Until the transcript of President Donald Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky emerged on Wednesday, Democrats were in a mad fury with accusations that Trump had bribed a foreign government to investigate the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
The claim, based on a whistleblower’s second-hand account, which none of them had seen, alleged that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine on the condition that it open an investigation on Biden.
Circumstantially at least, there seemed to be some crumbs to back this up. Aside from the mysterious whistleblower claim, the administration had held up an aid package shortly before the call. And then, statements made by Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, seemed to confirm some elements of the story.
When the transcript of the call came out, however, the story fell apart. There was no discussion of aid. Trump did not cajole or pressure Zelensky.
Of course, since the impeachment train had already left the station, Democrats couldn’t suddenly shrug their shoulders and say “never mind.” So the mere fact that Trump brought up the topic of the Biden investigation is now grounds for impeachment.
But if that’s all there is to it, why isn’t Biden under the impeachment cloud?
After all, no one disputes the fact that he pressured the Ukrainian government to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin by telling officials there, in no uncertain terms, that if they didn’t, they’d lose out on $1 billion in aid.
Biden himself has bragged about it last year. Here are his words:
“I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
Biden’s motives in making this demand were, at best, murky. At worst, he was acting on behalf of his son and, by extension, his own political interests. Doesn’t that sound like bribery?
At the time, Biden was the sitting vice president, with hopes of running for president one day. And Shokin was investigating Burisma, a Ukranian gas company where Hunter was serving as a board member for $50,000 a month, despite having no experience.
Erielle Davidson, writing in The Federalist, notes that “At the time Hunter Biden joined its board, Burisma was embroiled in allegations of corruption, allegations serious enough that Ukraine’s prosecutor general launched an investigation into the company.”
Not long after Biden got the prosecutor fired, the investigation ended.
The press has tried mightily to dismiss this part of the story. Vox.com rested its case on the fact that “Biden spokesperson Kate Bedingfield said all this is nonsense.”
The New York Times dismissed any impropriety in Biden’s part by saying that no evidence “has surfaced” to suggest Biden was inappropriately trying to use his position as vice president to protect his kid.
(Have you ever noticed how, when a scandal involves a Democrat, the mainstream press passively sits around and waits for evidence to “surface”?)
As Democrats so helpfully explained after Trump started winning primaries in 2016, Biden doesn’t have to be in office in order to be impeached.
So, here we have a vice president bragging about how he forced a foreign country to fire one of its government’s officials who happened to be investigating a company that was paying his son a fortune for — apparently — nothing more than his connection to the vice president.
By the Democrats’ standards, you don’t need anything more to declare Biden’s action an impeachable offense.
Biden isn’t the only one who, by the party’s logic, should be investigated.
As Marc Thiessen pointed out in the Washington Post just a few months ago, three Democrats were issuing thinly veiled threats to Ukrainian officials about money being at risk if the government failed to keep investigations open that could hurt Trump.
As Thiessen explains: “Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) wrote a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, expressing concern at the closing of four investigations they said were critical to the Mueller probe. In the letter, they implied that their support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine was at stake.”
All this information has been readily available for months and years, yet somehow the actions of Biden and three leading Democratic senators failed to raise any eyebrows among the same folks now spitting fire over Trump’s phone call.
Unlike most everyone else, we’re reserving judgment about what, exactly, Trump did and how serious it is until we get more information.
But as more details emerge about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, the case for his impeachment appears to diminish. Which, come to think of it, has been the pattern since, oh, Jan. 20, 2017.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board