Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 23, 2019
So, after all this testimony about Donald Trump abusing the power of the Oval Office and bruising the Constitution, the president is getting what he wanted all along — putting Joe and Hunter Biden under public scrutiny for some kind of bad behavior or appearance of bad behavior years ago in Ukraine.
But it is an investigation that Trump could have had at any time.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has asked the State Department for any requested records related to then-Vice President Joe Biden’s efforts to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor in 2016. Graham wants phone calls that occurred in February and March, 2016 between Biden and Ukraine’s then-president, Petro Poroshenko, in which the United States wanted Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who Western leaders viewed as corrupt.
At the time, Biden’s son, Hunter, held a lucrative board position with Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company. Burisma, and its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, had faced investigative by Shokin’s office, presenting a potential conflict of interest for Biden.
Graham wants to move ahead with a public hearing, and the White House made clear in a statement that Trump wants the Bidens called as part of any pending impeachment trial of the president’s own efforts to pressure the new Ukraine government to investigate Biden.
But wait, won’t Biden be able to take advantage of the Trump rule of magical insulation from any subpoena from Congress for his years as vice-president? Wouldn’t that prove too much of an irony for Republicans to laugh their way through?
Deflection or investigation?
Despite the fact that people like Kurt Volker, a former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine called by House Republicans to testify at impeachment hearings, called allegations of corrupt intent by Biden “self-serving and non-credible,” Graham wants a hearing on the merits.
Clearly such a hearing is part of Republican deflection of charges against Trump. But as with investigating those who have investigated ties between the Trump team and Russia, or a pending Inspector General report on the origins of the FBI probe and Mueller Report, this promised hearing is being offered as justification for Trump.
Pretty much everyone in government or from news organizations who have looked into the Burisma matters has come away saying there was no illegality or irregularity involved. Nevertheless, Graham wants this and now, just as the president is on the spit.
Politico noted that a former Shokin deputy has said investigations into Burisma were long dormant by the time Shokin was dismissed in March, 2016. In February 2016, Shokin’s office seized Zlochevsky’s property as part of a corruption investigation, according to a report at the time from the news service Interfax-Ukraine.
Graham’s letter notes that Hunter Biden became a Twitter follower of Tony Blinken, a longtime Biden aide then serving as deputy secretary of State, on the day of the Interfax report and suggests the two may have discussed Shokin’s investigations. Neither the State Department, Blinken nor the Biden campaign immediately responded to a request for comment.
Just this week, U.S. diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Kiev and the White House itself said in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee that there was no problem in the Biden matters.
The only clear conclusions here are that Republicans are pouncing on the renewed mentions of the Bidens to open the investigation that Trump has wanted, and that yes, Biden and the voting public would probably have been better off if the former vice-president had asked his son not to join Burisma’s board.
So, now what?
On its face, it would appear that Burisma felt that putting Hunter Biden on its board would improve its public acceptability after a brush with Ukrainian law. But there is nothing here to suggest that doing so actually resulted in any change in policy or even personnel in the Ukraine or in U.S. policy.
On top of all this, the intended target here is Joe Biden, the most outspoken among the Democratic presidential candidates for working in partnership with Republicans.
Having said that, the real question here is how pursuing this matter in public hearings now would result in any positive change. If the point is to paint Joe Biden as supportive of his son’s career choices, or even acting in his job oblivious to those effects, what is the proposed solution here? Is this act supposed to disqualify Biden as a candidate while somehow justifying Trump for holding up military aid for Ukraine in return for such an investigation?
I’m trying to imagine the questions for Hunter Biden after determining that he has a so-so record in business and that he probably was hired because of his name. Then what? In any event, Ukrainian officials have made clear that no Ukrainian law had been broken.
Holding this hearing now just proves that Trump could have had his investigation all along — without using the powers of his office with a foreign country for personal gain.
And that the point of a Senate investigation now is solely to spread a bit of dirt on Biden as a candidate.
I have to acknowledge that I’m stumped here about anything that helps me as a citizen.