They claim that Joe Biden, bragged about his firing the Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin. Their accusation is that Shokin was investigating Biden’s own son Hunter and the company he worked for, Burisma and so, Biden took out the hatchet and off went Shokin's prosecutor's job.
Their argument is two-fold: Trump was justified in trying to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son because his major campaign opponent, the former VP, had committed a crime. The President seems to insist that he was also justified holding up $250 million until he knew that corruption was being addressed by the new Ukrainian president. The second fold goes like this— "so what if President Trump secretively, with the help of Giuliani, asked a favor of the new Ukraine President which he could not refuse. The corruption in Ukraine and Biden’s involvement years ago is now so horrendous and corrupt, the real truth must emerge". Trump claims he was protecting the country’s $250 million from further abuse.
That rationale on its face is laughable. Trump refuses to curtail major corruption in his own administration, won’t stand up to corruption in North Korea, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia—even a country in which his own CIA insists that the Prince was involved in one of the most heinous crimes one can imagine, the sawing of the body of a US resident Washington Post reporter.
Oh, but Biden.
While Trump’s claim that he is fighting corruption in Ukraine, that is really not the issue of this column. My focus is upon Trump and Giuliani screaming that somebody should look at the “corrupt” Joe Biden’s firing of Shokin.
So, the ultimate question is—did Joe Biden fire Viktor Shokin because that prosecutor was actively engaged in investigating son, Hunter and his company?
Almost all of the mainstream media and fact-checkers who have look into this question, the response has been resounding. They claim there is absolutely no proof. They point to all of the evidence that Obama, his administration, the European powers and the Ukranian people wanted this guy gone and that there is no proof that Biden did not simply do what he was ordered to do. However, the one point none of them seem to drive home is the core of the issue which is, there was no ongoing investigation and that the Trump pushers are peddling facts that have no proven basis. So, let’s look further:
Last Saturday, Adam Entous appeared on Smerconish CNN show. Entous, a staff writer at "The New Yorker" wrote this piece titled, "Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father's Campaign?". The relevant part states:
SMERCONISH: Did Vice President Biden know of his son's role in Burisma when he told Ukraine to fire the prosecutor?
ENTOUS: At that point, yes, he would have known because it had been reported in the press and one of his aides had mentioned it to him just to kind of give him a heads up that he might be asked questions, The issue there is, you know, the American government was pushing that prosecutor's predecessors to investigate Burisma. It was that prosecutor's predecessor who decided to drop the case and I've seen no evidence at all that that prosecutor that we're talking about there that Giuliani is quoting had relaunched the investigation.(Our emphasis in bold)
“So, you know, at this point, I don't really see where the foundation is for the Giuliani argument and for this particular prosecutor's argument that that case had been open at the time when Vice President Biden sought the firing of that prosecutor.
That was an arrangement that obviously came back in this case to kind of bite all of them.
SMERCONISH: So OK. Based on the published accounts then, you think that Joe Biden would have known of his son's involvement in Burisma whether calling for the dismissal of the current or past prosecutor. Did the vice president know that the prosecution was looking at Burisma at a time when he was making this demand about loan guarantees?
ENTOUS: You know, I don't know because, you know, we know that in May 2014, "The Wall Street Journal" publishes a story when Burisma makes it public that Hunter Biden is on the board. We don't know if Joe Biden at that point read the news clips. So he might have read it in the clips, right? That are obviously sent to the vice president. We known -- we know that Biden's aides did not raise it with him because they were reluctant to do so. We know that Hunter Biden, from Hunter told me this, that he never told his father about it.
So, you know, I don't know if Joe Biden had seen it in the clips and maybe heard about it by the time later when he's having the discussion with the Ukrainian president about having Shokin, the prosecutor, fired. He may have been aware of it, but the issue there is is that that prosecutor was not investigating Burisma and Hunter Biden.
SMERCONISH: Joe Biden said yesterday, and I'm paraphrasing, that no credible news outlet has found any credibility to these allegations. Is that fair?
ENTOUS: Yes. I think that's largely fair. I mean, I think there are legitimate questions about the decision that Hunter made in taking this lucrative position on the board of Burisma, the Ukrainian company, at a time when his father was involved in dictating and in many ways shaping policy in Ukraine. That was a questionable decision.
The State Department at the time publicly said it wasn't a conflict because they described Hunter as a private person, but privately, you know, State Department officials and NSC officials were grumbling at the time that it made -- you know, that it raised questions about, you know, the U.S. position, which Biden was pushing, that the Ukrainians needed to address corruption issues.
SMERCONISH: I thought that the word choice in "The Times" today was interesting and they've used it before so I think it's very deliberate, "Hunter Biden sat on the board of an energy company that had been in the sights of the ousted prosecutor general." Is that a fair statement?
ENTOUS: I don't think that that's an accurate statement. He had been in the sights of the prosecutor general in 2014. That's not the prosecutor general that we're talking about here. We're talking about a prosecutor general that took the job in 2015. So the case was dismissed before that prosecutor general actually became the prosecutor general. It was his predecessors who dismissed the case in early 2015 before he took the job. So, you know, actually I'm not -- I'm not sure that that's an accurate statement.
SMERCONISH: Is it fair to sum up your look at this by saying bad optics, but no underlying fire?
ENTOUS: I would say that my takeaway was that it was a questionable decision by Hunter to do this, but when you compare it to what's happening -- what's happened by -- you know, what Giuliani and the president have done in terms of trying to twist the arm of what is a historically weak government, the Ukrainian government, to try to relaunch this investigation, you know, when you compare the nature of the activities, it would seem -- what Hunter did was questionable.
An article, “Trump's allegations about Joe and Hunter Biden don't seem to have any merit or even make much sense” explains further:
The allegation from Trump and Giuliani is that Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a state prosecutor to quash an investigation into a Ukrainian oligarch, Mykola Zlochevsky, whose gas company Burisma hired Hunter Biden to sit on its board of directors in 2014. Some of that is true — Joe Biden has openly said he successfully pressured Ukraine in 2016 to fire the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, or lose $1 billion in U.S. grant money.
But the first problem for Trump's accusation, The Wall Street Journal reports, is that "Shokin had dragged his feet into those [Zlochevsky] investigations, Western diplomats said, and effectively squashed one in London by failing to cooperate with U.K. authorities." In fact, Shokin was widely viewed as corrupt and ineffective. "The whole G-7, the IMF, the EBRD, everybody was united that Shokin must go, and the spokesman for this was Joe Biden," says Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
Zlochevsky's allies were "relieved" by Shokin's dismissal, The New York Times reports, because while "Shokin was not aggressively pursuing investigations into Mr. Zlochevsky or Burisma," he "was using the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes from Mr. Zlochevsky and his team." Zlochevsky has never been convicted of any wrongdoing, despite "a push by Obama administration officials for the United States to support criminal investigations by Ukrainian and British authorities, and possibly for the United States to start its own investigation, into the energy company, Burisma," and Zlochevsky, the Times adds. Biden never did anything to deter those efforts, his former colleagues say.
Another person with actual knowledge of the events is Tom Malinowski, who was assistant Secretary of State. He is now a Democratic Party Congressman from New Jersey. Nonetheless, here is his CNN interview last night with Erin Burnett:
OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
So, Congressman, I appreciate your time.
Not only are you a sitting member of Congress, you were an assistant secretary of state during the Obama administration. So, when President Trump says that Joe Biden got the prosecutor fired, which he did, to protect his son as a motive, you were there. Tell us what really happened.
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): So here's what happened. The United States, the international community, we were giving a lot of support to Ukraine in 2015, 2016, the IMF was providing loans. The United States was providing loan guarantees and that aid was explicitly conditioned on Ukraine doing better in the fight against corruption.
In late 2015, we realized that the main prosecutor, the chief prosecutor in Ukraine was doing nothing about corruption. He had brought not a single significant corruption prosecution including against this company that Joe Biden's son was involved with. He wasn't doing anything about that either.
So, we decided, the State Department decided, not Joe Biden, that for assistance to be provided that prosecutor needed to be replaced. The State Department delivered that message, our embassy delivered that message, the European Union delivered that message, the president of France delivered that message, the president of Germany delivered that message, the International Monetary Fund delivered that message, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development delivered that message.
So I don't know, maybe Trump thinks that the entire world was engaged in a conspiracy to protect Joe Biden and his son or maybe actually this was U.S. policy, European policy, international community's policy and the right thing to do.
BURNETT: All right. So to be loud and clear, I'm not saying he didn't agree, but he did what he was told to do what the U.S. government decided to do. He was the emissary.
MALINOWSKI: He was the messenger.
BURNETT: The messenger, OK.
BURNETT: OK. All right. So, to the point of why you would be Joe Biden because this is also important. You talked about the immense amount of aid that was going from the United States, right? So we know, obviously, that Mick Mulvaney was told according to sources about a week before this call that Trump had with the Ukrainian president to put aid to put $400 million worth of military and security aid to Ukraine on hold.
So, contextualize this for us, as a Ukraine expert, can you tell us how important American aid is? If you are President Trump how much power do you have by Ukraine by withholding that aid?
MALINOWSKI: Oh, my gosh, they need us. And it's not just them, this is for our national security. We have thousands of troops in Europe who are there in part to deter Russian aggression against Ukraine and Europe. Russian aggression, attacks that are going on right now and that aid included Javelin missiles which are anti-tank weapons designed to make sure that those Russian tanks cannot invade Ukraine and put our own troops ultimately in jeopardy, and Trump decided for reasons that are otherwise inexplicable to stop that assistance.
BURNETT: One other question I want to ask you.
"The Washington Post" spoke to the prosecutor that Trump according to the complaint praised and this guy is also now a former prosecutor, but he told "The Washington Post" that Hunter Biden didn't break any Ukrainian laws. This was the guy put in to investigate corruption and the investigation of the company as you point out had gone nowhere and was dormant under the other guy.
Do you think this is a credible take? That this former prosecutor is saying Hunter Biden did not break any Ukrainian laws, do you take that as credible?
MALINOWSKI: Look, this is not about Hunter Biden. This is about the president of the United States, the current president of the United States basing our foreign policy on whether foreign countries are willing to help him politically, and it's not just Ukraine.
I mean, are we going to give a better trade deal to China if the Chinese government gives Trump dirt on Elizabeth Warren? Where does this end? This is why this is so important to our national security and why so many of us including some Republicans are concerned right now.
That Trump-controlled whataboutism,”don’t look at me, look at Biden” needs proof or forever be buried in the long and deep false claims by Trump and Rudy and parotted by others.. If Trump and Rudy Giuliani and their allies have real evidence, strong proof with actual witnesses and documents that will verify with virtual certainty that the fired prosecutor, Shokin, was actively engaged in an investigation, then, put up or shut up.
Making loud and as of now, unfounded claims that are repeated by their allies on Fox News and talk radio is nonsense. If the truth is what they say it is, then Biden’s campaign should end immediately.
Amazingly and to me, hypocritically, Trump is slaming the media, calling it "fake news" and repeating extremist fascist trope, "the "enemy of the people" yet has failed to put up an iota of evidence to support his allegation. Not one. He pushes a video showing Biden bragging about his involvement in removing Shoken. They call it the "smoking gun" of Biden's corrupt act. Yet, that video proves only one thing--and nothing else--Biden was proud of and shamelessly boasted about the power he wielded. Nonetheless, Rudy, President Trump scream and point to Biden's corruption. But, we now have the Trump-Ukraine president conversation transcript and the whistleblower complaint which strongly backs up the transcript, yet, their the Trump chorus sings that none of the allegations have any merit. .
From all indications, the United States wanted the prosecutor Shokin to clean up corruption including investigating Hunter Biden's company. Shokin did not do so. The prosecutor who preceded Shokin had opened up an investigation but closed it, long-before, Biden lowered the boom. Also, despite of overwhelming facts presented that the European community, Ukraine, the relevant financial institutions wanted Shokin gone, somehow Trump's forces never ever seem to mention a word of what is the obvious.
Isn't that strange?
Not at all so strange, however, my own Congressman Scalise, is one of those folks with a huge megaphone, can be seen on friendly cable TV and on twitter repeating Trump’s unproven and totally undocumented claims.
Perhaps he and the rest of Trump's sycophants will do the research before they repeat what is to date has zero merit. After all, it would be great if people of real influence finally speak power to truth.