10 Things in Politics: Hunter Biden's art raises ethical questions

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Here's what we're talking about:

With Phil Rosen.


Hunter Biden looking over a wall of money. Joe Biden is in front not paying attention to him. The background is red.

1. INSIDE BIDENWORLD: President Joe Biden's "absolute wall" between him and his family's business interests sounds formidable. But in practice, it fails at the presidential level, my colleague Mattathias Schwartz writes.

Here's a look at why ethics experts are fuming:

Hunter Biden's art illustrates why Biden's wall doesn't work: Earlier this month, Biden's son hobnobbed with wealthy art patrons while hoping to sell his work for as much as $500,000 a pop. Under an arrangement approved by the White House, the younger Biden is free to meet with prospective buyers at such events, so long as only his gallerist knows the identity of those who place bids on his paintings. But the gallery won't say how it's vetting buyers and where it's drawing the line.

This uneasy relationship is nothing new: It's still a stark contrast from Donald Trump's approach, in which, for instance, corporate lobbyists, foreign governments, and his own Secret Service detail spent millions to stay at his hotels and golf resorts during his presidency.

  • But one expert says the US would cry foul if another nation allowed this: "If we were monitoring some developing country and learned that the president's son was about to make millions from the sale of his art, and hadn't sold any art before, we'd be talking to that country's leadership about the need for ethical reform," Walter Shaub, a former director of the US Office of Government Ethics, told my colleague.

Read more about how the actions of some of President Joe Biden's family members hark back to a particular theme in Washington.


2. Republicans are bracing for an awkward Trump speech: The former president is set to speak at a major GOP donor event in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump is publicly calling for Mitch McConnell's ouster as the top Senate Republican, which is why some donors are surprised that Sen. Rick Scott invited Trump to speak. "It's always interesting with Trump. Whoever wants to be there can be there," said one person involved with planning the event. Read what else Republicans are saying from the $1,300-a-night resort where they await Trump.


John Kerry

3. Kerry tempers expectations for major climate summit: The US climate envoy John Kerry says climate talks next month in Glasgow will most likely end without major nations setting the necessary goals needed to get a grip on the climate crisis before it's too late, the Associated Press reports. Kerry told the AP, though, that he was not lowering expectations for a summit he and other top leaders once billed as "the last, best chance" on climate action. Here's where things stand just weeks away from the major climate talks.

  • Key quote: "It would be like President Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, again," Kerry told the AP of what would happen if Congress failed to pass significant climate legislation.

4. Biden is trying to save Christmas: Biden announced plans for the Port of Los Angeles to move to 24/7 operations, joining one of the nation's other busiest ports as leaders try to address a cargo bottleneck that has already led to shortages and price increases, NBC News reports. Major retailers like Walmart and shipping companies like UPS and FedEx will also step up their efforts to address supply-chain issues. The White House's push comes amid fears that shortages could wreak havoc on holiday shopping.


5. Democrats are already floating another massive spending bill: If they can't cram all of Biden's social-spending promises into the reconciliation bill this year, Democrats may try again next year. Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the chair of the powerful House Budget Committee, mapped out a scenario in which provisions that might be dropped, like a Medicare expansion, be repackaged in a new bill right before the midterms. More on what top lawmakers are considering as they continue to debate cuts to their $3.5 trillion plan.


Apple TV+, Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and HBO logos flying towards the center of a TV. A hand holding a remote is directed towards the center. The background is purple with a warped texture on top of it.

6. Inside Hollywood's battle for the hottest TV shows: The launch of new streaming services has shaken up the hierarchy of Hollywood's top TV buyers. But HBO is the most popular place to sell a scripted TV show, according to interviews with 18 industry insiders. Read more about how Netflix is changing, Apple's search for its breakout drama, and Amazon's struggle to define its identity.


7. Johnson & Johnson wants to dole out 2nd doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, but the FDA isn't so sure: Food and Drug Administration scientists say a booster of J&J's COVID-19 shot could bolster the immune response in theory, but the data isn't there yet. The agency pointed to the lack of robust clinical-trial results supporting a second shot six months after the first dose. An expert panel is expected to vote Friday on whether the agency should OK the booster shots.


8. Capitol riot panel readies for subpoena fight: Lawmakers on the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection say they're planning to increase their efforts to force top Trump administration officials to cooperate with their investigation, The Washington Post reports. Former officials like Steve Bannon have said they won't cooperate because of Trump's decision to invoke executive privilege. Bannon was supposed to sit for an interview with lawmakers today. The panel also issued a subpoena for Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who was closely involved in Trump's efforts to press his voter-fraud claims. Here's where the investigation stands.


9. Katie Couric says she edited RBG's comments on kneeling during the anthem: Couric says in her new book that she edited out comments Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made in a 2016 interview, seeking to "protect" the octogenarian justice, according to outlets that obtained the book. Couric was said to have written that Ginsburg said athletes who knelt during the national anthem before sporting events were showing "contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life." Couric did report that Ginsburg called kneeling "dumb and disrespectful," but she did not include the full remarks. More on what was apparently a behind-the-scenes struggle to figure out what to do with Ginsburg's comments.


jeff bezos pins astronaut wings to william shatner space jumpsuit

10. William Shatner cried telling Jeff Bezos about his flight to space: The "Star Trek" star said staring into the blackness of space was like looking at death. "I hope I never recover," he said after his flight Wednesday. Emotions overcame Shatner as he recounted his time aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket. At 90, Shatner is the oldest person to fly in space. See his full comments.


Today's trivia question: Speaking of presidential families, who was responsible for Billy Beer? Email your answer and a suggested question to me at bgriffiths@insider.com.

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