Walter Shaub, Obama's former ethics chief, says the White House's deal to help Hunter Biden sell his art is "the perfect mechanism for funneling bribes" to the president.
Speaking to CNN, Shaub blasted the bizarre "safeguards" listed by the Biden administration as to how Hunter Biden's paintings will be sold.
CNN's anchor listed these safeguards that will be in place: "neither Hunter Biden, nor the public, will know who bid on or purchased the work, and if there's unusual behavior, like the offer being too high, the collector doesn't appear to be interested, the gallery is expected to turn down the offer. You don't think that's enough," he asked Shaub, "why?"
"No," Shaub replied, "they have outsources government ethics to an art dealer. She mentioned industry standards—it's an industry that's notorious for money laundering. There's no standards in that industry."
"And the idea that they're going to flag any overly priced offer," Shaub continued, "This is art that hasn't even been juried into a community art sale, how are they going to decide what's unreasonable when they've already priced it in the realm of $75,000 to $500,000 for a first outing? This is just preposterous, and very disappointing."
The idea here is that if Hunter Biden's paintings have never sold before, there's no way to know what price the market will bear for his work. The idea that any price could be unreasonable, when no price has been established.
He was asked to explain: "Why would the White House be the intermediary for the art sale? I think that what Jen Psaki was saying was that this would be a way to shake off any ethical concerns, but you're shaking your head."
Shaub thoroughly dismissed the idea that the White House, getting involved in the high priced art sales of a newbie painter who happens to be the president's son looked anything like the avoidance of ethical problems.
"The absolutely made it worse," Shaub said, "for two reasons. One: what they've done is ensured that neither you, nor I, nor anyone watching this show will know who buys the art unless they share it publicly. But there's nothing we can do to monitor to make sure that Hunter Biden or anyone in the White House doesn't find out, or that the dealer keeps his or her promise, or that the buyers don't call the White House, ask for a meeting and say 'hey I just bought the president's son's art for $500,000."
Shaub said that regardless of whether Joe Biden is more trustworthy than Trump, "you don't run an ethics person on the idea that you hope everybody behaves."
CNN posited that perhaps Hunter Biden will "become this great emerging artist" and would sell his abstract paintings "for a price that matches the market that would not run afoul of ethics concerns."
"It's got the absolute appearance that he's profiting off of his father's fame," Shaub said, noting that the younger Biden is not choosing to paint under an alias so that the work stands on its own, apart from his famous name and politically influential family.
When asked about potential ethics violations surrounding Hunter Biden's art sales, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that "a system has been established" and that Hunter Biden "has the right to pursue an artistic career."
"Did the White House play any role in crafting the sales agreement with the New York gallery to protect the ultimate purchaser's identity?" a reporter asked Psaki, inquiring about the alleged deal that the White House brokered to keep the future buyers of Hunter Biden's artwork confidential.
Psaki confirmed the inquiry and justified the Biden administration's use of taxpayer resources to manage Hunter Biden's budding art career.
"After careful consideration, a system has been established that allows for Hunter Biden to work in his profession within reasonable safeguards," Psaki replied at the White House press briefing Friday. "Of course, he has the right to pursue an artistic career, just like any child of a president has the right to pursue a career."
She noted that the all interactions regarding the selling of art and the setting of prices will be handled by a professional gallerist "adhering to the highest industry standards" and that "any offer out of the normal course would be rejected out of hand." Psaki stressed that the gallerist will not share information about buyers or prospective buyers, including their identities with Hunter Biden or the administration, "which provides quite a level of protection and transparency."
The reporter then said that the gallery owner, Georges Berges, is a private citizen who might not be privy to who might have interests in buying the art.
Pressed about the possibility that a patron of Hunter Biden could curry favor by purchasing the artwork and what the White House will do to prohibit such impropriety, Psaki added that "it would be challenging for an anonymous person who we don't know and Hunter Biden doesn't know to have influence."
Hunter Biden's artistic debut has raised eyebrows over the high-priced pieces and whether the prospective transactions will pose a conflict of interest.
Government ethics watchdogs and art critics have been voicing concerns as Hunter Biden prepares for the solo art exhibition in the fall when paintings from the former lawyer and lobbyist are expected to garner between $75,000 and $500,000 while buyers will remain anonymous.
Opponents have cited the issue of anonymity, noting that foreign governments or lobbyists could buy the art through intermediaries in an effort to curry favor with the Biden administration.