By: Rich Lowry – nationalreview.com –
We really don’t need to know anything more.
Let’s assume that Representative James Comer and his colleagues discover nothing else about the Biden family business, that the state of play stays exactly the same as it is now.
We already know that Joe Biden is corrupt.
He may not be Representative William Jefferson cash-in-the-freezer corrupt, or Governor Rod Blagojevich I’m-going-to-sell-this-Senate-
Consider Burisma, the corrupt Ukrainian energy company that paid his son lavishly to serve on its board. At any point, Biden could have shut down this operation to use his son to get to him, and at any number of junctures it should have been obvious — if it wasn’t all along — what was happening. Biden did nothing and, in fact, played along.
In other words, he made himself party to a grotesque influence-peddling scheme beneficial to his family. Is there any standard by which this is okay?
(I should mention that the catalyst for this piece was a conversation with Andy McCarthy on his podcast The McCarthy Report last week; Andy set everything out with his accustomed clarity.)
The quick version of the background on Burisma is that it was founded by Mykola “Nikolay” Zlochevsky, who had to go on the lam after the government of Viktor Yanukovych fell in the Maidan Revolution. The new government of Petro Poroshenko put Zlochevsky under investigation. (The practice of investigating and prosecuting officials of the prior regime is a common practice in shady parts of the world, and now, also, of course, the United States.)
So Burisma needed a helping hand. The company put Hunter Biden on the board for $1 million a year shortly after Vice President Biden, in charge of Ukraine policy, was in Kyiv for meetings in April 2014. Hunter’s business partner Devon Archer had a similar deal.
It was completely obvious why Burisma would want the vice president’s son on the board. (Indeed, Hunter’s pay was cut in half when his father stopped being vice president.)
Assuming for the sake of argument, though, that Joe Biden wasn’t aware of the arrangement with Hunter beforehand, as soon as he found out, the upstanding and honest thing to do would have been to say, “No, sorry — there’s no way a son of mine is going to be on the take in a foreign country that’s part of my policy portfolio.”
Instead, Burisma immediately began to ask for what it was paying for. Shortly after Hunter got on the payroll, the CFO of Burisma, Vadym Pozharsky, sent an email requesting that Hunter and Archer “use your influence” (they don’t call it influence-peddling for nothing) to bring a halt to the investigation into Zlochevsky and Burisma.
A year later, Pozharsky was invited to a dinner, with Joe Biden in attendance, at Café Milano in Georgetown. Also in attendance, by the way, was the Russian oligarch Yelena Baturina, who showered Hunter and Archer with $3.5 million.
Again, if Vice President Biden showed up at this dinner innocently, having no idea that these shady characters who were paying his son inordinate amounts of money were going to be there, he could have dressed down Hunter the next day and insisted that such activity stop.
No such umbrage was forthcoming, and Pozharsky was duly grateful. “Dear Hunter,” he wrote afterward, “thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together.”
At the end of the day, though, Pozharsky didn’t want vibes; he wanted outcomes.
In November, he wrote Hunter and Archer with his worries that a proposed arrangement with another outfit, Blue Star Strategies, lacked reference to the “concrete tangible results that we set out to achieve.” He worried it failed to “offer any names of top US officials here in Ukraine (for instance, the US Ambassador) or Ukrainian officials (the President of Ukraine, chief of staff, Prosecutor General) as key targets for improving Nikolay’s [i.e., Zlochevsky’s] case and his situation in Ukraine.”
He wanted “concrete deliverables,” especially a list of top “US policy-makers” who would be coming to Ukraine to achieve the “ultimate purpose to close down for any cases/pursuits against Nikolay in Ukraine.”
He referred to all this as “our joint efforts,” and Hunter assured him that “we all are aligned.”
Nothing about this was subtle. Are we really supposed to believe that everyone here knew the score — both the people paying out the money and those taking it — except the guy who had ascended to No. 2 in the United States government, who’d been in Washington for decades and seen it all?
A month later, Burisma had a board meeting in Dubai, where it had to meet because Zlochevsky couldn’t return to Ukraine. His legal troubles were a focus of the discussions. Afterward, Nikolay Zlochevsky and Vadym Pozharsky requested an urgent private meeting with Hunter and Archer.
At this get-together, Pozharsky asked Hunter, “Can you ring your dad?” This request was astonishingly inappropriate. But, lo and behold, Hunter rang his dad.
Hunter told the vice president that he was with “Nikolay and Vadym,” and the vice president apparently didn’t need a refresher on who they were. Business wasn’t directly discussed, except that Hunter insisted that his Ukrainian associates and benefactors “need our support.”
Yet again, here’s a moment for righteous indignation. How dare you call me to advance your shady dealings with sleazy foreigners hoping to benefit from your proximity to power?
There was nothing of the sort. As it happens, within days — days — Joe Biden traveled to Ukraine. The vice president met with Poroshenko urging him to fire the prosecutor Viktor Shokin.
This was a shocking and blatant conflict of interest. There are a couple of things an honest politician could have done to avoid it. He could have demanded that Hunter quit the Burisma board immediately. Or he could have recused himself from all Ukraine-related matters, given his son’s business dealings that directly involved his conduct as vice president.
Of course, he did neither. Biden proceeded on a course that suited the interests of his son and his business partner. Now, there were other reasons to seek the firing of Shokin, but politicians who want to be above reproach stay a hundred miles away from such situations. Biden didn’t, clearly, because the family business depended on Hunter engaging in such work.
The golden goose depended on two things: Biden being in powerful positions or potentially occupying them in the future, and Hunter taking advantage of his proximity to power. Both sides of the equation were necessary; without one of them, the business model would collapse.
Not only did Biden do nothing to stop the scheme, he helped cover for Hunter.
The day of that Burisma board meeting in Dubai, Hunter business partner Eric Schwerin emailed a draft statement to Vice President Biden’s communications director, Kate Bedingfield, to use to beat back potential inquiries about Hunter’s shady dealings. He proposed this:
Hunter Biden joined the Board to strengthen corporate governance and transparency at a company working to advance energy security for Ukraine. These are also goals of the United States. Far from being out of sync with the policies of the United States, the Board is working to bring this privately held energy company into the kind of future that is critical for a free and strong Ukraine. These are goals that attracted not just Hunter to the effort, but respected American and European political and business leaders.
Bedingfield emailed Schwerin back, saying that the vice president had approved a statement to be put out in her name if anyone asked about Hunter:
Hunter Biden is a private citizen and a lawyer. The Vice President does not endorse any particular company and has no involvement with this company. The Vice President has pushed aggressively for years — both publicly with groups like the US-Ukraine Business Forum and privately in meetings in with Ukrainian leaders — for Ukraine to make every effort to investigate and prosecute corruption in accordance with the rule of law. It will once again be a key focus during his trip this week.
The vice president–approved statement was slightly less shameless than the Schwerin version, but still fundamentally dishonest.
The Burisma officials still thought they’d made a good investment. Certainly no one on the Biden side of the deal was trying to convince them otherwise. Early the next year, in 2016, Zlochevsky reportedly told an FBI informant who asked about the Shokin investigation, “Don’t worry. Hunter will take care of all those issues through his dad.”
Later, Zlochevsky also told the informant that he paid $10 million in total to Joe and Hunter Biden. He denigrated Hunter, saying that his dog was smarter, but that Hunter needed to be on the board “so everything will be OK.”
Needless to say, this isn’t dignified or honorable work, but it’s certainly lucrative. A better steward of the public trust than Joe Biden wouldn’t have tolerated it for a minute — indeed, would have felt embarrassed and disgusted by it.
Instead, he was on board. The hypothetical at the beginning of this piece — that we won’t learn more about Joe Biden’s involvement in these dealings — is unlikely to be the case. But we really already know everything we need to about Joe Biden.
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