The prominent law firm for which Hunter Biden served as counsel took steps to avoid disclosing to Congress its work with Ukrainian energy giant Burisma Holdings, emails from Biden's laptop show.
Heather King, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner, detailed the lobbying strategy in emails to Biden, his business partners, and an executive for Burisma Holdings in 2014. King wrote that she planned to provide legal and political services for Burisma "right up to the line" at which the law firm would have to disclose the work under federal lobbying laws. King also wrote of plans to meet with State Department officials in order to advocate for Burisma, which was seeking to expand its operations in the West as its owner was the subject of an international bribery investigation.
The emails highlight the gray area of federal lobbying laws, which provide some exemptions for lawyers. King's strategy to avoid registering under the Lobbying Disclosure Act or the more stringent Foreign Agents Registration Act was for Burisma to hire the firm ML Strategies as its lobbyist of record.
Boies Schiller Flexner has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but another Hunter Biden-linked firm, Blue Star Strategies, is under federal investigation for its undisclosed lobbying for Burisma. Biden also helped facilitate Blue Star's consulting deal with Burisma, emails show. Rudy Giuliani, a personal lawyer for former president Donald Trump, is also under federal investigation for his foreign lobbying activities.
Boies Schiller Flexner's arrangement with Burisma appeared to be an example of a firm trying to avoid having to publicly disclose its lobbying activities, one government ethics watchdog told the Washington Free Beacon.
"There is a lot of lobbying that takes place that's never reported," said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight. He said that lawyers and consultants often "play fast and loose" with lobbying laws by characterizing their lobbying as educational activity or by operating just under the threshold where lobbying is legally required to be disclosed.
A lawyer for Boies Schiller Flexner, who declined to speak on the record, insisted that the firm complied with lobbying laws.
Biden connected Burisma Holdings and Boies Schiller Flexner in April 2014, shortly after he joined the energy company's board of directors. Burisma paid Biden and a business partner, Devon Archer, more than $80,000 a month to help the company burnish its reputation in the West and scout out energy deals. Biden's board position has come under scrutiny because of his father's role at the time leading the Obama administration's diplomatic talks with Ukraine.
King took the lead in developing Boies Schiller Flexner's strategy for Burisma, according to emails from Biden's laptop obtained by the Free Beacon. King was a member of the firm's Crisis Management and Government Response Team. Biden referred Burisma to the team. Other emails show that a recent Justice Department nominee, Hampton Dellinger, worked on the crisis management team at Boies Schiller Flexner.
King wrote in the May 2014 emails that she wanted to contact State Department officials to "‘update' them on Burisma's current situation." She also told Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi that she planned to attend meetings with government officials alongside David Leiter, the owner of ML Strategies.
"We at [Boies Schiller Flexner] will lead all this work and can execute the political and legal work right up to the line where we would need to register as lobbyists, but I don't want to register under the lobbying disclosure act or the foreign agents registration act," King wrote in a May 12, 2014, email to Biden and Archer.
In an email to Pozharskyi, King said she planned to accompany Leiter in his meetings with government officials. She said that she would be at the meeting "strictly as" a lawyer for Burisma because she was not registered to lobby.
Burisma wired $250,000 to Boies Schiller Flexner on May 7, 2014, according to documents on Biden's laptop. ML Strategies disclosed receiving $90,000 in 2014 to lobby for Burisma. The Boies Schiller Flexner connection is not disclosed in those filings.
Other emails show that Boies Schiller Flexner paid $13,000 a month for consulting work.
Boies Schiller Flexner has come under scrutiny in recent years for its behind-the-scenes influence activities. The company hired Black Cube, an Israeli private intelligence firm, to spy on victims of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. David Boies, the founder of the law firm, represented Theranos, a blood test maker whose owner was indicted for defrauding the government. A Wall Street Journal reporter who published a series of exposés on Theranos has said that Boies and King tried to pressure the paper to kill negative stories about Theranos.
King temporarily left Boies Schiller Flexner in 2015 to serve as general counsel for Theranos.