NYT: Did Joe Biden strongarm Ukraine to protect his son's job? And will Republicans pounce?

Did Joe Biden use his position as vice-president to shield his son Hunter from a corruption probe in Ukraine? The New York Times at least asks the question in describing a curious coincidence of American diplomatic demands for the removal of Kyiv’s equivalent of an attorney general, supposedly for ignoring corruption. However, one potential instance of corruption that had greatly interested Viktor Shokin involved Burisma Holdings — and guess who got $50,000 a month from Burisma?


It was a foreign policy role Joseph R. Biden Jr. enthusiastically embraced during his vice presidency: browbeating Ukraine’s notoriously corrupt government to clean up its act. And one of his most memorable performances came on a trip to Kiev in March 2016, when he threatened to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his own office and among the political elite.

The pressure campaign worked. The prosecutor general, long a target of criticism from other Western nations and international lenders, was soon voted out by the Ukrainian Parliament.

Among those who had a stake in the outcome was Hunter Biden, Mr. Biden’s younger son, who at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general.

Hunter Biden was a Yale-educated lawyer who had served on the boards of Amtrak and a number of nonprofit organizations and think tanks, but lacked any experience in Ukraine and just months earlier had been discharged from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine. He would be paid about $50,000 per month for his work for the company, Burisma Holdings.

The implication here seems especially clear coming from the Times. Burisma had no particular reason to hire Biden at a rate of $600,000 a year, except to just be a Biden when the chips were down. Mykola Zlochevsky might have considered that a rather cheap price to get a prosecutor off his back that might have shut down his operations in a corruption probe. And it seems to have worked; Ukraine dropped the probe into Burisma after Biden’s intervention, and Hunter remained with Burisma until last month, when his father readied his presidential-campaign launch.


Now, however, Ukrainian prosecutors are taking another look at Burisma. The new prosecutor-general has decided to reverse the earlier decision to drop its investigation of Zlochevsky. A new probe might uncover some uncomfortable revelations about how the prosecutor-general’s predecessor found himself out of a job, thanks to Joe Biden.

Give the New York Times’ Kenneth Vogel credit for reporting on this — and for holding off on the “Republicans pounce!” angle until the tenth paragraph. No, seriously:

But the renewed scrutiny of Hunter Biden’s experience in Ukraine has also been fanned by allies of Mr. Trump. They have been eager to publicize and even encourage the investigation, as well as other Ukrainian inquiries that serve Mr. Trump’s political ends, underscoring the Trump campaign’s concern about the electoral threat from the former vice president’s presidential campaign.

The Trump team’s efforts to draw attention to the Bidens’ work in Ukraine, which is already yielding coverage in conservative media, has been led partly by Rudolph W. Giuliani, who served as a lawyer for Mr. Trump in the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Giuliani’s involvement raises questions about whether Mr. Trump is endorsing an effort to push a foreign government to proceed with a case that could hurt a political opponent at home.

That’s a fair angle from Vogel, especially given Giuliani’s efforts to revive the Burisma probe. Most other news outlets — and even the NYT — would have run the “Republicans pounce!” part of the story first and buried those first four paragraphs long after the fold. In fact, if both parts of the story are accurate, then the two parts are roughly equivalent. Two different administrations could have manipulated diplomatic power for the personal benefit of its top members, although the nature of the benefits are somewhat different.


Hunter might come up in another more recent story about Biden. Yesterday, Biden scoffed at the idea that China was a threat to the US economy, a comment that might raise some eyebrows among Biden’s supporters in Big Labor:

Allahpundit thought it strange that Biden would scoff at a threat that’s now widely accepted by people on both sides of the political aisle. Peter Schweitzer warned about it several weeks ago by following the money back through the Bidens and the Kerrys, whose sons had formed a partnership called Rosemont Seneca:

Less than a year after opening Rosemont Seneca’s doors, Hunter Biden and Devon Archer were in China, having secured access at the highest levels. Thornton Group’s account of the meeting on their Chinese-language website was telling: Chinese executives “extended their warm welcome” to the “Thornton Group, with its US partner Rosemont Seneca chairman Hunter Biden (second son of the now Vice President Joe Biden).”

The purpose of the meetings was to “explore the possibility of commercial cooperation and opportunity.” Curiously, details about the meeting do not appear on their English-language website.

Also, according to the Thornton Group, the three Americans met with the largest and most powerful government fund leaders in China — even though Rosemont was both new and small.

The timing of this meeting was also curious. It occurred just hours before Hunter Biden’s father, the vice president, met with Chinese President Hu in Washington as part of the Nuclear Security Summit.

There was a second known meeting with many of the same Chinese financial titans in Taiwan in May 2011. For a small firm like Rosemont Seneca with no track record, it was an impressive level of access to China’s largest financial players. And it was just two weeks after Joe Biden had opened up the US-China strategic dialogue with Chinese officials in Washington.


Remember when sources close to Biden leaked that his hesitation about jumping into the race involved supposed attacks on his family? That got framed around Hunter’s struggles with addiction. That might have been a little misdirection to pre-empt more scrutiny of Hunter’s connections to foreign governments and his father’s potential conflicts of interests and outright interventions over them.

Small wonder, then, that Trump has jumped all over this. Bernie Sanders can’t be far behind, especially after yesterday’s comments about China.

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