Trump documents. Doesn’t look like they’re doing the same for Biden. And just wanted to talk to you about the difference in how … and not to mention how the Justice Department has handled this whole matter.
Kamenar: Yeah, yeah, you’ve got a good point there with respect to the National Archives. In fact, Congressman James Comer, the chairman of the Oversight Committee who’s investigating all this, he sent a letter out to the National Archives earlier last week drilling down on exactly that, in terms of how they’re handling the Biden classified documents compared to how they handled it with respect to Donald Trump and whether or not there’s some bias going on there.
And even the Democrats have called for the fact that they need a risk assessment, in terms of, what were these classified documents about? What information did they contain? And was our national security at risk? So even Mark Warner, the Democratic senator from Virginia, has called for an assessment from the DNI and the intelligence community to give Congress assessment because that’s part of what they’re supposed to do. And so far, we haven’t heard much of anything about that.
Lucas: I think that’s all I have. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners on this point?
Kamenar: No, I think we’ve covered basically everything so far. So it’s just a matter for the House committee to keep doing it, because I’m sure what’s going to happen is Merrick Garland and the special counsel will try to tell the House, “Oh, don’t investigate this. We’re working on possible criminal charges and you’re going to interfere with our investigation.” And that, I think, is not a valid argument.
The Congress is not taking its orders from the executive branch or separate branch under our government. Congress has, basically, plenary oversight power to investigate anything they want. And if it comes down to whether there’s a criminal problem, they can also give immunity—if they think it’s necessary—to witnesses who they subpoena before the committee, because I’m sure some of them will say, “Oh, no, I hereby take the fifth.” Robert Hur is investigating this. Well, if it’s something that we think the public should know, the committee can give immunity. But I don’t think they should simply stop their investigation just because the special counsel is now investigating it.
Lucas: Paul Kamenar with National Legal and Policy Center, thanks for joining us.
Kamenar: Thank you, Fred. My pleasure.
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