President Biden on Thursday warmly welcomed to the White House Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose family — like Biden’s own — is accused of shady overseas business ventures.
Kenyatta and six relatives recently were exposed in the so-called Pandora Papers leak as owners of 13 offshore companies, one of which holds $30 million in assets.
Neither man addressed the scandal during a brief press availability in the Oval Office.
“I’m delighted to have you here,” Biden told Kenyatta.
The Kenyan president said in English, “President Biden in a former life visited Kenya where we had an opportunity to meet when he was vice president… and it’s really a great pleasure and honor to see you again.”
The closest Biden came to mentioning corruption was when he said “we’re also going to talk about financial transparency and accelerating economic growth.”
Neither president took questions from reporters.
The White House said in a Tuesday statement that the meeting would touch on “the need to bring transparency and accountability to domestic and international financial systems” — echoing Kenyatta’s dubious spin on the leak.
The African leader claimed the leak could be an opportunity for “enhancing the financial transparency and openness that we require in Kenya and around the globe.”
Kenyatta’s alleged corruption overshadowed other issues that the leaders were expected to discuss — including a US donation of 17 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine to the African Union.
The initial White House announcement said Biden and Kenyatta additionally would “discuss efforts to defend democracy and human rights, advance peace and security, accelerate economic growth, and tackle climate change.”
The International Criminal Court charged Kenyatta with crimes against humanity including rape and murder for allegedly organizing ethnic violence that killed hundreds following a disputed 2007 election. The ICC dropped the charges in 2014, saying that Kenya’s government refused to cooperate.
Biden administration officials said during a background call with reporters on Thursday that the White House highlighted the possibility of talking about financial transparency because Kenyatta mentioned it.
“The president has taken note of President Kenyatta’s statement that the Pandora Papers release will enhance financial transparency and openness around the globe,” a senior administration official said.
One reporter asked on the call, “Is the president concerned that he’s giving this big platform to someone who is deeply corrupt like President Kenyatta?”
The senior official said, “President Biden definitely engages with a range of leaders in advancing, you know, his foreign policy priorities, foremost amongst which are absolutely to address and combat corruption.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki snapped Wednesday when a Voice of America reporter told her the framing of the meeting priorities “is rich, considering the revelations in the Pandora Papers that the Kenyan president owned a whole network of offshore companies.”
“Let me finish my answer,” Psaki chided when the journalist tried to press the point. Psaki said it “doesn’t mean you don’t meet with people you have disagreements on.”
The Biden family faces its own controversy involving the business ventures of first son Hunter Biden and the president’s brothers Jim Biden and Frank Biden.
When Biden was vice president, Hunter Biden took a reported $1 million-per-year job on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, despite no relevant industry experience, while his father led the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy.
Hunter Biden still co-owns a Chinese investment firm that was formed 12 days after he joined his father aboard Air Force Two for a December 2013 trip to Beijing, according to recently reported business records. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company is co-owned by Chinese state-owned entities.
Documents and photos from a laptop that formerly belonged to Hunter Biden indicate that Joe Biden attended a 2015 dinner in DC with a group of his son’s associates — including a trio of Kazakhs and the Russian billionaire Yelena Baturina and her husband, ex-Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov.
A Senate report released last year said a firm linked to Hunter Biden received $3.5 million from Baturina in 2014. One day after the 2015 dinner, Vadym Pozharskyi, an executive at Burisma, emailed the then-second son to thank him for the opportunity to meet his father.
A 2017 email recovered from Hunter Biden’s laptop described a 10 percent set-aside for “the big guy” as part of a prospective deal involving a Chinese energy company. Former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski said Joe Biden was the “big guy.”