Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced that a formal criminal investigation has been launched into then-Vice President Joe Biden’s demand that Ukraine’s former president, Petro Poroshenko fire the country’s lead prosecutor in exchange for U.S. aid. Critics, and President Donald Trump has long argued that Biden was seeking to end an investigation into Burisma, an oil company that gave his son, Hunter, highly suspicious payments as a board member. The investigation will now go forward as the Senate issued the first subpoenas of its own on the Biden-Burisma scandal.
Andriy Derkach, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, released the recordings. The tapes show Biden stating
“It’s going to be critical for him to work quickly to repair the damage that Shokin did. And I’m a man of my word. And now that the new prosecutor general is in place, we’re ready to move forward to signing that new $1 billion loan guarantee. And I don’t know how you want to go about that… I’ll leave it to you to how you want it done and where you want it done.”
The tape confirms what is already known from Biden himself who bragged that he got the prosecutor canned. Biden maintains that he demanded the firing out of a commitment to fight corruption in Ukraine:
I have previously said that I am still not convinced that Biden made this quid pro quo demand to protect his son. There is no question in my mind that Hunter Biden’s contract was raw and open influence peddling. However, there is still no direct evidence that this action by his father was taken to shield his son. I am still inclined to believe Biden’s account.
Yet, I have always favored investigations into the matter. Indeed, I testified at the Trump impeachment that I believed there was ample reason for the House to investigate Trump’s alleged quid pro quo.
The Hunter Biden contract was a form of corruption, a classic example of influence peddling. Even if it is shown that his father’s actions were unrelated, it would be good to establish the full facts, just as I favored the investigation of Trump on Ukraine. Yet, Democrats have long opposed any inquiry.
Zelensky stated at a press conference that the new tape triggered his response: “As to Poroshenko and Biden, yes, I have heard, I will comment. I think it’s not the last sign that Ukrainians will see. The prosecutors, law enforcement bodies should react. The prosecutor general of Ukraine registered criminal proceedings at the request of deputy [Andriy] Derkach yesterday. They will investigate.”
It is hard to gauge what information the Ukrainians have, but Trump was seeking access to such information in his controversial call with Zelensky. Despite Trump’s call for an investigation, Zelensky did not order such an investigation. Now he has. With the new Senate investigation (as well as possible disclosures through John Durham;’s ongoing investigation) there may be a great deal of new information.
I tend to favor transparency on such issues, particularly when there is a clearly corrupt contract at issue. While the Burisma contract with Hunter Biden may prove unrelated, few people other than Joe Biden are saying that there is no question of wrongdoing. As I have written previously, this is not solely a criminal but an ethical question. Thus, I have no problem with these investigations. As a long critic of such sweetheart deals for the families of powerful American politicians, the more light on this transaction the better for the country. It may even offer a small degree of deterrent in the absence of any willingness from the Congress to do anything meaningful in addressing this common form of corruption and special dealing.