Hunter Biden Turns to Hollywood Lawyer for Monetary Assist and Counsel

WASHINGTON — Confronted with monetary strain and a federal investigation into his taxes and international consulting work, Hunter Biden has turned for cash and strategic recommendation to an unlikely supply: a rich Hollywood lawyer and novelist finest recognized for brokering a profitable licensing deal for the animated sequence “South Park.”

The lawyer, Kevin Morris, has quietly taken on an expansive position as a financier, confidant and would-be avenger for Mr. Biden, dealing with delicate topics for President Biden’s son that would have acute political ramifications for the White Home.

Mr. Morris lent greater than $2 million to Hunter Biden, which went to supporting his household and paying again taxes which are a topic of the continued federal investigation, in response to 4 folks conversant in the matter.

Mr. Morris suggested Mr. Biden as he navigated a paternity and baby help lawsuit, and helped him along with his artwork profession and a memoir revealed final 12 months that was partly a response to assaults from former President Donald J. Trump.

He’s funding a documentary undertaking that’s anticipated to construct on the memoir’s redemption story, whereas depicting the president’s son because the sufferer of allies of Mr. Trump who distributed to the media a cache of information that seems to have come from a laptop computer deserted by Mr. Biden in a Delaware restore store.

A number of the techniques Mr. Morris is claimed to have advocated — like publicly questioning the story behind the laptop computer cache and attacking these concerned in spreading information from it — haven’t been carried out. They’ve appeared at odds with the method of Mr. Biden’s protection legal professionals, who’ve proceeded cautiously whereas he’s nonetheless underneath federal investigation.

Mr. Morris declined to be interviewed. Makes an attempt to succeed in Hunter Biden by means of his lawyer had been unsuccessful. The White Home declined to remark.

Hunter Biden has an extended historical past of looking for employment or revenue in areas that overlapped along with his father’s public duties and doing enterprise with questionable companions all over the world, together with in Ukraine. His intensive and well-publicized private travails — together with habit to crack cocaine, divorce, a relationship along with his brother’s widow and cash issues — have spilled into politics, serving to to gasoline relentless if largely baseless efforts by Republicans to hyperlink his father to his enterprise ventures.

The felony investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes and worldwide work seems to be coming to a head. Justice Division prosecutors have met in current weeks to debate whether or not to maneuver ahead with the case. Within the coming months, the division is anticipated to make a remaining resolution about whether or not to convey felony or civil expenses, or to succeed in some kind of settlement that would embrace a major nice.

The choice should be authorized by Legal professional Basic Merrick B. Garland and will probably be among the many most scrutinized of his tenure. Hovering over it’s the risk that Republicans will win management of Congress in November and instantly start investigations into Hunter Biden and the way the Justice Division dealt with the case.

The White Home has stated it has no position in advising Hunter Biden on his authorized issues or on his public messaging. Mr. Morris’s emergence as an influential adviser underscores the fragile scenario that President Biden has to confront with the problems swirling round his son.

On one hand, Mr. Biden’s paying his again taxes — utilizing Mr. Morris’s mortgage — might make it tougher to prosecute a felony tax case in opposition to him. And the president’s confidants see Mr. Morris as a key member of Hunter Biden’s emotional interior circle, a pleasant shoulder to lean on as he navigates the federal investigation whereas attempting to rebuild his life after the loss of life of his brother, Beau, and struggles with drug habit.

On the identical time, among the president’s allies see Mr. Morris as a possible legal responsibility. They’re uneasy along with his many concepts about easy methods to go on the offense publicly, an individual conversant in their considering stated. And they’re involved that it might mirror badly on the administration for the president’s son to be receiving monetary help from a rich benefactor — a dynamic that would evoke the funds, which are actually underneath scrutiny from federal prosecutors, that Hunter Biden accepted from a Ukrainian oligarch’s firm and different international pursuits.

The allies desire that the president’s son proceed to maintain a low profile and observe precisely what his main protection lawyer, Chris Clark, tells him to do. They need Hunter Biden to do no matter he can to settle the matter with the Justice Division if prosecutors resolve they wish to cost him, in response to the particular person conversant in their considering.

Mr. Morris’s help is motivated much less by any political calculus than by “an incredible empathy for individuals who had been struggling,” stated Glenn C. Altschuler, an creator and professor at Cornell College who mentored Mr. Morris as an undergraduate and has stayed in shut contact with him since.

“He’s acquired a coronary heart as a giant as a home, and as his pockets has expanded, he’s been in a position to make his sympathies, his empathy, manifest in a wide range of methods,” Mr. Altschuler stated.

Mr. Morris, 58, made a giant splash in Hollywood, and some huge cash, when he negotiated a landmark deal that gave the creators of “South Park,” Matt Stone and Trey Parker, a precedent-setting 50 % stake within the cartoon’s success in digital media.

Mr. Morris had met the pair years earlier after they had been comparatively little-known filmmakers, and he represented them for the following few years without charge. He later co-produced a musical, “The E book of Mormon,” that the pair had written with a 3rd companion for which he gained a Tony Award.

Mr. Morris has additionally written a show-business satire known as “Gettysburg,” a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story titled “All Joe Knight,” and a set of brief tales.

Mr. Morris met Hunter Biden, now 52, in December 2019 at a fund-raiser for the Biden presidential marketing campaign, and shortly developed an virtually paternal affection for Mr. Biden, in response to an affiliate of Mr. Morris. Mr. Morris’s relationship with Mr. Biden was first reported by CBS Information.

On the time of their preliminary assembly, Hunter Biden was working to get his life again collectively. Mr. Biden was underneath assault from Mr. Trump and his allies, who had been seizing on his private struggles and international enterprise dealings to attempt to undermine his father’s marketing campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Morris each lived in Los Angeles and have become shut, with Mr. Morris aiding as Mr. Biden labored to complete a memoir. It detailed his struggles with habit and loss and credited his new spouse, Melissa Cohen, with pulling him again from the brink of despair and self-destruction. It additionally pushed again in opposition to Mr. Trump’s assaults on him and his household.

Mr. Morris, who had donated $2,800 to the Biden marketing campaign earlier than assembly the candidate’s son, donated $55,000 to tremendous PACs supporting the marketing campaign and opposing Mr. Trump within the months after the assembly — exponentially greater than he had given to federal committees beforehand, in response to marketing campaign finance data.

As a younger man, Mr. Morris labored as an workplace assistant for a member of the British Parliament, however he has little discernible expertise in American politics.

Mr. Morris — who produced a 1997 movie known as “Fingers on a Hardbody: The Documentary,” about an annual competitors in Texas to see who can maintain their hand on a pickup truck longest — has begun creating the concept and gathering footage for a movie that includes Mr. Biden. It’s being produced by an organization Mr. Morris began final 12 months known as Media Courthouse Documentary Collective. The corporate can be producing movies on topics together with cryptology, Congress and the unfolding defamation case introduced by Johnny Depp in opposition to his ex-wife, the actress Amber Heard.

Whereas the documentary about Mr. Biden continues to be within the formative phases, in response to folks conversant in it, they stated it might search to undermine assaults on its topic whereas additionally advancing the story of his redemption, together with specializing in the launch of Mr. Biden’s profession as an artist.

Mr. Morris, who collects artwork, has inspired Mr. Biden’s artwork and owns a few of it, in response to two folks conversant in his assortment, although one prompt the artwork may need been given to him as a present.

Whereas Hunter Biden beforehand informed The New York Occasions that his portray “is actually preserving me sane,” it has brought on complications for the administration. The White Home helped develop a set of ethics tips supposed to maintain the id of consumers of Mr. Biden’s artwork, and different particulars of the gross sales, from each the artist and the administration. That got here after criticism over a gallery present in SoHo at which asking costs had been between $75,000 and $500,000 per piece — excessive for a novice artist.

Mr. Morris and a person with a video digital camera had been photographed following Mr. Biden and Ms. Cohen outdoors the SoHo gallery on the opening of Mr. Biden’s present, which was attended by President Biden’s sister and different members of the family.

Mr. Morris and two associates traveled to Serbia late final 12 months to movie footage on and across the set of a film known as “My Son Hunter” that presents a fictionalized and unflattering account of Hunter Biden’s international enterprise dealings, in response to two folks with direct data of the endeavor.

They stated Mr. Morris recognized himself by identify, and stated he was making a documentary about Hunter Biden, however didn’t reveal his relationship with Mr. Biden in conversations with the solid and crew concerning the laptop computer, its chain of custody and different issues.

Mr. Morris’s journey to Serbia and interactions with the film crew had been reported earlier by The Each day Mail.

Phelim McAleer, the producer of the film, known as Mr. Morris’s conduct deceptive and “unethical,” including that “if I had recognized that he was offering authorized and media seek the advice of to Hunter Biden, I’d have handled him quite otherwise.”

An individual conversant in Mr. Morris’s plans stated the footage from Serbia might be utilized in his documentary to undermine Mr. McAleer’s film and the laptop computer.

Mr. Morris has been working to debunk the story behind the cache of emails, textual content messages and different information from Hunter Biden’s accounts that had been obtained and disseminated to the media initially by Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The New York Occasions and different media retailers have authenticated among the information, which detailed Mr. Biden’s funds and his work for international people and corporations at a time when his father was vice chairman and was overseeing components of American international coverage that overlapped with the pursuits of Hunter Biden’s shoppers.

A few of these information have come underneath scrutiny from prosecutors investigating Hunter Biden for doable violations of tax, cash laundering and foreign-lobbying legal guidelines.

Mr. Morris has privately questioned whether or not the information all got here from the laptop computer deserted in Delaware or had been spliced collectively from an array of sources. He has additionally indicated that the Justice Division ought to examine the chain of custody.

He has circulated diagrams exhibiting a set of Trump allies who’ve been concerned in disseminating the information, together with the previous White Home adviser Stephen Ok. Bannon, the previous private lawyer Mr. Giuliani and the Chinese language billionaire and Mar-a-Lago member Guo Wengui.