The former top ethics official during the Obama administration fell for White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday after she tried to clear up questions about the sale of expensive Hunter Biden paintings at an art show in LA.
The official, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, has regularly criticized the Trump administration when he concluded it crossed the line on emoluments, the Hatch Act or the use of private jets.
He tweeted this week that ethical questions are also fair game for Biden’s White House after Psaki, who also served in the Obama administration, reprimanded a reporter for raising the topic during a White House press conference.
“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 whistled back a reporter asking about Hunter Biden’s ongoing art sale.
The New York Post reported Friday that Hunter had sold five prints for $75,000 each after DailyMail.com published photos of the swanky LA art opening attended by Hunter.
Guests attending the event included Sugar Ray Leonard, Moby, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Obama’s “hope” poster graphic artist Shepherd Fairey.
“I know this is your favorite topic,” Psaki said when a reporter said the opening could be a “deviation” from the White House’s promise to keep buyers anonymous as a way to avoid potential conflict.
“But again, it’s still the gallery owner’s job. We still do not know and will not know who is buying paintings. And the president remains proud of his son,” Psaki said, referring to her earlier comments.
Then she tried to move quickly as the reporter tried to follow.
‘Do you have a question about anything else? Otherwise, we’ll move on to some other topics. There’s a lot going on in the world,” she said.
“For questions about the event, I’ll refer you to the gallery owner,” she said last week, when she was also asked about attendance by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has been nominated by Biden as Ambassador to India.
Shaub tweeted, “These are legitimate questions. It’s disappointing to hear @jrpsaki sending a message that the WH believes 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 is important.’
‘I’d like to refer you to the gallery owner’: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki received multiple questions on Wednesday about Hunter Biden’s presence at an LA show of his artwork
Jen Psaki pushed back at a reporter who asked a question about Hunter Biden’s art opening in LA
Among those in attendance were Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, musician Moby who brought his dog, and artist Shepard Fairey, creator of Barack Obama Hope’s campaign poster who has since become a pop culture icon. Pictured: Hunter’s Art Exhibition
According to gallery owner Georges Bergès, Hunter’s paintings range from photogenic to mixed media to abstract. Ethics watchdogs had raised concerns ahead of the event that buyers could try to influence the president by over-purchasing his son’s work. The White House claimed it avoided any ethical conflict by ensuring that neither the president nor Hunter know the identities 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 huge sums to the leader’s family member.” for subjectively priced items without intrinsic value.’
“If this were Trump, Xi or Putin, you would have no doubt that this creates a vehicle for funneling money to the first family in exchange for access or favors. Nor would you doubt that the pretense of cashing in on the presidency was outrageous,” he wrote.
He also ripped in Hunter Biden for participating in the exercise. The president’s son, who has struggled with substance abuse in the past, has been accused of abusing his father’s position to solve cases, and numerous emails have revealed some of his pitches.
“Of course Hunter is a private individual and can do whatever his conscience tells him. But a patriot would not get involved in this pursuit of profit. And the president shouldn’t do it and his staff shouldn’t tacitly enforce it by defending it and pushing back on questions,” Shaub concluded.