Via the Daily Beast, an enjoyable two-minute interview in which host David Asman does his best at every turn to steer Napolitano away from anti-Trump talking points and towards more Fox-friendly anti-Biden talking points. With some success! By the end, the judge is declaring that this episode ought to be the end of Biden’s presidential chances.
We’ll see. Much depends on what comes out about what Biden said and did, precisely, in leaning on the Ukrainians in 2016. Asman is eager to advance the most damning possible scenario, in which Biden is guilty of a quid pro quo by conditioning a billion dollars in U.S. aid on Ukraine’s willingness to dismiss the prosecutor who was dogging Hunter Biden’s shady company. Why, Biden actually did what Trump is merely accused of doing! But did he? The whole question on the Biden end of this is whether he really was trying to protect his son’s business and whether the prosecutor actually was targeting Hunter Biden and Burisma Holdings for prosecution. There’s evidence that points the other way, notes Tim Miller:
(1) Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, did take consulting work for a Ukrainian oil company, Burisma, that was under investigation by a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, for the work under the prior Russian-allied regime. This is where the true part of the Trump disinformation comes to an end.
(2) The problem was that Shokin actively stood in the way of international investigations that the U.S. and other democratic reformers were pursuing.
(3) Vice President Biden, U.S. diplomats, and our E.U. allies all called on the prosecutor to be fired so the corrupt oligarchs could be investigated MORE AGGRESSIVELY. This includes the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine calling out by name Mykola Zlochevsky, the oligarch who ran the company Hunter Biden worked for, as someone this prosecutor was letting off the hook.
(4) Donald Trump was allegedly pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate a domestic political foe on a bogus conspiracy for personal gain. Joe Biden was pressuring the Ukrainian government to root out corruption in their own country and bring about democratic reforms.
I’m unaware of evidence that Shokin was closing in on Burisma and Hunter Biden and that Grandpa Joe needed to intervene to get him to back off. Rather, reporting suggests that Shokin wasn’t aggressively chasing corruption in Ukraine and for that reason had to go. If Biden withheld U.S. aid to encourage Ukraine to take corruption more seriously, that’s not a “quid pro quo.” That’s a legitimate U.S. interest. Trump will argue that he was doing exactly the same thing in pressuring Zelensky to investigate Biden. Maybe he was! But this is why more reporting is needed. Each man potentially had a virtuous public interest and a more sinister personal interest in leaning on the Ukrainians. If Biden was motivated by that sinister personal interest, why was he hot to see Shokin removed when Shokin wasn’t making trouble for Hunter Biden? If Trump was motivated by that virtuous public interest in coversing with Zelensky, can we find other instances of him pressing foreign leaders to do more to fight corruption?
If more facts come out and they’re bad for Biden, his “electability” pitch will take a hit that his campaign probably can’t survive. The most compelling argument to nominate Biden is that he polls better against Trump than any other Democrat. If doubts begin to creep in that Trump will weaponize this Ukraine thing successfully against him next year, that argument will begin to crumble. If more facts don’t come out, though, Democrats might start circling the wagons around Biden, believing he’s being smeared by a TrumpWorld disinformation campaign to distract voters from Trump’s allegedly far worse misdeeds. Some Dems will argue that Trump is concocting this Ukraine attack on Biden because he knows Biden stands the best chance of beating him — that is, Biden’s Ukraine baggage will be cited to *boost* his “credibility” argument. Others will get defensive on Biden’s behalf, insisting that throwing Grandpa Joe under the bus because of Trump’s attacks on him would be to reward Trump’s gaslighting. A solid clue about how this is playing on the left will be whether Warren or Bernie brings it up at the next debate as a cudgel against Biden. If they refrain, it’s probably due to fear that they’ll be accused of “playing into Trump’s hands” by using it. In which case, how badly have his chances been hurt, really?
All of which is not to say that Biden *shouldn’t* suffer some damage from this episode. He’s obviously guilty of a conflict of interest in handling Ukraine policy while Hunter Biden had business interests there. Why shouldn’t Trump remind voters of that?
In lieu of an exit question, read this Atlantic piece from a few weeks ago about Fox News executives not much caring when Trump starts ranting about the network’s coverage on Twitter. Why should they care, they figure? What are Fox viewers going to do, watch OANN instead? C’mon.