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Hollywood attorney Kevin Morris, who financially backed Hunter Biden, moves closer to the spotlight

Kevin Morris moves into the spotlight
Hollywood attorney and Hunter Biden attorney Kevin Morris moves to the spotlight 03:50

When Hunter Biden moved out early from a lavish Venice Beach, California, property he was leasing for more than $17,000 a month in 2021, he directed the landlord to "just call my friend Kevin Morris," according to a text message obtained by CBS News. 

President Biden's son left tens of thousands of dollars in damage to the property, months of unpaid rent — and Morris to clean up the mess, according to a source familiar with the matter. 

In the text message, Hunter Biden assured the landlord, Morris "will work something out with you," adding that Morris "has been very helpful to me and has assured me he can help to resolve this ASAP."

Morris is a Hollywood attorney who has become a ubiquitous behind-the-scenes presence in the long-running political saga surrounding the conduct and alleged misconduct of Hunter Biden.

And in recent weeks, Morris has appeared frequently by Hunter Biden's side. On Wednesday, Morris strode shoulder to shoulder with the president's son as they made a surprise appearance at a congressional contempt hearing on Capitol Hill. Morris flew to Delaware with Hunter Biden for a court hearing there, but did not attend his arraignment in downtown Los Angeles courtroom Thursday, where Biden pleaded not guilty to criminal tax charges. Morris is expected to be back on Capitol Hill on his own next week to face questions from GOP lawmakers behind closed doors about his financial relationship with the president's son.

Morris isn't named in the document, but he also makes a cameo in the federal indictment against Hunter Biden, as the "personal friend" federal prosecutors have said provided approximately $200,000 for Hunter Biden's rent, CBS News has learned. 

An entertainment lawyer and author who brokered lucrative deals for the creators of the animated sitcom "South Park" and the Broadway hit "Book of Mormon," Morris' latest project has been helping Hunter Biden.

"I don't know where I would be if not for Kevin," Hunter Biden told The Los Angeles Times last week. "And I don't mean just because he has loaned me money to survive this onslaught, I mean because he has given me back my dignity. He's been a brother to me." 

Hunter Biden, center, flanked by Kevin Morris, left, and attorney Abbe Lowell, right, departs a House Oversight Committee meeting on Jan, 10, 2024
Hunter Biden, center, flanked by Kevin Morris, left, and attorney Abbe Lowell, right, departs a House Oversight Committee meeting on Jan, 10, 2024. Kent Nishimura / Getty Images

Morris and Hunter Biden first met at a political fundraiser in 2019, as Joe Biden launched his campaign for the presidency, according to The New York Times. In addition to providing Hunter Biden with legal support and friendship, Morris has also been integral in providing the president's son with financial help. An IRS agent involved in the Hunter Biden tax investigation told Congress in December Morris spent nearly $5 million financially supporting the president's son. The scope of Morris's financial support was first reported in November by the website Just the News

An attorney for Morris told CBS News his client's support for the president's son has been motivated purely by friendship. "Hunter is not only a client of Kevin's, he is his friend and there is no prohibition against helping a friend in need, despite the inability of these Republican Chairmen and their allies to imagine such a thing," Bryan M. Sullivan said in an emailed statement.

Hunter Biden and Morris both live in the Los Angeles area, where the president's son has been living while painting and selling his artwork. At one time, the law firm Morris founded was representing celebrities that included Matthew McConaughey, Ellen DeGeneres, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Saldana, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Rock and Laura Linney. Morris also has authored two novels and a book of short stories. 

Prosecutors say Morris' payments on Hunter Biden's behalf include housing, media relations, accountants and lawyers, as well as $11,000 in payments on his Porsche. A source familiar with the financial arrangement told CBS News Morris loaned the president's son more than $2 million to pay off back taxes. And a New York gallery owner told Congress Morris purchased $875,000 worth of Hunter Biden's art, according to a House Republican aide. 

Morris's attorney attributed his client's purchases of Hunter Biden's paintings to his avid interest in collecting art, saying in a statement that  he "has bought a number of pieces … paying the same amounts that other purchasers would have paid depending on the size and amount of work in the piece and paying the price set by the gallery that handles such sales."

In September 2022, when federal agents were in the thick of their investigation, they questioned President Biden's brother James Biden about Morris' support for Hunter Biden. According to a transcript of the interview made public by House Republicans, James Biden said that "Morris had befriended" his nephew, but he "didn't know why or when this occurred."

"Morris was helping [Hunter Biden] a lot, but James B didn't know why," the investigators' notes from the interview say. They say he added that the financial support was "significant enough" that Hunter Biden asked him "to say thank you 'on behalf of the family.'"

Morris' vast financial support has since drawn the attention of Republicans running the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. He has been subpoenaed by GOP investigators seeking to question him about whether he has received anything of value from Hunter Biden or his father's White House as a result of the payments.

Caleb Burns, an expert in campaign finance law, said the payments could present a legal issue for the White House if President Biden were ever to take an official action to benefit Morris.  

"Gifting anything to a government official or a government official's family can implicate criminal bribery statutes, if the government official is going to take official action as a result of that gift," Burns said. 

That is something  an attorney for Morris, Bryan M. Sullivan, said has not, and will not happen.

"Kevin Morris has not asked for or expected anything from President Biden or his administration in return for his support of Hunter," Sullivan said in a statement to CBS News.

Multiple people familiar with the relationship between Morris and Hunter Biden have said Morris is purely motivated by a desire to support someone he sees as the subject of an unfair political smear. 

"He feels this is the right thing to do because he believes Hunter Biden is being wrongly subjected to public attacks and legal consequences that he would not get if he were not the son of the president," said Glenn Altschuler, a Cornell University professor who is in regular contact with Morris and advised Morris when he was an undergraduate. 

In comments to the Los Angeles Times, Hunter Biden and his attorney characterized the payments as loans that would be repaid. Asked if Morris sought anything in return, Hunter Biden told the publication, "[Y]ou don't truly know or understand Kevin if that's your question."

Republicans are also questioning the timing of Morris's payments, some of which were made while Joe Biden campaigned for president in 2020. A month before Super Tuesday, Morris sought to expedite the filing of Hunter Biden's tax returns.

"We are under considerable risk personally and politically to get the returns in," Morris wrote to Hunter Biden's accountant, in an email obtained by congressional investigators. In 2021, another accountant for the president's son told one of the IRS agents in a transcribed interview that unpaid tax could generate "media attention." 

The IRS agents, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, previously testified to Congress that they had been hampered by Justice Department prosecutors during their investigation of the president's son. Shapley turned over contemporaneous notes to Congress that appear to show the prosecutors were not interested in investigating potential campaign finance violations against Hunter. 

A spokesperson for special counsel David Weiss, who is leading the Hunter Biden investigation for the Justice Department, declined to comment for this story. Weiss previously told Congress he had ultimate decision-making authority in the investigation and was not blocked from pursuing any charges against Hunter Biden.

Burns said it's unlikely the Morris payments would meet the narrow standard to qualify as an illegal campaign contribution. He said the Department of Justice has had little success bringing similar cases, citing the failed prosecution of former presidential candidate John Edwards. 

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