For the past few years, President Joe Biden and his White House have repeatedly insisted that he "never discussed" or had any knowledge of any of the business dealings, foreign or domestic, of his son Hunter or any other member of the Biden family.
That tune noticeably shifted this week as the White House now claims that Biden was "not in business" with his son or others, according to Breitbart.
The sudden change to the previously oft-repeated talking point seems to be quite clearly connected to the revelation this week of a not particularly subtle threatening message Hunter sent in 2017 to a Chinese business associate demanding fulfillment of a financial commitment, purportedly with his father sitting right beside him as he sent that message.
In 2019, Politico reported that then-candidate Joe Biden, in response to emerging allegations of corrupt influence-peddling by his son Hunter and brother James, stated emphatically, "I have never discussed, with my son or my brother or with anyone else, anything having to do with their businesses. Period."
That assertion has since been reiterated countless times by the president and his White House team, yet that suddenly changed on Friday following the public exposure of the previously unknown 2017 message.
Now, according to NBC News White House correspondent Monica Alba, White House spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement, "As we have said many times before, the President was not in business with his son. As we have also said many times before, the Justice Department makes decisions in its criminal investigations independently, & in this case, the White House has not been involved."
Obviously, there is quite a difference between "have never discussed" and "was not in business with," much more than just semantics and is clear evidence of a shift in the White House's narrative and talking points.
The Washington Examiner's Byron York took note of the "new formulation" from the White House that sounded "very lawyerly" and further reported that the 2017 WhatsApp message from Hunter Biden to Chinese business associate Henry Zhao could well be the "smoking gun" that President Biden's critics have long been searching for to link him to his son's incredibly dubious foreign business dealings.
That message, shared with a congressional committee by IRS whistleblowers, was discovered in August 2020 via a search warrant from IRS investigators, and not from Hunter Biden's abandoned laptop.
The message from Hunter to Zhao read in full: "I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled. Tell the director that I would like to resolve this now before it gets out of hand, and now means tonight. And Z, if I get a call or text from anyone involved in this other than you, Zhang, or the chairman, I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction. I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father."
During Friday's White House press briefing, Newsmax reporter James Rosen read that message verbatim and asked National Security Council spokesman John Kirby directly, "Does this not undermine the President’s claim during the 2020 campaign, and the reaffirmations of that claim by his two press secretaries since then, that he never once discussed his son’s overseas business dealings with him?"
Kirby said "No" and then refused to comment further, and after a momentary back-and-forth with Rosen, abruptly left the briefing, leaving White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who just a short time later was also pressed on the matter.
Several White House reporters from major mainstream outlets, as well as Rosen, repeatedly hit the press secretary with a series of legitimate and probing questions, each picking up where the other left off, that Jean-Pierre steadfastly refused to address and instead repeatedly made reference to prior statements from the White House Counsel and Justice Department -- neither of which addressed the revealed message -- in an increasingly frustrated bid to dodge the issue.
It is painfully clear that Biden's White House was caught flat-footed by this development and is scrambling to mitigate the clear and present danger it poses to the president's insistent and increasingly unbelievable assertions that he was never involved in the "Biden family business" of corrupt influence-peddling with foreign nationals and entities.