Republican defenders of President Trump’s impeachment justify his allegedly legitimate concern in insisting the Ukrainian president announce on CNN a criminal investigation against former Vice President Joe Biden for corruptly orchestrating the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin.
They claim Shokin had been actively investigating Biden’s son, Hunter, and the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, where he sat on the board of directors, for fraud. The argument follows that, based on an obvious conflict of interest, The vice president corruptly prevented any further investigation of his son or Burisma.
The counter argument by the Democrats is the allegation is baseless and Joe Biden did nothing wrong.
There’s little doubt Hunter got a sweet deal and he openly admits he was probably hired in large part because his last name was Biden and his dad was vice president. He also admits he was probably not the most qualified applicant to be considered because of his lack of experience in the gas industry. Nevertheless, he wasn’t a dunce. He was a lawyer educated at Yale and had served on other boards, including Amtrak and other nonprofit organizations. Still, being paid as much as $50,000 a month might admittedly be considered excessive.
That being conceded, he was a grown adult and didn’t require a father’s approval to get a job anywhere he wanted. Obviously, that kind of monetary incentive made the offer difficult to refuse for anyone even if it might put your dad in a difficult position.
There’s also no doubt Joe later bragged he got Shokin fired by threatening to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee by the United States unless he was. And Shokin was fired just a short time thereafter. Does it then follow that getting rid of Shokin excluded Hunter from being criminally investigated or at least solidified his position on the board by saving Burisma from further criminal inquiry.
First, let’s look at Shokin’s reputation as the Ukrainian general prosecutor working in that capacity off and on from about 1980 to 2016. He was apparently less than the criminal crusader he and the Republicans attempt to portray.
Shokin has been and still is closely associated with Dmytro Firtash who was a close ally of formerly corrupt and Russian-backed Ukrainian President Yanukovych. Firtash allegedly worked for organized crime involved in a fraudulent scheme involving the gas industry. He is currently fighting extradition to Chicago where he is facing fraud charges.
On Sept. 25, Joe Risen, national security journalist, noted, “The then-vice president [Biden] issued his demands for greater anti-corruption measures by the Ukrainian government despite the possibility that those demands would actually increase — not lessen — the chances that Hunter Biden and Burisma would face legal trouble in Ukraine.”
Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of Kyiv-based Anti-Corruption Action Center, told Radio Free Europe that Shokin “dumped important criminal investigations on corruption associated with [former President Viktor] Yanukovych, including the Burisma case.” Furthermore, “Ukrainian prosecutors and anti-corruption advocates who were pushing for an investigation into the dealings of Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevskly, said the probe had been dormant long before Biden leveled his demand.”
Radio Free Europe reported, “Ironically, Joe Biden asked Shokin to leave because the prosecutor failed [to pursue] the Burisma investigation, not because Shokin was tough and active with this case.”
Internationally as well, Shokin was viewed as a corrupt prosecutor. The European Union, for one, welcomed his dismissal. Jan Tombinski, the EU’s envoy to Ukraine, said, “The decision creates an opportunity to make a fresh start in the prosecutor general’s office. I hope that the new prosecutor general will ensure that his office becomes independent from political influence and pressure and enjoys public trust.”
The new Ukrainian general prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko has stated he rebuffed an investigation of the Bidens demanded by Rudy Giuliani due to there being no evidence of wrongdoing by either. He told the New York Times that even though the positions held by Hunter and Joe could be a conflict of interest, that wasn’t illegal.
The vice president’s motive was based solely on rooting out corruption with no connected personal benefit. The motive by President Trump was personal and intended to buoy his re-election chances.
Raymond A. Hult, Bountiful, is a retired FBI special agent who focused on investigating public corruption.