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Obama’s ethics chief criticizes Jen Psaki for dodging questions on Hunter Biden’s art

The former top ethics official during the Obama Administration came down on White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Wednesday after she tried to brush aside questions about sales of pricey Hunter Biden paintings at an LA art show.

The official, former Office of Government Ethics chief Walter Shaub, regularly blasted Trump administration when he concluded they crossed the line on emoluments, the Hatch Act, or private jet use. 

He tweeted this week that ethics questions are also fair game for the Biden White House after Psaki, who also served in the Obama administration, chastised a reporter for broaching the subject at a White House press briefing. 

‘These are legitimate questions,’ he wrote in response.

‘These are legitimate questions,’ wrote former top ethics official Walter Shaub after White House press secretary Jen Psaki brushed back a reporter who asked about pending Hunter Biden art sales

The New York Post reported Friday that Hunter had sold five prints for $75,000 each, after DailyMail.com published photos of the swank LA art opening attended by Hunter.

Guests attending the event included Sugar Ray Leonard, Moby, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Obama ‘hope’ poster graphic artist Shepherd Fairey.

Walter Shaub

Walter Shaub

‘I know this is your favorite topic,’ Psaki said when a reporter said the opening might be a ‘departure’ from the White House pledge to keep purchasers anonymous as a way to avoid potential conflicts.

‘But it, again, it still is the purview of the gallerist. We still do not know and will not know who purchases any paintings. And the president remains proud of his son,’ said Psaki, referencing her prior comments.

Then, she quickly tried to move on when the reporter tried to follow up.

‘Did you have another question on something else? Otherwise, we’re going to move on to some other topics. Lots going on in the world,’ she said.  

‘I’d refer you to the gallerist for questions about the event,’ she said last week, when she was also asked about attendance by LA mayor Eric Garcetti, who is Biden’s nominee to be ambassador to India.

Shaub tweeted: ‘These are legitimate questions. It’s disappointing to hear @jrpsaki send a message that the WH thinks the public has no right to ask about ethics. After the last 4 years, these questions have never been more important. I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but this stuff matters.’

'I would point you to the gallerist': White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki faced multiple questions Wednesday about Hunter Biden's attendance at an LA showing of his artwork

‘I would point you to the gallerist’: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki faced multiple questions Wednesday about Hunter Biden’s attendance at an LA showing of his artwork

Jen Psaki pushed back at a reporter who asked a question about Hunter Biden's LA art opening

Jen Psaki pushed back at a reporter who asked a question about Hunter Biden’s LA art opening

Attendees included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, musician Moby who brought his pet dog, and artist Shepard Fairey, the creator of the Barack Obama Hope campaign poster that has since become a pop-culture icon. Pictured: Hunter's art exhibit

Attendees included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, musician Moby who brought his pet dog, and artist Shepard Fairey, the creator of the Barack Obama Hope campaign poster that has since become a pop-culture icon. Pictured: Hunter’s art exhibit

According to gallery owner Georges Bergès, Hunter's paintings range from photogenic to mixed media to the abstract. Ethics watchdogs had raised concerns ahead of the event that buyers could try to curry influence with the president by buying his son's work for inflated sums. The White House claimed they were avoiding any ethical conflict by ensuring neither the president nor Hunter will know the identity of the buyers

 According to gallery owner Georges Bergès, Hunter’s paintings range from photogenic to mixed media to the abstract. Ethics watchdogs had raised concerns ahead of the event that buyers could try to curry influence with the president by buying his son’s work for inflated sums. The White House claimed they were avoiding any ethical conflict by ensuring neither the president nor Hunter will know the identity of the buyers

Shaub continued in a series of tweets: ‘There is no ethics program in the world that can be built around the head of state’s staff working with a dealer to keep the public in the dark about the identities of individuals who pay vast sums to the leader’s family member for subjectively priced items of no intrinsic value.’

‘If this were Trump, Xi or Putin, you’d have no doubt whatsoever that this creates a vehicle for funneling cash to the first family in exchange for access or favors. Nor would you doubt that the appearance of monetizing the presidency was outrageous,’ he wrote.

He also tore into Hunter Biden for taking part in the exercise. The president’s son, who has struggled with substance abuse in the past, has been accused of exploiting his father’s position to drum up business, and a trove of emails have revealed some of his pitches. 

‘Of course Hunter is a private citizen and can do whatever his conscience dictates. But a patriot wouldn’t engage in this profiteering. And the president shouldn’t and his staff shouldn’t be tacitly enforcing it by defending it and pushing back against questions,’ Shaub concluded.


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