Burisma, corruption, election 2020, Hunter Biden, Im-Politic, impeachment, Joe Biden, Lindsey Graham, Mykola Zlochevsky, Obama administration, The New Yorker, Trump, Ukraine, Viktor Shokin, Yuriy Lutsenko
Yesterday morning, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham made clear his determination to investigate the activities of Hunter Biden in Ukraine. That’s good news for two closely related reasons. First: The decision by the son of former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to work for a big, politically connected company in that notoriously corrupt country was pretty central to the recently concluded (for now?) Trump removal effort, and there are still lots of loose ends that need tying up.
Second, no one has yet adequately explained why Biden Junior continued to earn tens of thousands of dollars monthly from Ukraine energy company Burisma, and why the company remained in business, for the entire time that Senior was supposedly pushing hard on behalf of the top stated Obama administration priority of ending the graft and similar abuses that had long hampered Ukraine’s economy and transition to real democracy.
Junior’s lucrative service on Burisma’s board strongly influenced the impeachment effort because of the major role it played in spurring President Trump to seek Ukraine’s help in probing a matter that was certain to affect the Biden Senior’s chances of winning the White House.
The President and his supporters claim that looking into the Bidens was justified because the big bucks Junior he made from Burisma at the least looked like a classic conflict of interest, and at the most could have corruptly influenced American policy while Senior was running the Obama administration’s operations toward the country on a day-to-day basis.
And as I’ve noted, far from Senior’s presidential candidacy justifying shielding him from official scrutiny, it actually calls for special attention – unless Americans aren’t supposed to care that a future chief executive might be in some foreign oligarch’s hip pocket. That would be quite a position to take for those who have portrayed President Trump as Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s compromised puppet. The Biden connection of course logically also warrants similarly special Trump attention to Burisma, rather than to Ukraine’s many other unmistakably corrupt entities.
For their part, Trump opponents insist that the President was simply trying to smear a possible rival in this fall’s general presidential election.
It’s true that impeachment and removal supporters leveled other Biden-specific charges at Mr. Trump – for example, attacking his decision to use his personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, as his main Ukraine sleuth, rather than going through standard Justice Department channels. But the first Article of Impeachment, the one alleging abuse of power, focused tightly on the claim that the President endangered America’s national security (by delaying military aid needed for Ukraine’s defense against Russia) for personal gain (improved reelection chances).
In this regard, the President’s opponents have noted that there’s no evidence indicating that the Ukraine policy of Biden Senior and the Obama administration permitted Junior’s job to influence American statements or actions. Indeed, they maintain that throughout his time as Ukraine point man, Senior championed exactly the kind of Ukraine corruption fighting efforts that threatened whatever dirty work they acknowledge Burisma was up to. And specifically, they point to Senior’s demands – clearly, by the way, reflecting U.S. policy – that Ukraine fire a prosecutor thought to be soft on corruption and replace him with someone they considered truly committed to cleaning up the system – including the situation at Burisma.
But this is where the pro-Bidens story gets fuzzy, at best. The reason? Because more than four years after Biden demanded the canning of Ukraine Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, and after Yuriy Lutsenko came on the job, Burisma is still open for business. Moreover, the co-founder widely fingered as its corruption mastermind, Mykola Zlochevsky, is still in charge. The only price the company has paid for its alleged misdeeds was a small ($7 million) fine for tax evasion. And this four-year period of course includes the year-plus that passed between Biden’s December, 2015 ultimatum and the Obama administration’s last day in office.
As a result, Junior was paid handsomely (some $83,000 monthly at least for some period of time, according to this Reuters report) from the time he joined Burisma (in April, 2014) till his departure (August, 2019). When was Senior put in charge of Obama administration Ukraine policy? Early 2014. And Mr. Trump’s opponents truly believe that there’s “nothing to see here”? And that it’s not the slightest bit fishy about Senior huffing and puffing about corruption in Ukraine but never actually blowing that house down (or at least actually denying Ukraine the $1 billion in international loan guarantees – including to the energy sector of which Burisma was a part – he threatened to cut off unless Shokin was pink-slipped) – which left Burisma free to keep stuffing Junior’s bank account?
Then add in this tidbit from The New Yorker (not a publication often favorable to Mr. Trump). In an article leaving no doubt that Senior had long been financially stressed despite his political prominence, author Adam Entous reported, “Hunter saw himself as a provider for the Biden family; he even helped to pay off Beau’s law-school debts.”
Therefore, it’s easy to see how it would have been easy for Senior “to deal with Hunter’s activities by largely ignoring them” – as stated in the New Yorker piece linked above. Except he didn’t just ignore them. His aides actively rejected numerous attempts by Obama administration officials to raise concerns about the subject – including by Geroge Kent, one of the State Department officials who testified at the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachement hearings. That sounds like they worked for someone who actively didn’t want to know.
It’s still possible that Senior was simply an ineffective Ukraine corruption fighter when it came to Burisma, rather than one who was conveniently indifferent. But since that question remains unanswered, since Senior is still running for the White House, and since Junior’s dealings with China during Senior’s Vice Presidency also seem to have contributed to the family’s considerable rise in net worth (see that above-linked New Yorker story for these details, too) how could anyone reasonably object to the proposition that it’s time to probe the Bidens?