Republicans Will Try For Third Time To Pin Ukraine Corruption On Joe Biden

A story old as time: Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian gas company has been Exhibit A in the alleged corruption of Joe Biden since 2019.

WASHINGTON — The House will vote Wednesday on whether to formally authorize Republicans’ impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden.

The vote is mostly symbolic, signaling impeachment will remain a top priority for House Republicans in the new year — but Biden’s alleged misdeeds are not new, nor are GOP efforts to litigate them.

The ongoing impeachment effort actually represents Republicans’ third official effort to tarnish Biden for the same thing: his son’s work with Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, when his father was leading the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy as vice president.

“This story is as old as time,” House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said last month, referring to the Bidens.

“You have a politician who does certain things, those actions benefit his family financially and then there’s an effort to sweep it all under the rug,” Jordan continued. “And we know this has happened — the best example is to use the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.”

The repeated attempts over five years to dig up dirt around the same issue speaks to the impropriety of Hunter taking the Burisma job, but more importantly it highlights the weakness of the GOP’s assembled evidence against Joe Biden himself.

In 2019, then-president Donald Trump tried to make Ukraine announce its own investigation of the Bidens, illegally withholding military aid in a scheme that prompted House Democrats to impeach him. Trump alleged Biden had pushed for the ouster of Viktor Shokin, the top Ukrainian prosecutor, in order to protect his son.

During depositions as part of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, State Department officials acknowledged Hunter Biden’s job with Burisma conflicted with his father’s role as the face of U.S. policy toward Ukraine. They insisted, however, Hunter Biden had had no actual impact on Ukraine policy, saying it was the consensus of U.S. policymakers to oust Shokin for reasons wholly unrelated to Burisma.

Kurt Volker, then the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, told House lawmakers Biden “was executing U.S. policy at the time and what was widely understood internationally to be the right policy.”

“This story is as old as time.”

- Jim Jordan

The next year, Senate Republicans tried again, interviewing State Department officials as well as Democratic consultants who lobbied the State Department on Burisma’s behalf during the relevant time period. The resulting report, by the then-GOP controlled Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs — chaired by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), not a man known for bipartisanship or avoiding conspiracy theories — said it was “not clear” Hunter Biden’s work affected U.S. policy despite the “awkwardness” of the vice president’s son working for a Ukrainian company.

This year Republicans have put Burisma at the center of their impeachment effort, ignoring the pile of testimony from prior years that goes against their theory of the case. Not that any leading Republicans will admit it.

“No one’s ignoring testimony,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told reporters at a press conference last month in response to a question from HuffPost. “This investigation has to continue because, again, as we said, facts are stubborn things.”

Republicans have sought to bolster their case with new material, including an FBI document reflecting a tip from a credible informant who reported that Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma, suggested he’d paid the Bidens millions in bribes. The informant said he couldn’t vouch for the claim and that it might have been braggadocio.

Using subpoenas, Republicans have turned Hunter Biden’s bank accounts upside down in search of cash flows to the president. All they’ve revealed so far are a few transfers worth $1,380 each — apparently reimbursements for car payments after Joe Biden had helped his son buy a truck. House Oversight Committee James Comer (R-Ky.) has said, however, even if Hunter Biden was just paying his dad back, the money was tainted because he earned it from foreign nationals.

This year’s investigation is wider than the previous efforts, encompassing the president’s overly sweeping denials he ever spoke to his son’s business partners as well as the criminal prosecution of Hunter Biden. A pair of IRS criminal investigators has alleged that the Justice Department stifled their investigation, such as by disagreeing with their plans to approach certain witnesses or obtain search warrants.

Justice Department officials have consistently denied hobbling the Biden probe, which has so far resulted in multiple felony charges against Hunter Biden, including for failing to pay taxes on his Burisma income.

Material the IRS whistleblowers gave Republicans in October showed that executives at Blue Star Strategies, a Democratic lobbying firm that Hunter Biden suggested Burisma ought to hire, celebrated in 2016 when Ukrainian prosecutors declared Zlochevsky was no longer wanted by Ukrainian authorities on corruption charges.

“We won and in less than a year,” Blue Star co-founder Sally Painter said in an email to an associate of Hunter Biden’s.

House Republicans last month sent interview requests to Painter and Blue Star CEO Karen Tramontano, explaining in a letter to Painter that “Blue Star Strategies was involved in the arrangement between Hunter Biden and Burisma,” and that Painter knows things that could advance the impeachment inquiry.

Senate Republicans interviewed both Painter and Tramontano as part of their 2020 investigation. Painter recalled that Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in 2015, made negative comments about Burisma, and she described trying to meet with him and other officials to find out why, without much luck. “He wouldn’t engage on the discussion with us,” Painter said of Pyatt.

George Kent, a career foreign service officer who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the European and Eurasian Bureau under Trump, told Senate Republicans he had advised Ambassador Pyatt to hear Blue Star out but not suggest the U.S. was open to changing its posture toward Zlochevsky, the Burisma founder whom Kent and other officials considered corrupt.

Kent said that in 2016, he pressed Shokin’s successor in the prosecutor general’s office, Yuri Lutsenko, to pursue charges against Zlochevsky. He also said that Lutsenko told him Blue Star had suggested Lutsenko travel to the U.S. to meet with high-level officials, an idea Kent discouraged since it was being planned without the embassy’s input.

Kent said Painter then called him and “accused me of ruining Blue Star’s business model and of damaging relations with Lutsenko.”

In other words, Kent’s 2020 testimony suggested the State Department was hostile to Burisma and to the lobbying efforts that Republicans are trying to connect to Hunter Biden.

Of all the witnesses, Kent was the most vocal about the awkwardness of Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma, testifying that his position on the company’s board made it harder for the U.S. to push its anticorruption agenda in Ukraine. But Republicans have not said they’ll ask Kent to testify again.

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