If Team Trump has to shrug off the quid pro quo denial after John Bolton’s memoir, they’d better make sure the quid had some value beyond Donald Trump’s political future. To that end, Pam Bondi made an argument that Trump had plenty of reason to suspect that both Joe and Hunter Biden had participated in a corrupt scheme to enrich his family through Biden’s own admitted quid pro quo moment. The Burisma question was not only made relevant by House managers pushing their impeachment case, Bondi says, but also by the actions of Biden père et fils.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 27, 2020
“When the House managers gave you their presentation when they submitted their brief, they repeatedly referenced Hunter Biden and Burisma. They spoke to you for over 21 hours and they referenced Biden or Burisma over 400 times,” Bondi explained. “And when they gave these presentations, they said there was nothing, nothing to see, it was a sham.”
“This is fiction,” the former Florida AG declared. “In their trial memorandum, the House managers describe this as ‘baseless.’ Why did they invoke Biden or Burisma over 400 times? The reason they needed to do that is because they’re here saying that the president must be impeached and removed from office for raising a concern.”
While repeatedly referencing Burisma and the supposed ridiculousness of suspecting corruption, Bondi argues, House Democrats left out a lot of information known to both the Trump and Barack Obama administrations. Sen. Ted Cruz(R-TX) took a particular interest in this part of Bondi’s presentation:
WATCH: Trump legal team member Pam Bondi lays out Hunter Biden’s “nefarious” dealings with #Burisma (as WaPo wrote at the time), validating @realDonaldTrump’s request to investigate corruption. pic.twitter.com/JjmvkSpvaI
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) January 27, 2020
“Public records show that April 16, 2014, Devon Archer meets with Vice President Biden at the White House. Just two days later, on April 18, 2014, is when Hunter Biden quietly joins Burisma, according to public reporting,” Bondi noted. “Remember, this is just one month after the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office opened a money-laundering case into Burisma, Hunter Biden joins the board.”
“And not only 10 days after Hunter Biden joins the board, British authorities seize $23 million in British bank accounts connected to the oligarch Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma. Did Hunter Biden leave the board then? No,” the former Florida AG continued. “Then, only then, did the company choose to announce that Hunter Biden had joined the board. After the assets of Burisma and its oligarch owner Zlochevsky, were frozen and a criminal investigation had begun.”
She quoted from the German newspaper Deutsche-Welle that the hiring “has raised eyebrows the world over,” and noted BuzzFeed’s reporting that the Burisma appointment “created a conflict of interest for Joe Biden.”
This is even more important when it comes to Joe Biden’s famous billion-dollar quid pro quo. Democrats argue that Biden wanted Viktor Shokin fired as general prosecutors for Ukraine because he wasn’t investigating corruption enthusiastically enough, including Zlochevsky and Burisma. It seems pretty clear, however, that Zlochevsky had hired Hunter Biden for his connection to his father — especially since Hunter has no other qualifications for a board position on a Ukrainian energy company. He knew nothing about Ukraine, and had never worked for an energy firm.
It’s apparently true that Shokin was less than enthusiastic about his work regarding Burisma. However, as the New York Times reported in September, Zlochevsky was happy to see him go — because Shokin was shaking him down:
Mr. Zlochevsky’s allies were relieved by the dismissal of Mr. Shokin, the prosecutor whose ouster Mr. Biden had sought, according to people familiar with the situation.
Mr. Shokin was not aggressively pursuing investigations into Mr. Zlochevsky or Burisma. But the oligarch’s allies say Mr. Shokin was using the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes from Mr. Zlochevsky and his team, and that left the oligarch’s team leery of dealing with the prosecutor.
Mr. Shokin was replaced by a prosecutor named Yuriy Lutsenko, whom former Vice President Biden later called “someone who was solid at the time.” Mr. Zlochevsky’s representatives were pleased by the choice, concluding they could work with Mr. Lutsenko to resolve the oligarch’s legal issues, according to the people familiar with the situation.
While Mr. Lutsenko initially took a hard line against Burisma, within 10 months after he took office, Burisma announced that Mr. Lutsenko and the courts had “fully closed” all “legal proceedings and pending criminal allegations” against Mr. Zlochevsky and his companies.
So yes, Shokin presented more than a couple of issues, but Lutsenko wasn’t any better. He eventually dropped the probe into Burisma, which he then tried to revive before the Ukrainian elections in 2019. Zlochevsky got exactly what he wanted out of Biden’s billion-dollar quid pro quo, and it certainly must have seemed to him that Hunter’s $600,000 per year salary was money well spent.
Does that mean Joe Biden intended to help Hunter out with that quid pro quo? Not necessarily, but that’s certainly one reasonable conclusion to reach from it, as is the idea that Biden was working with allies strictly because of concerns over Shokin. That same approach should be taken with Trump as well, however. Yes, finding that the Bidens corruptly used aid for personal benefit would give him an advantage in the election, but it’s also reasonable to conclude that he was pursuing the same ostensible foreign-policy goal as Biden did — cleaning up corruption in Ukraine, especially that tied to US aid.
This might be the best part of the Trump team’s argument post-Bolton. And this time, the media has to take note of it.