- New Hunter Biden details justify the infamous 2019 Ukraine phone call.
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
Let the partisan spittle fly, as it did during the first Trump impeachment. Who sacked Ukraine’s prosecutor general in 2016 and why? This question is back thanks to congressional testimony by former Hunter Biden partner Devon Archer.
Whatever happened, it wasn’t what Donald Trump said happened. It also wasn’t what Joe Biden said happened. His claim to have arranged the firing of prosecutor Viktor Shokin with an ultimatum to then-President Petro Poroshenko was just another Joe tall tale. Mr. Shokin’s dismissal came months later at the behest of several Western governments.
But Mr. Archer’s testimony puts the kibosh on the simple tale told by Trump partisans that Mr. Shokin was canned to protect Joe and Hunter Biden. According to Mr. Archer, Mr. Shokin was valued by Ukraine’s leadership precisely because he kept a lid on the long-running investigation of Burisma, a gas company on whose board Hunter sat.
This accords with my take at the time. Mr. Biden didn’t need to do anything. In fact, he was free, along with the European Union and other donors, to strike an anticorruption pose over Mr. Shokin because he knew Ukraine had every incentive to protect the Bidens.
Whatever the reason for the firing, it certainly wasn’t for the purpose of making trouble for Burisma.
If so, Democrats now only have to defend a Hunter business scam of peddling an “illusion of access,” as party spinmeisters are putting it. Joe only has to be excused for insouciantly abetting the illusion with a few restaurant stop-bys, a few speakerphone chats about the weather, and by lending Hunter the trappings of the White House, Air Force Two, etc.
That is, pending the failure of other evidence to pan out. Mr. Archer says that on one occasion at least, over drinks, Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky urged Hunter to “phone D.C.” on his behalf and Hunter did. An FBI informant says Mr. Zlochevsky claimed to have recorded calls with both Bidens and paid $10 million in bribes. The laptop evidence presents various complications too.
My working assumption all along, though, has been that Joe Biden wasn’t so dumb as to do anything when he knew Hunter could extract millions for doing nothing.
But there’s also political risk in the Justice Department’s stringing out a tax investigation to allow charges related to Hunter’s Burisma earnings to fall away due to the statute of limitations. Of Hunter’s several windfalls, his Burisma earnings most directly leveraged his father’s role, most directly link to a specific act by his father (the Shokin firing), and provide the most direct credence to Mr. Trump’s first impeachment defense, concerning his phone call to President Zelensky fishing for information about Biden dealings in Ukraine.
There’s some new news here. Mr. Trump may well have been informed by Attorney General William Barr about the Burisma insider who spoke to the FBI—which means Mr. Trump both can keep a secret and had a stronger foundation for his request to Mr. Zelensky, whose cooperation he sought in an FBI investigation that we now know was under way in response to the confidential informant’s testimony.
The White House’s latest defense implicitly allows that Joe may have discussed business with Hunter but he wasn’t “in business” with Hunter. Plenty of room to maneuver is permitted if the facts show Joe did everything and anything to facilitate Hunter’s “illusion of access” short of selling an official act or joining Hunter’s payroll.
Can Mr. Biden be re-elected despite all this? Yup, just as Mr. Trump can be elected from prison. Silence reigns in Democratic circles, though, because it also increases the possibility that Mr. Biden will become “indisposed” and bow out of the race.
It occurs to some that Jack Smith, the Justice Department special counsel, is but the executor of a policy decision made elsewhere, telegraphed in the New York Times in April 2022, by Mr. Biden to run up the charges against Mr. Trump as part of his election strategy.
Mr. Biden plays dice with the country because he thinks Mr. Trump is the one GOP nominee he can defeat.
A flutter of hope passed through the electorate with the prospect of a TV debate between Florida’s Ron DeSantis and California’s Gavin Newsom, perhaps starting a groundswell for an alternative presidential slate in 2024. A widely read interview with Obama biographer David Garrow, of “Eyes on the Prize” and Martin Luther King Jr. biography fame, put the question of Obama-style cynicism on the table. Joe Biden cultivated a belief in millions of voters that he would he wave away their student debt though he knew he couldn’t. Mr. Biden is doing all he can now to make sure the country must choose between him and Mr. Trump. But many a slip occurs between cup and lip—a health crisis, a Hunter blowup, a Trump acquittal, a reverse in Ukraine—that could make Messrs. Biden and Smith the men who delivered the White House to Donald Trump.
Holman W. Jenkins Jr. is a columnist, editorial writer, and member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board. Energiesnet.com does not necessarily share these views.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), on August 9, 2022. All comments posted and published on EnergiesNet or Petroleumworld, do not reflect either for or against the opinion expressed in the comment as an endorsement of EnergiesNet or Petroleumworld.
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energiesnet.com 08 10 2023