This might be a bit uncomfortable for the media outlets proclaiming Joe Biden’s innocence in Ukraine-Gate over the last few days. Hugh Hewitt and Duane Patterson dug up video of Biden last year bragging about how he got the prosecutor investigating Hunter Biden’s employer fired. Biden made sure to include in this tale how important his threat to withhold US aid badly needed by Petro Poroshenko at the time was to his success.
The video starts off this segment of Hugh’s interview with Lindsey Graham, who quips that the media coverage of Ukraine-Gate is making the Kavanaugh smear last week “look like good journalism”:
HH: Here is Joe Biden in 2018 talking about the Ukraine. Cut number 25:
JB: Well, I was, not I, but it just happened to be that was the assignment I got. I got all the good ones. And so I got Ukraine. And I remember going over convincing our team, our, others to convincing that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, try to guess the 12th, 13th time to Kiev, and I was going to, supposed to announce that there was another billion dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor, and they didn’t. So they said they had, they were walking out to a press conference, and I said no, I said I’m not going to, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said. I said call him. I said I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said you’re not getting the billion, and I’m going to be leaving here, and I think it was what, six hours. I looked. I said I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Lindsey Graham. Good morning, Senator, always a pleasure to have you.
LG: Well, that’s a good lead-in to me, the old, good old son of a bitch lead-in. How are you doing?
HH: (laughing) I’m good.
HH: I’m good. I’m not going to call you…have you heard that Joe Biden quote before?
LG: No, never ever.
HH: What does that tell you about this weekend’s rush to judgment? It’s another example of verdict first, trial later when it comes to Donald Trump. And I don’t think anyone’s heard the Joe Biden quote saying he got the prosecutor fired.
LG: Well, it makes the Kavanaugh story look like good journalism.
Note well that Biden leaves out the context of what the prosecutor was investigating at the time of Biden’s insistence on getting him fired. He was quarterbacking a corruption probe targeting Burisma, which was paying Hunter Biden a fortune ($50,000 a month at the time). In fact, it seems a little weird without that context as to why foreign aid to Ukraine depended on the person filling a state prosecutor’s office at all. What foreign-policy interest would the identity of a state prosecutor — an internal affair — have involved that would derail a billion-dollar aid package to an ally in desperate need of the cash?
And yet, here was Biden bragging last year that “son of a bitch, he got fired” — after Biden explicitly used the authority of his office and the president’s to get rid of the man looking into his son’s employer. Even if one assumes Donald Trump attempted to pressure Volodymyr Zelenskiy into reopening the Burisma probe, it can’t be any worse that the explicit quid pro quo demanded by Biden … in his own words.
But did Biden actually interfere in the prosecution? That’s a question worth asking, but the New York Times seemed to think it was a possibility in May. Biden’s pressure to fire Viktor Shokin got Yuri Litsenko appointed in his place. Litsenko ended up closing the Burisma probe, but he tried to reopen it this year, although that might have had political implications as well:
When Mr. Shokin became prosecutor general in February 2015, he inherited several investigations into the company and Mr. Zlochevsky, including for suspicion of tax evasion and money laundering. Mr. Shokin also opened an investigation into the granting of lucrative gas licenses to companies owned by Mr. Zlochevsky when he was the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. Mr. Zlochevsky and Burisma have always vigorously disputed the accusations against them. …
The decision to reopen the investigation into Burisma was made in March by the current Ukrainian prosecutor general, who had cleared Hunter Biden’s employer more than two years ago. The announcement came in the midst of Ukraine’s contentious presidential election, and was seen in some quarters as an effort by the prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, to curry favor from the Trump administration for his boss and ally, the incumbent president, Petro O. Poroshenko.
Mr. Poroshenko lost his re-election bid in a landslide last month. While the incoming president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has said he will replace Mr. Lutsenko as prosecutor general, Mr. Zelensky has not said whether the prosecutors he appoints will be asked to continue the investigation.
And while the Obama administration was initially supportive of the probe into Burisma, that was apparently before Burisma started paying Hunter Biden $50K a month:
Concerns about Mr. Shokin notwithstanding, the cases against Burisma had high-level support from the Obama administration. In April 2014, it sent top officials to a forum on Ukrainian asset recovery, co-sponsored by the United States government, in London, where Mr. Zlochevsky’s case was highlighted.
Early that year, Mr. Archer, the Kerry family friend, and Hunter Biden were part of a wave of Americans who would come from across the Atlantic to help Burisma both with its substantive legal issues and its image. Their support allowed Burisma to create the perception that it was backed by powerful Americans at a time when Ukraine was especially dependent on aid and strategic backing from the United States and its allies, according to people who worked in Ukraine at the time.
And then there’s this catch from David Martosko:
— David Martosko (@dmartosko) September 21, 2019
So at the very least, Biden was clearly aware of the conflict of interest manifest in his intervention. Read the rest at the NYT’s meticulously detailed tick-tock on the Ukraine-Burisma mess. Whatever the intent, the outcome was that Burisma got let off the hook, whether thanks to the change of prosecutor or not, and the Obama administration didn’t demand another firing of Lustenko as a result. His son benefited from Biden’s intervention whether it was Biden’s intent or not. There is as much smoke around that question as there presently is around Trump’s conversation with Zelenskiy, and as much question of abuse of authority. Both men have to provide some answers to these questions, at least if we’re to insist that personal interests cross the line in diplomatic efforts, which is actually a very good standard to impose.
Politico skips over this part of Hugh’s interview with Graham to report that the senator “urges Trump” to be transparent. Actually, Graham mainly predicted Trump would surprise everyone with a release of the transcript:
“I would urge him to continue to be as transparent as possible and tell us as much as he can without compromising executive privilege, so that we can understand what happened,” the South Carolina Republican told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt during an interview on his show. …
“I believe that President Trump is going to blow you away with his willingness to disclose and be transparent about this phone call, because I think he did nothing wrong and he has nothing to hide,” Graham said.
“Get ready for some disclosures from the president that I think will exceed every expectation,” he added. “I can’t promise you this will happen, but I think the president will clear the air when it comes to the whistleblower allegation.”
There isn’t a word about the Biden video in the Politico report, but it’s not going to stay quiet for long. At some point, Democrats will have to either drop the matter or drop Biden.