President Biden’s repeated denials that he participated in his son’s foreign business transactions or ever spoke to his son about them have shifted in recent weeks amid an accumulation of evidence from bank records and eyewitness testimony that show he likely played a pivotal role in securing the lucrative deals.
Mr. Biden opted to remain silent on Friday when reporters shouted questions at him about a new Justice Department special counsel investigation of his son Hunter Biden for crimes related to tax evasion, financial schemes, and potentially for acting as an unregistered lobbyist for foreign entities.
The president has long denied involvement in his son’s business deals, but a House investigation has compiled evidence that Mr. Biden helped his family pocket millions of dollars by serving as the influential “brand” and popping in on phone calls and business meetings.
Questions about Mr. Biden’s candor were raised again this week when a 2015 photo surfaced showing then-Vice President Biden aboard Air Force Two en route to Ukraine talking to advisor Amos Hochstein. According to congressional investigators, Mr. Hochstein at the time had repeatedly warned about a conflict of interest from Hunter Biden getting a $1 million-a-year job on the board of the Ukraine energy firm Burisma.
Hunter Biden and his associates also sought help from Mr. Hochstein on behalf of Burisma on a Ukraine gas tax initiative, but it’s not clear if he provided any assistance.
Republicans called the Air Force Two photo “damning.” They said it is further evidence that Mr. Biden, despite his denials, was well aware of his son’s business deals and spoke about them.
The photo was taken on the way to Kyiv, where Mr. Biden met with then-President Petro Poroshenko and demanded he fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who had been investigating Burisma.
Mr. Biden, at an event Tuesday in Arizona, did not deny knowing about his son’s business deals but instead stated: “I never talked business with anybody.”
Mr. Biden was responding to a reporter’s question about new testimony from his son’s former business associate, Devon Archer.
Archer recently told House investigators the then-vice president phoned in to around 20 of Hunter Biden’s business meetings and dined twice with their business associates.
Mr. Biden’s statement marks a shift from his professed ignorance about his son’s lucrative deals, including his board seat on the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, which paid Hunter Biden a total of more than $3 million.
When asked in a 2019 Axios interview what job Hunter Biden was performing for Burisma to earn the hefty paycheck, Mr. Biden said, “I don’t know what he was doing. I knew he was on the board, but that was it.”
According to Archer, who is facing a prison term on an unrelated securities fraud conviction, Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky and another top Burisma executive, Vadym Pozharskyi, arranged a phone call, through Hunter, with the elder Mr. Biden in December 2015. The Burisma executives wanted to talk to him about the ongoing state corruption probe into their company that was hindering efforts to break into energy markets in the U.S.
Mr. Pozharskyi also dined with Mr. Biden at a Georgetown restaurant in April 2015, Archer revealed to House investigators.
Archer said the dinner conversation did not include any business talk and Democrats have downplayed his testimony, arguing Hunter Biden was merely selling “the illusion” that his powerful father would help Burisma executives and other business associates.
Earlier this summer, two IRS whistleblowers told Congress they found evidence that could prove more direct involvement from Mr. Biden.