- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2019

NEWS ANALYSIS:

Hunter Biden’s sweetheart foreign business deals are creating a big problem for his father’s presidential campaign, providing powerful ammunition for President Trump and for Democratic rivals running on anti-establishment and anti-corruption platforms.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden has deflected questions about alleged self-dealing when he was in the White House and his son served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. He fired back with claims that Mr. Trump was the one who abused Oval Office power by asking Kyiv to open a corruption investigation.

“I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings. Here’s what I know: Trump should be investigated,” Mr. Biden snapped at reporters Saturday on the campaign trail in Des Moines, Iowa.

But Hunter Biden’s plum job in Ukraine raised eyebrows in Washington and around the world as soon as he landed it in 2014 during the height of tensions over the Russian annexation of Crimea after seizing the territory from Ukraine.



“The appointment of the vice president’s son to a Ukrainian oil board looks nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst,” The Washington Post’s Adam Taylor wrote at the time.

Hunter Biden, 49, is a Yale-educated lawyer. His drug use and romantic romps have been fodder for the tabloids for years.

The Navy Reserves booted him from the service for testing positive for cocaine in February 2014, a month before was hired by the Ukraine oil company.

Months later, when the story went public, Hunter Biden said he was “embarrassed” that his drug use resulted in an administrative discharge from the military.

“I respect the Navy’s decision. With the love and support of my family, I’m moving forward,” he said.

In July, he explained to The New Yorker magazine that he began dating Hallie Biden, the widow of his deceased brother Beau, after going on a crack cocaine binge.

The cozy arrangement for Hunter Biden in Ukraine underscores the former vice president’s standing as a creature of the political establishment whose family benefited from inside-the-Beltway perks.

The narrative plays directly into the hands of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whose crusade against Washington corruption has helped make her the leading alternative to Mr. Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“Too many politicians in both parties have convinced themselves that playing the money-for-influence game is the only way to get things done,” Ms. Warren said recently at a massive campaign rally in New York. “No more business as usual. Let’s attack the corruption head-on.”

If the nomination race becomes a contest between Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren, which appears increasingly likely, then Mr. Biden will have to answer more questions about his son and Ukraine.

The appearance of impropriety worsened in 2016 when the then-vice president visited Kyiv and threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees unless the country’s leaders fired Ukraine’s chief prosecutor for purported corruption.

The prosecutor also happened to be investigating Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden sat on the board and ran the company’s legal unit.

Mr. Trump and his private attorney, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, acknowledged that they had been asking Kyiv to look into possible corruption involving the Bidens. They insist it is a legitimate request.

“Vice President Biden did a terrible thing the way he put it,” Mr. Trump told reporters Sunday. “I’m not looking to hurt him with respect to his son. … Joe’s got a lot of problems. Joe’s got enough problems. But what he said was a terrible thing.”

He described Mr. Biden’s action three years ago in Kyiv as a quid pro quo.

“It was an offer. It was beyond an offer,” Mr. Trump said. “It was something where he said, ‘I’m not going to give billions of dollars to Ukraine unless they remove this prosecutor, and they removed the prosecutor supposedly in one hour.’”

Ironically, Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden are accusing each other of the same thing: using White House power against Ukraine for personal gain.

Last week, most news organizations were focused on accusations from a U.S. intelligence community whistleblower who accused Mr. Trump of misconduct for pressuring Kyiv privately to investigate the Biden family’s dealings in Ukraine.

Reporters might not be able to keep ignoring the Biden-Ukraine corruption angle.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, called Sunday for a Justice Department investigation of the Biden-Ukraine connection.

The investigation should be as far-reaching and aggressive as the Russia probe that targeted Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, Mr. Graham said.

“Joe Biden said everybody’s looked at this and found nothing. Who is everybody? Nobody has looked at the Ukraine and the Bidens,” Mr. Graham said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

“There is enough smoke here,” he said. “Was there a relationship between the vice president’s family and the Ukraine business world that was inappropriate? I don’t know. Somebody other than me needs to look at it, and I don’t trust the media to get to the bottom of it.”

He demanded that the investigation extend to Ukraine’s possible involvement in the 2016 election, including leaking information that discredited Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and contributed to his conviction for tax and bank fraud as a result of the Russia probe.

“Can you imagine if this was the Trump family doing business like this?” Mr. Graham said. “I like Joe Biden. I like him a lot. But you can’t have it both ways here.”

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