The Return of Hunter Biden

A Senate GOP report doesn't find anything new.

Senate Republicans have released a report on Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine, and the results are underwhelming. Via WaPo: GOP senators’ report calls Hunter Biden’s board position with Ukraine firm ‘problematic,’ but fails to show how it changed U.S. policy.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) co-authored the report, which comes just weeks before the Nov. 3 election between President Trump and Joe Biden.

The GOP report concludes that “Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine,” while charging that he and other Biden relatives “cashed in on Joe Biden’s vice presidency.”

But at the same time, the report states that “the extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear.”

I don’t think anyone ever thought that that Hunter Biden didn’t cash in on his name. Indeed, I wrote the following back in December:

And let me be clear: I have no interest in defending Hunter Biden, per se. Indeed, everything I know about him suggests a person with questionable judgment at best…there is no doubt in my mind that he got the offer to work with Burisma because of his last name and that he showed poor judgment in taking the position, since it clearly always had the chance of causing problems for his father.

James Joyner wrote a post a few days before entitled Hunter Biden’s Socially Acceptable Corruption. Not to mention this WaPo column from the time: The Hunter Biden story is a troubling tale of privilege.

So yes, there is something wrong with people getting highly paid and/or powerful jobs due to their family ties (and the current administration has set such a remarkable example in this arena).

And that having the VP’s son in such a position might have caused some difficulties for the Obama administration is no surprise.

But it is noteworthy that a politically-motivated investigation could not confirm the more damning narrative proffered both by Trump and right wing media: that Joe Biden used his office to get a prosecutor fired so that said prosecutor was investigating Burisma (or that some secret nefarious thing was going on). The charge was always convoluted (after all, the prosecutor was known to be corrupt and there was an international effort of the US and Europe to get him removed).

Back to the report:

The investigation, which was launched last year, has been mired in controversy since the start, as Democrats accused Johnson and Grassley of running the probe to try to counter the House’s impeachment of Trump, who pressured Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens.

Johnson and Grassley have defended the investigation as a legitimate probe into potential abuses of access to power. But the standoff took a darker turn this summer, when Democrats accused Johnson of laundering Russian disinformation through his probe — a charge Johnson and Grassley have vehemently rejected.

[…]

The senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.) called the report authored by Grassley and Johnson a “sham investigation” that relied in part on Kremlin disinformation.

Wyden said the inquiry “was an attempted political hit job facilitated by the State Department, and rooted in the disinformation pushed by a pro-Russian operative and Russian asset who is under U.S. sanction.

Throughout this effort I have been deeply disturbed by Senate Republicans’ willingness to disregard national security concerns and push Russian disinformation. The Senate must never again be abused in this way.”

Two quick take-aways. First, we see here the continued entanglement of Republicans with actors pushing Russian disinformation. That is extremely disturbing. Second, even with disinformation and a dedicated attempt to dig up dirt, there doesn’t appear to be much of anything there to find.

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FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Joe Biden, US Politics,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    there doesn’t appear to be much of anything there to find.

    There never is with these b.s. Republican ‘investigations.’ But don’t worry, they won’t learn anything from it. The absence of proof is proof that the absence of proof is proof of a conspiracy. Benghazi! Whaddaboutheremails!

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Another day ending in ‘Y’.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    No edit function above. Wanted to add that it’s funny how these GOP investigations of DEMs never seem to find anything, but if one dips one’s toe in most any GOP operation it comes back covered in criminality. Wonder why that is?

    ETA and now it appears

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  4. Joe says:

    The third takeaway is the total lack of perspective or critical thinking by senators who would conduct this campaign of concern and issue this report about a the family of a politician trading on his name and position in the face of the current administration.

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  5. Jon says:

    @Joe: There is probably at least a little bit of “see both sides do it!” intent there, to muddy the waters and proactively defend Republican venality. These investigations were never about proving anything, rather they exist to provide talking points to use to attack Democrats.

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  6. Kingdaddy says:

    Anyone remember Billy Beer?

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  7. Jen says:

    @Joe: That struck me too. Not to mention the number of personal family members that do the exact.same.thing with members of the Senate…you think there aren’t loads of hangers-on capitalizing on family members of elected officials? Yeesh.

    Again though, one needs to be capable of both introspection and shame to realize hypocrisy.

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  8. CSK says:

    @Kingdaddy:
    Yes. Unfortunately.

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  9. DeD says:

    As a Black man living in America, I find it highly amusing that White people are accusing other White people of the very thing that White people in America have been doing for time immemorial: using their name and privilege to acquire goods and position.

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  10. Scott says:

    @Kingdaddy: I remember that it was terrible.

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  11. mattbernius says:

    What’s the over/under on whether someone from the loyal opposition will proclaim in a long drawn out comment how everything Steven wrote was a misrepresentation of the report and that only a Never-Trump partisan could not see how it proves everything Trump said and more (most likely without any actual proof of said accusations other than linking to something from either Turley or Solomon).

    @DeD, wait, you didn’t get the note about how the US is a pure meritocracy? It isn’t that those people are cashing in on their names… It’s just they have better breeding–like a racehorse–that’s why they are so successful.

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    Hoocoodanode.

    The hoocoodanode meme has fallen out of usage for the last few years, but I think it’s a nice capsule comment for the thousands of times Republicans do something with results obvious to everyone but them. On the other hand, the inquiry does, as @Jon: notes, manufacture talking points out of nothing.

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  13. James Joyner says:

    Testing “Subscribe to comments” feature.

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  14. inhumans99 says:

    I let out a sigh of relief…if this was the report that was supposed to show that Biden is absolutely unfit to be our next President, well…the GOP can come out with a 100 of these reports between now and November is this is the best they can come up with.

    I only half-kid…this was no Comey presser that many folks agree hardened the opposition to Clinton, I bet Biden is also relieved the report is out in the wild and the GOP being dicks are delaying the transcripts from their investigation but that will come out to. This is yet another in a long line of attempts to define Biden that ended up being very anti-climactic as they did not move the needle. The folks who will vote for Biden are not going to change their mind with the release of this report, I can almost guarantee it.

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  15. Jen says:

    All of this useless focus on Hunter Biden, when stuff like this happens on a near-daily basis in this administration:

    DHS awarded $6 million in contracts to firm where Acting Secretary Wolf’s wife is executive

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  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DeD:
    As a white man who grew up poor, I share your amusement. Nepotism? Who knew?

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  17. Scott F. says:

    @inhumans99:
    No kidding, I share your relief. I always assumed that the Republican “investigators” would make something up if they didn’t have the goods. It’s worked for them in the past.

    I think once they were called out earlier on their willingness to propagate Russian disinformation, Grassley and Johnson had to scrub their report of anything that could be traced to a Russian source. Once they’d culled that content, this nothingburger was all they had left.

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  18. keef says:

    Meanwhile, back in the real world.

    “The report said the Senate probe will continue in part because investigators have been thwarted by a lack of cooperation and have not yet been able to determine whether the FBI, U.S. intelligence or other agencies fully investigated the concerns about the Bidens.” [Thwarted?
    Lack of cooperation? Move along, nothing to see here.]

    “The report does not accuse either Joe or Hunter Biden of a specific crime; rather it flags warning signs about their conduct and questions whether officials turned a blind eye.” [Turned a blind eye?] Both Bidens have long denied wrongdoing and called the Senate investigation a partisan endeavor.

    “Democrats are certain to contest the findings, but they will face the awkward challenge that the key evidence supporting the Republicans’ conclusions came from Obama-Biden era files and witnesses, including Kent, the bowtied diplomat who was a star witness for Democrats at impeachment.” [Star witness, eh? I guess now a bald faced liar.]

    “Kent’s testimony and emails cited in the report paint a compelling portrait of the difficulties Joe Biden created by continuing to preside over Ukraine anti-corruption policy as Obama’s vice president while his son served on the board of a company under investigation for corruption and run by an oligarch named Mykola Zlochevsky.”

    “The presence of Hunter Biden on the Burisma board was very awkward for all U.S. officials,” Kent wrote in a Sept. 6, 2016 email to senior State officials, including then-U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.”

    In his testimony to the committees, he expounded on the impact those concerns had on U.S. policy in Ukraine, especially in fighting corruption.

    “People who talk the talk need to walk the walk, and for the U.S. government, collectively, when we talk about the need to have high standards of integrity, again, as I’ve said, the presence of Hunter Biden on the board created the perception of a potential conflict of interest,” he testified.”

    “Kent also discussed the extraordinary specter of having to report to the Justice Department that the very firm paying Hunter Biden in Ukraine was believed to have paid a bribe to Ukrainian prosecutors to make corruption allegations disappear.”

    “Burisma’s owner was a poster child for corrupt behavior,” Kent testified to the committees. “… I would have advised any American not to get on the board of Zlochevsky’s company.”

    Funny how none of this perspective made its way into posts, or comments. Until now.

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  19. inhumans99 says:

    Keef, your post just makes my case even stronger that this is a nothingburger…an actual Witch Hunt, but funnily enough directed towards Biden instead of Trump.

    Not going to argue with you…but seriously, you do realize your post just proves this was a nothingburger but keep on screwing that chicken, I am not going to stop you.

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  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @inhumans99: For some reason, I’m seeing this report as the basis for 4 years of Republican investigations in the off chance that Biden becomes President. (I’m not ruling out either a Trump win or a Republican hijacking of the election.)

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  21. @keef: And what. pray tell, do you think all this means?

    Make your argument.

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  22. JohnSF says:

    @keef:
    Oh my word.
    Not this again.
    It’s like trying to terminate soddin’ Count Dracula.

    Kent is in error on some crucial points.

    “Burisma’s owner was a poster child for corrupt behavior,” Kent testified to the committees. “I would have advised any American not to get on the board of Zlochevsky’s company.”

    Said owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, had fled Ukraine in 2014. Though still the nominal owner of Burisma, the board of directors was running the company.

    In April 2014 a UK investigation into Burisma, focusing on the period between the company being set up in 2002 and the Ukrainian revolution of early Spring 2014, expressed serious concerns about Ukrainian lack of co-operation.
    It was also linked to Burisma’s dealings with Gazprom and Firtash during this period.

    At about the same time Hunter Biden and Devon Archer joined the board of Burisma.

    Following international pressure, Ukraine opened investigations in August 2014 under Shokin’s predecessor, Yarema. Again, the focus was on the pre-2014 period.

    Following UK and US disquiet at lack of progress, Shokin replaced Yarema in February 2015.

    By Autumn 2015 Shokin was increasingly seen as equally inept and/or corrupt, and dismissed in March 2016 after pressure from the US, UK and EU, and by Ukrainians as well.

    Shokin’s dismissal was precisely because, like his predecessor Yarema, he was dragging his heels on this; with the connivance of other influential Ukrainians who would prefer that the murkier aspects of the period of Russian dominance be forgotten. By late 2015 the EU, UK, US agencies etc. were all pressing for Shokin to be dismissed.

    In February 2016 Joseph Cofer Black joins the board, Tramontano sends her emails.

    It is true that Zlochevsky returned in 2018 (and subsequently left again) and remains the legal owner of Burisma; largely because the stonewalling of Yarema and Shokin owner rendered prosecution re. 2002-2014 enormously difficult.
    He is still a formal suspect of embezzlement; but proceeding are on hold because Ukraine has no legal confirmation of his current whereabouts (in fact he’s in Monaco).

    Shokin’s subsequent claims that he was dismissed to protect the Biden’s are quite obviously an attempt to exculpate his own failure, for whatever reason, to properly investigate Burisma 2002-2014.

    As the investigations were in relation to the company pre-2014, there seems no reason for Hunter Biden or Devon Archer to have been concerned with any implications for them.

    If there were, and Joe Biden were trying to protect his son, then it seems to me that he would have wanted to support Shokin, not get rid of him.

    Shokin’s post-dismissal allegations appear consistent with pique at Joe Biden’s role in his dismissal.

    As for Kent’s opinion on the matter, my judgement would be that
    – he is honestly mistaken (heaven know, I will admit I could have this entire pit of vampire squids wrong in some areas)
    – appearance wise, east of EU hydrocarbons business in general, and Ukrainian in particular, is best avoided (though Central Asia is probably even murkier); but that does NOT mean anyone involved is automatically tainted.

    Had I been advising Hunter Biden, I’d have said “These are shark infected waters. Do not swim here”.
    Doesn’t make him guilty of anything though.

    (But the whole sorry saga of Rudy and the two stooges is utterly laughable.)

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  23. JohnSF says:

    Incidentally, still waiting eagerly for Rudy and the goons live testimony and cross examination.

    Because I need to watch it and play this:

    How you get a rude and a reckless?
    Don’t you be so crude and feckless
    You been drinking brew for breakfast
    Rudie can’t fail (no, no)

    I know that my life make you nervous
    But I tell you I can’t live in service
    Like the doctor who was born for a purpose
    Rudie can’t fail

    I went to the market to realize my soul
    What I need I just don’t have
    First they curse, then they press me ’til I hurt
    Say, Rudie can’t fail

    First you must cure your temper
    Then find a job in a paper
    You need someone for a savior
    Rudie can’t fail

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  24. mattbernius says:

    @keef:
    I want to give you the biggest of hugs for… quoting en mass, without citing… a rebuttal by…

    *drum roll*

    JOHN *disgraced editorialist* SOLOMON

    Here’s the source, since Keef didn’t want to cite it for some reason.
    https://justthenews.com/accountability/russia-and-ukraine-scandals/senate-report-slams-bidens-conflicts-interest-flags

    And here is what I wrote just a few hours earlier, emphasis mine:

    What’s the over/under on whether someone from the loyal opposition will proclaim in a long drawn out comment how everything Steven wrote was a misrepresentation of the report and that only a Never-Trump partisan could not see how it proves everything Trump said and more (most likely without any actual proof of said accusations other than linking to something from either Turley or Solomon).

    Lest anyone forget, John Solomon’s dubious editorials were the source of most of this controversy. They are also what got him fired (excuse me, he just left under a scandal due to these editorials) from The Hill and led to this investigation of all of his work: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/19/hill-john-solomon-failed-disclose-details-115976

    Anyway, you proving me right was the warm hug I needed during these crappy times. Stay golden ponyboy. Sail on you sweet silver bird!

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  25. @mattbernius: Well called.

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  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @mattbernius: I regret only that I have but one thumbs up to give.

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  27. al Ameda says:

    @keef:
    Yes, we understand, Republicans are trying unsuccessfully to turn this Russian-originated disinformation into the 2020 version of ‘her e-mails!’

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  28. G Freiman says:

    @inhumans99: So you don’t see anything wrong with the fact that Hunter Biden, with no experience education or knowledge of the energy industry was put on the board of directors of a Ukrainian Company and paid a huge salary? His only qualification was his father, our Vice President. This is corruption by definition of the word.

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  29. @G Freiman:From the post:

    I don’t think anyone ever thought that that Hunter Biden didn’t cash in on his name. Indeed, I wrote the following back in December:

    And let me be clear: I have no interest in defending Hunter Biden, per se. Indeed, everything I know about him suggests a person with questionable judgment at best…there is no doubt in my mind that he got the offer to work with Burisma because of his last name and that he showed poor judgment in taking the position, since it clearly always had the chance of causing problems for his father.

    James Joyner wrote a post a few days before entitled Hunter Biden’s Socially Acceptable Corruption. Not to mention this WaPo column from the time: The Hunter Biden story is a troubling tale of privilege.

    So yes, there is something wrong with people getting highly paid and/or powerful jobs due to their family ties (and the current administration has set such a remarkable example in this arena).

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  30. Jax says:

    @G Freiman: Excellent. Now do that with the Trump kids. Oh, and Kushner. And while you’re at it, google how many of them have been using private emails to conduct government business.

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  31. de stijl says:

    @JohnSF:

    You a Clash fan?

    I prefer Pressure Drop, myself. Especially the original Toots and The Maytals version.

    OG ska.

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  32. de stijl says:

    @G Freiman:

    Nepotism is bad. I absolutely agree. We should do what we can to prevent it.

    Donald Jr., Erik, Jared, and Ivanka apply how in this nascent fascination?

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  33. de stijl says:

    @keef:

    John Solomon took Russian / Ukrainian money. Was complicit in something some accurately call treason. Was idiot Giuliani’s conduit. Got fired off The Hill.

    If my side eff’s up, I concede they done bad.

    Solomon is absolutely irrevocably tainted.

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  34. JohnSF says:

    @de stijl:
    The Clash are pretty good.
    But yes, Toots & the Maytals original Pressure Drop is the best.
    “Toots” Hibbert RIP.
    Ska, reggae, dub: gotta love ’em.

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