Shortly after the Supreme Court declared affirmative action college admission policies unconstitutional, President Joe Biden said his administration would direct the Department of Education to scrutinize how "practices like legacy admissions … expand privilege instead of opportunity."
The department could start by examining how politically connected families like the Bidens get their children into Ivy League schools.
In 2018, Hunter Biden tapped his father and a number of Biden family connections to help get his daughter into the University of Pennsylvania. Text messages and emails from Hunter Biden's laptop, reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon, show how Joe and Hunter Biden worked behind the scenes to get a subpar family member into one of the most selective schools in the country.
Maisy Biden's college admissions process could raise a number of uncomfortable questions for the president. The saga highlights exactly the kind of "legacy admissions" Biden has slammed. The story also highlights the Biden family's occasionally shady dealings with the University of Pennsylvania just as congressional Republicans are probing alleged ethical misconduct by both Joe and Hunter Biden.
Maisy Biden was never much of a student. But she had her sights set on the University of Pennsylvania, whose 5.9 percent acceptance rate made it one of the most exclusive schools in the country.
"I applied early decision to Penn today!!" Maisy Biden texted Hunter Biden on October 31.
Just two days later, Maisy asked her father for an update on her application. In the coming months, Hunter and Joe Biden would mount a full-court press on university administrators to get Maisy's application over the finish line. The Bidens took their case directly to the top: University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann.
On December 13, 2018, the elder Biden texted Hunter that he was "going to try to see [University of Pennsylvania] Pres GUTMANN tomorrow." Two days later, Joe Biden told Hunter Biden that he "had a great talk with Guttman [sic]."
"Maisy still in the game for regular acceptance. But must do well in class this period. It's real," Joe Biden wrote on December 15. "We should talk about tutors etc starting tomorrow."
The next day, Hunter Biden told his daughter the good news—she had not been rejected. Hunter Biden said his father received some advice from Gutmann: Maisy needed to get her grades up in her senior year. Hunter also suggested that Maisy could see her chances improve if she expressed interest in playing lacrosse at Penn. Although it's unclear whether the lacrosse tip was from Joe Biden's conversations with the president of the University of Pennsylvania, Hunter was peeved that the counsel came so late.
"I also think it would help if you had lax coach talk to their lax coach," Hunter wrote. "Bottom line is that Guttman [sic] made clear that in order for her to explain the 11th grade you had to show improvement in 12th," Hunter wrote. "Which is something I think we would have all liked to know form [sic] the start, but in fairness we were much later in the app process than usual and made it look like we weren't 100% about Penn."
In March 2019, Joe Biden told Hunter that he asked the university's dean of admissions about Maisy's application.
In the same conversation with Hunter, Joe Biden also said Gutmann would call him directly to let him know whether Maisy was accepted.
"If I hear before 1pm on [March 29, 2019] I'll call immediately so you can call Maisy," Joe Biden wrote. "Let me know if there's anything I can do on anything."
The influence campaign worked. Maisy Biden matriculated at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 2019. President Joe Biden was present in the stands four years later, when Maisy graduated with a bachelor of arts degree.
Biden's infatuation with the Ivy League goes back decades. "There's a river of power that flows through this country," Biden said in 1988, according to a book by journalist Richard Ben Cramer. "Some people, a few, get to swim in the river all the time. … And that river flows from the Ivy League."
The Biden family had cultivated a close relationship with Gutmann by the time Joe Biden leaned on him to tip the scales for Maisy. Gutmann in 2013 awarded Joe Biden an honorary doctor of laws degree from the university and has called the president "one of our nation's foremost statesmen."
Joe and Hunter Biden held a flurry of meetings with Gutmann in 2016, emails from Hunter Biden's abandoned laptop show. In January 2016, the three met at Joe Biden's Delaware beach house, according to the emails.
In April 2016, Joe and Hunter Biden met with Gutmann at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. Hunter Biden directed his business partner Eric Schwerin to cancel a preexisting appointment with the prime minister of the Ivory Coast so that he could attend the meeting.
"You are supposed to meet with the Ivory Coast PM at 8:30am at the Sofitel downtown. Cancel?" Schwerin wrote to Hunter Biden two days before the April 15 meeting.
"Yes I guess so—can he reschedule—the Guttman [sic] mtg is a must attend for me per Dad," Hunter Biden responded. "I need to be at NAVOBS at 9AM sharp."
It's unclear what the meetings were about, but they took place one year before the University of Pennsylvania launched the Penn Biden Center.
The Penn Biden Center proved to be a lucrative endeavor for both the university and Joe Biden. The University of Pennsylvania raked in over $1 billion in foreign funding after launching the think tank, the Free Beacon reported. And the university paid Joe Biden more than $900,000 from 2017 through April 2019, even though he taught no regular classes and attended around a dozen ticketed events at the campus, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Hunter Biden was so confident in his connection to Gutmann that he thought he could reinvent himself as a professor at her prestigious school.
"I went to ask dad for the money to go to rehab. … And to tell him I want to get sober and teach at Penn," Hunter Biden told his sister-in-law and then-lover, Hallie Biden, in a December 26, 2018, text.
Three days later, Hunter Biden referenced Gutmann by name in a text to his uncle that reiterated his desire to teach at the University of Pennsylvania.
"That night I tell dad I want to probably stay in the area and specifically I wanted to live by you and teach my course at Penn and maybe develop another one," he texted Jim Biden on December 29, 2018.
Hunter Biden never taught his class at the University of Pennsylvania. But the Bidens weren't done with Gutmann yet.
In July 2021, President Joe Biden nominated Amy Gutmann to serve as his ambassador to Germany. The Senate confirmed Gutmann's nomination with a 54-42 vote in January 2022.