President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday defended his son, Hunter Biden, who is under federal investigation for tax fraud, saying that accusations of wrongdoing against him were “kind of foul play.”
“I’m not concerned about any accusations that have been made against him. It’s used to get to me,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert.
“I think it’s kind of foul play,” Mr. Biden said in a clip of the interview that CBS released on Thursday afternoon, several hours before it was scheduled to air on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He added, “It is what it is.”
Last week Hunter Biden disclosed that the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware is investigating him for tax fraud. The two-year investigation began as an inquiry into potential money laundering crimes, according to multiple federal officials familiar with the investigation. F.B.I. agents were unable to gather enough evidence to move forward with the money laundering aspect of the case, they said.
“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 advisers,” the younger Mr. Biden said in a statement.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden transition team, said that Mr. Biden was not calling the investigation itself foul play. Mr. Bates shared a transcript of the interaction on Twitter that showed Mr. Biden made his statement after Mr. Colbert had asked him how he felt about his son being used as “a cudgel” against him.
The investigation into Mr. Biden’s son has already resulted in political fallout. President Trump was furious to learn that Attorney General William P. Barr kept the investigation secret in the run up to the election — behavior that complies with Justice Department policies.
Mr. Trump said on Twitter that more people might have supported his party in the election had they known about the inquiry, and his fury over the lack of disclosure contributed to Mr. Barr’s announcement that will step down as attorney general effective next week.
The inquiry has also complicated Mr. Biden’s pick for attorney general, who will need to oversee the investigation. It seemed this month that Doug Jones, the former Democratic Senator from Alabama, was a top pick for the job, based largely on his close relationship with Mr. Biden.
Now such close ties could make for a difficult confirmation process, as senators are sure to grill the nominee on his or her ability to prevent the White House from influencing the investigation. Republicans are already calling for the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation and protect it from political interference.
The president-elect’s own comments could also complicate matters for whomever he chooses to run the department. Earlier this week Mr. Biden defended his son, telling a reporter that he was “confident” that his son did nothing wrong.
In the interview with Mr. Colbert, the elder Mr. Biden said that his son is “the smartest man I know in pure intellectual capacity.” He added: “As long as he’s good, we’re good.”