When asked about potential ethics violations surrounding Hunter Biden's art sales, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that "a system has been established" and that "he 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 Bergès, 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."
The Washington Post was the first to report that White House officials have helped to craft an agreement under which purchases of Hunter Biden's artwork will be kept confidential from even the artist himself, a presidential family member.
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.
White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said via press statement to ABC News that "the president has established the highest ethical standards of any administration in American history" and the Biden family's "commitment to rigorous processes" such as the artwork controversy is "a prime example."
Obama's former ethics chief Walter Shaub lambasted the White House, stating that the Biden administration is trying to "make sure we will never know" who the buyers are. "So instead of disclosing who is paying outrageous sums for Hunter Biden's artwork so that we could monitor whether the purchasers are gaining access to government, the WH tried to make sure we will never know who they are," Shaub tweeted, linking the Post's report. "That's very disappointing."
"The idea's that even Hunter won't know, but the WH has outsourced government ethics to a private art dealer," Shaub continued. "We're supposed to trust a merchant in an industry that's fertile ground for money laundering, as well as unknown buyers who could tell Hunter or WH officials? No thanks."
Shaub then told Fox News via email statement that the deal is "the opposite of government ethics" and what the White House did was, in effect, getting "the art dealer to promise not to give us the means to monitor whether the buyers are getting preferential access to government" by keeping buyers anonymous.
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