Joe Biden with son, Hunter, and wife, Jill, walking in the 2009 inaugural parade for newly-elected President Barack Obama.
Politics – Legal – Justice
Updated: Date
Published: December 18, 2019

Facts could have been wild card at Senate trial

Forcing the Bidens to testify could have been a nightmare for Republicans

Writing from Washington, D.C.

President Trump and some of his more rabid followers have wanted to have a real trial on impeachment in the Senate. In their mind, it would afford an opportunity to call as witnesses – and crucify – Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Actually it’s the Democrats who should have been salivating at that prospect – which may come as a surprise to most readers. Calling the Bidens to testify could have been be the Republicans’ worst nightmare. Maybe that’s why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell nixed the idea of witnesses. Smart move.

The Republicans who wanted a courtroom drama have been quaffing too much cockamamie Kool-Aid. It led them to peddle a fantasy that Biden as vice president in the Obama administration pushed in 2016 for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating Burisma Holdings Ltd., a Kiev-based energy exploration company whose board of directors included Hunter. Republicans argue that Hunter was unqualified to be on the board and was there solely because of his father’s position. Republicans also wanted testimony that supposedly would show Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

I say those wingnuts have been making these arguments, not that they really believe them. But they think they can get away with these baseless accusations because the press has been negligent. The media simply assert there’s no evidence of wrong-doing by the Bidens without explaining the underlying facts. Those facts would come out in a Senate hearing, soaking Republican lawmakers’ faces with egg.

I won’t waste time debunking the argument that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election since Trump appointees in the intelligence community, FBI and National Security Council already have testified under oath that’s hooey. It was Russia, Russia, Russia. The Ukraine argument is part of a Russian disinformation campaign. That Moscow got the previously hardline Republican party to spread Russian propaganda is a monumental achievement for Vladimir Putin. But I digress.

My apologies for being old-fashioned, but let’s look at the evidence we know from reporting that doesn’t simply regurgitate unsupported assertions of no evidence. Much of this information comes from a balanced October 1, 2019 article on by Meko Haze. It gives the evidence on both sides, but makes clear what’s fact and what’s not.

Joe Biden and his efforts to oust Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin: In 2018, Biden crowed about threatening to withhold U.S. aid to Ukraine unless Shokin was removed to make way for someone who would fight corruption. The U.S., the International Monetary Fund, European Union, European diplomats, the Ukrainian parliament, and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists thought Shokin himself was corrupt. The international push to get rid of him started in late 2015 and early 2016, according to a report in USA Today. But Shokin had shut down the Burisma probe in 2014, according to, which quoted Vitalu Kasko, a former Ukrainian official who quit because Shokin’s office was corrupt. Ukrainian anti-corruption activists also complained Shokin went easy on Burisma. It’s hard to argue that Biden wanted Shokin removed to end an investigation that had been closed for nearly two years. If anything, an anti-corruption replacement for Shokin would be more likely, not less, to investigate Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky.

To be sure, Shokin filed a deposition in a court case in Austria saying he was fired because he was investigating Burisma, a document Rudy Giuliani is likely to exploit. But the deposition is inconsistent with other evidence. For example, much earlier, Zlochevsky had been the target of law enforcement interest. The British had frozen his assets because he was under investigation for embezzling public funds when he was ecology minister. But Shokin refused to provide documents requested by the Brits, and his office wrote Zlochevsky's lawyers to say there was no case against him. There could be three reasons for this: the documents didn’t exist (there was no case), Shokin was incompetent, or Shokin was corrupt. These are not mutually exclusive explanations. But it’s important to note that the UK Serious Fraud Office, a district court in Kiev, and Shokin's successor, Yuriy Lutsenko (no prize either), found there was no case. The Brits ended up unfreezing the assets.

The facts thus show that Joe Biden didn’t try to remove a prosecutor to interfere with an ongoing investigation involving Burisma or Hunter.

(Separately, Zlochevsky was under scrutiny for tax evasion and money laundering. Lutsenko reached a tax settlement with Zlochevsky.)

Hunter Biden’s role on the Burisma board: I have no doubt Burisma picked Hunter for its board because of his father’s position. Hunter followed a hoary and disgraceful tradition predating President Jimmy Carter’s brother, Billy, and which today is being executed with dazzling indecency by Trump’s offspring and son-in-law. At least Hunter now recognizes it was bad judgment.

But that’s not the end of the inquiry. Hunter stayed on the Burisma board long after his daddy was out of office, resigning only earlier in 2019 to avoid being a campaign distraction. If Joe’s position was the sole reason Hunter was there, why not kick him off the board when Joe was out of office? Especially since the new president hated anything and anyone connected to the Obama administration.

The reason is that Hunter was qualified to serve on the board and was a valuable board member. A former head of a hedge fund, he advised Burisma on business deals. Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Polish president who is on the Burisma board, told The Associated Press in November 2019 that while Hunter was picked because of his name, he was an active board member who helped the company and never used his relationship with his father to further the company’s interests. Kwasniewski said Hunter conducted research and brought a unique American perspective to the company, including in the areas of corporate governance, capital markets and gas drilling equipment.

Perhaps the realization that testimony could backfire is the reason Senator Lindsay Graham and McConnell want to go straight to a vote without calling witnesses and be done with impeachment. That way Republicans could make allegations about what they “could have” proven – perhaps using anything Giuliani got from discredited Ukrainian sources such as Shokin and Lutsenko. With just a cloud but no need for evidence, the GOP has the best of both worlds. Unless the press steps up with facts and context, voters will have the worst.

© Stan Crock. All Rights Reserved. Publication by 2012-2024.
Limited segments of this article may be reproduced under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law, provided that attribution is made to the writer and to