What We Know and Don't Know About the Investigation of Hunter Biden

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Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden

Paul Morigi/Getty Hunter Biden

More than a year after announcing that he was under federal investigation related to his taxes, President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden remains the subject of an ongoing and intensifying probe, according to various news reports and sources connected to the case.

Much remains unclear, however, including what potential criminal liability Hunter faces — if any. He has not been charged.

Prosecutors have long declined to publicly discuss their work, and Hunter's attorneys and spokespeople have not commented.

"I take this matter very seriously," Hunter, 52, said in a statement in December 2020, "but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors."

Hunter, a prominent attorney and businessman-turned-painter with a history of personal struggles, has for years been the source of scrutiny and derision among conservatives, despite having no official role in in his dad's campaign or now in the White House.

Republicans homed in, in particular, on his overseas business dealings which overlapped with his father's vice presidency and his problems with drug use and other personal matters, which became tabloid fodder in large part thanks to a purported copy of a laptop that used to belong to him and which is said to be full of his intimate records.

Hunter was also a reluctant focus of the face-off between his father and former President Donald Trump, whose first impeachment stemmed from urging Ukraine to dig up dirt on Hunter.

In December 2020, when Hunter disclosed the investigation, President Biden's team released their own statement saying he "is deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger."

Here's what is known and not known about the case surrounding Hunter.

Hunter Biden, Joe Biden
Hunter Biden, Joe Biden

Teresa Kroeger/Getty Hunter (left) and Joe Biden

A Years-Long Investigation About Money

In his 2020 statement, Hunter said that he had only just learned "that the U.S. Attorney's Office ... [is] investigating my tax affairs."

Sources told ABC News and The New York Times that the matter began much earlier, though the exact date varies.

ABC News reported the case started in 2018, while the Times wrote that it "began as a tax inquiry under the Obama administration [which ended in 2017], widened in 2018 to include possible criminal violations of tax laws, as well as foreign lobbying and money laundering rules."

Hunter's business dealings with foreign interests, including acting as a well-connected consultant — a topic that was much-discussed in the lead-up the 2020 presidential election — also reportedly drew scrutiny from authorities.

The Washington Post wrote last month that, per sources, "federal prosecutors had been attempting to determine if [Hunter] failed to account for income from China-related deals ... although it is unclear whether that is still a focus."

The investigation became public only after the 2020 election because of longstanding concerns among federal authorities that their work could influence voters (an issue that was raised regarding Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign).

Hunter told CBS News in April 2021 that he was "fully cooperating, and I'm fully confident that at the end of the day it's all gonna be fine."

RELATED: Kathleen Buhle, Hunter Biden's Ex, to Address Their Divorce in Book: 'I Lost My Sense of Who I Was'

Since then, authorities have continued their work: ABC News reported in March that "an increasing number of witnesses have appeared before a grand jury impaneled in Wilmington, Delaware, in recent months."

Among the topics guiding that testimony were questions "about payments Hunter Biden received while serving on the board of directors of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, in addition to other questions about how [he] paid off tax obligations in recent years," per ABC News' sources.

Witnesses in the case include Lunden Roberts, an Arkansas woman who used to work with Hunter and who had a child with him in 2018. She later successfully sued him for paternity and financial support after he publicly denied being the child's father.

Roberts' attorney, Clint Lancaster, told PEOPLE that Roberts recently testified in the Hunter investigation and that he was subpoenaed to provide financial records from Hunter obtained as part of the separate paternity suit.

Lancaster — a self-described conservative who maintains that his personal politics have no role in his work with Roberts — declined to discuss in further detail his knowledge of the federal investigation or of the financial records provided under subpoena.

The probe is being overseen by U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a Trump appointee.

hunter biden
hunter biden

Paul Morigi/Getty Images Hunter Biden

Big Questions Remain

While recent reporting indicates the investigation is both broader than Hunter's tax payments and is still proceeding apace, that is not evidence itself of any wrongdoing.

There is no public indication Hunter will face an indictment and the specifics of any possible charge against Hunter are also not clear.

The Times and The Wall Street Journal both reported last month that he had paid off a major tax bill — the Journal wrote that it was approximately $1 million — which could complicate a future prosecution because jurors would see it as showing contrition and responsibility.

The Times also wrote that prosecutors could be looking at other subjects beyond Hunter, including other companies, as part of their work.

Hunter has previously admitted that some of his past business dealings showed "poor judgment" because they created even the appearance of impropriety, given his dad's political career.

But he insists that he "did nothing wrong."

"In retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgment on my part," Hunter told ABC News Anchor Amy Robach in October 2019. "Is that I think that it was poor judgment because I don't believe now, when I look back on it — I know that there was — did nothing wrong at all. However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is ... a swamp in many ways? Yeah."

The Laptop

Some of the latest reports about the investigation cite contents from a laptop that is said to have once belonged to Hunter. This convoluted chapter, which dates back to the 2020 presidential campaign, appears related to the current case only in that the laptop seems to contain records about Hunter's past business dealings.

The laptop's contents were previously described by The New York Post and The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, which highlighted salacious personal material reportedly found on the hard drive.

Hunter has never confirmed the laptop belonged to him, though he has acknowledged it is a possibility.

The Times and the Washington Post more recently wrote they were able to verify some of the records on the laptop, citing the assessment of outside experts.

RELATED: Biden Says 'His Family, We Could Talk About All Night' as Trump Goes After Hunter on Debate Stage

More specifically, though, the Post wrote that "nearly 22,000 emails" had the markings of authenticity, per the experts, though more than 200,000 other files could not be verified.

The Post reported that it was provided a copy of the laptop by Jack Maxey, an associate of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. (Maxey similarly reached out to PEOPLE in 2021 about providing information from the laptop.)

Many mainstream news outlets initially resisted reporting on the contents of the laptop during the 2020 campaign, and social media companies like Facebook and Twitter worked to limit the spread of the outlets that did over concerns about the provenance and veracity of the reporting. Republicans, in turn, said a legitimate news story was being suppressed because it was about Democrats.

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Hunter Biden (center) holding son Beau

Hunter's Life Away from D.C.

Hunter has spoken openly about his struggles with addiction, which became public during and after his 2017 divorce from his first wife Kathleen Buhle, who alleged in legal filings that he had spent money on drugs, alcohol, prostitutes and strip clubs.

Hunter — who shares daughters Naomi, Finnegan and Maisy with Buhle — wrote about his cycle of addiction and sobriety in his 2021 memoir, Beautiful Things. He wrote at one point that he was drinking a quart of vodka a day; at another, he lived with a homeless woman who was also his dealer.

Some sources said in the latest news reports about the investigation that his past issues with substance abuse may influence authorities insofar as it could indicate he had compromised decision-making.

Hunter has since spoken about finding new peace and stability — and enduring sobriety — while living on the West Coast, where he spends his time painting and raising a young son (named after his late brother, Beau) with wife Melissa Cohen.

* Reporting by ADAM CARLSON