But now, Biden’s son-in-law, Dr. Howard Krein, is facing scrutiny.
Krein, who married Ashley Biden in 2012, is a head and neck surgeon and the chief medical officer of health care venture capital firm StartUp Health.
The firm has also highlighted Krein’s ties to Biden since Inauguration Day.
“The potential conflicts posed by this situation are orders of magnitude less severe than the pervasive corruption of the Trump administration, but the potential problems are real. President Biden and his administration should take proactive measures to prevent foreseeable problems going forward,” Robert Weissman, president of the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen, told CNN. He added that Biden “should not engage in conversations with Krein about health policy, nor should others in the Biden administration.”
Jennifer Hankin, chief of staff at StartUp Health, said Krien’s role at the company is “only to provide a clinician’s perspective into our mission to transform health. Dr. Krein does not make investment decisions at StartUp Health nor does he advise or assist companies on obtaining government contracts.”
And responding directly to stories about Krein, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday: “The President has made clear that there will be an absolute wall between him and any businesses connected with his family members, and … no family member is going to have an office in the White House or be involved in any government policymaking. That applies to his son-in-law and applies to every single member of his family.”
“There’s not a single member of the family who is employed at the White House, will have an office in the White House or will benefit financially,” she added.
The conflict of interest questions raised about Biden’s family follow a presidency known widely for apparent self-dealing and nepotism.
Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project On Government Oversight, told CNN that the Trump administration “set the bar very low, allowing family and cozy associates to obtain federal jobs and lucrative contracts, and Biden isn’t coming into the White House with a clean slate.”
In order for the White House to successfully shutdown Biden family and associates advertising closeness to the Oval Office, the President, senior officials and agencies will need to “build appropriate firewalls, prevent special access, and not share any sensitive government information with family and friends,” Amey said.
“No one in our family and extended family is going to be involved in any government undertaking or foreign policy,” he continued.
But since Biden’s days in the Obama White House, he’s acted favorably toward Krein’s firm and, conversely, Krein’s firm has sought to highlight its connections to Biden.
“I happened to be talking to my father-in-law that day and I mentioned Steve and Unity were down there,” Krein said at the time. “(Biden) knew about StartUp Health and was a big fan of it. He asked for Steve’s number and said, ‘I have to get them up here to talk with Barack.’ The Secret Service came and got Steve and Unity and brought them to the Oval Office.”
StartUp Health has also developed its own moonshot initiatives, and at times, has tied the firm’s efforts directly to Biden.
In an email newsletter sent after Biden’s remarks at Davos in 2016, StartUp Health solicited pitches from entrepreneurs related to cancer moonshot work.
“This week Vice President Biden delivered the keynote address in Davos during the World Economic Forum and discussed one of the most important missions of our time — curing cancer — and challenged experts to share data,” the company’s newsletter read. “StartUp Health is honored to support this moonshot (our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Howard Krein is an advisor to the White House on this initiative and currently in Davos as well), and we are working to organize an army of entrepreneurs who can help. If you’re a startup focusing on solutions that can help end cancer as we know it, we’d like to meet you; tell us about what you are working on now.”
StartUpHealth has sought to highlight Krein’s familial ties to Biden over the years.
One image on the post, obtained through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, shows then second lady Jill Biden with Krein and Ashley Biden posing with a group in India. Another image shows the second couple with Ashley and Krein in Singapore.
The caption reads: “.@startuphealth Chief Medical Officer @KreinMD on the road supporting @VP Biden’s Cancer Moonshot #endcancer”.