Did President Donald J. Trump have a legitimate or corrupt purpose when he asked Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to “do us a favor” and “look into” Hunter and Joe Biden? Democrat House impeachment managers have called Trump’s concerns about the Bidens “baseless” and a giant excuse to turn Ukraine’s government into his personal opposition-research department.
However, Trump was just one man among many who asked the same questions and raised the same concerns about Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma and the big bucks paid to Hunter Biden, possibly for his familial access to the then–vice president of the United States.
As she defended Trump in his Senate trial on Monday, former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi argued clearly and convincingly that Trump was justified in asking Zelensky to “find out what happened” with the Bidens’ Ukrainian dealings. Bondi detailed how the questions about the Bidens did not suddenly leap from Trump’s supposedly paranoid mind or his desire to “cheat,” as Representative Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) claimed last week.
“Here are just a few of the public sources that flagged questions surrounding this very same issue,” Bondi said on the Senate floor. “The United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, Hunter Biden’s former business associate, an ABC White House reporter, Good Morning America, ABC, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Ukrainian Law Enforcement, and the Obama State Department itself . . . They all thought there was cause to raise the issue about the Bidens and Burisma.”
In early 2014, Obama made Joe Biden his point man on U.S.-Ukrainian policy. That March, Great Britain’s Serious Fraud Office launched a money-laundering probe of Burisma and Mykola Zlochevsky, its oligarch/owner.
“Public records show that April 16, 2014, [Hunter’s business partner] Devon Archer meets with Vice President Biden at the White House,” Bondi said. “Just two days later, on April 18, 2014, is when Hunter Biden quietly joins Burisma.” Ten days after that, U.K. officials seized $23 million in British bank accounts tied to Zlochevsky.
None of this fazed Hunter. And why would it? Despite his lack of experience in oil, gas, or Ukraine, Burisma paid him between $50,000 and $83,333 per month as a board member.
Burisma spooked Chris Heinz, stepson of then–secretary of state John Kerry. Heinz stepped back from his business relationship with Archer and Hunter. That May 13, Heinz emailed State Department officials to reassure them that “there is no investment by our firm in their company.”
That same day, ABC’s White House correspondent Jonathan Karl asked presidential press secretary Jay Carney, “Hunter Biden has now taken a position with the largest oil and gas holding company in Ukraine — is there any concern about at least the appearance of a conflict there?”
Carney replied: “I would refer you to the vice president’s office.”
A May 14, 2014, Washington Post editorial was indignant: “The appointment of the vice president’s son to a Ukrainian oil board looks nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst.”
“On August 20, 2014, four months later, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office initiates a money laundering investigation into the same oligarch, Zlochevsky,” Bondi noted. “This is one of 15 investigations into Burisma and Zlochevsky.”
“I became aware that Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent said on opening day of the House’s impeachment hearings last November 13. “Soon after that, in a briefing call with the national-security staff in the Office of the Vice President, in February 2015, I raised my concern that Hunter Biden’s status as board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest.”
Trump was fully warranted in asking the graft-fighting Zelensky to answer the same question posed by these and other people since 2014: Did Hunter Biden do anything wrong or illegal in Ukraine? Thus, given his legitimate actions, President Trump deserves prompt acquittal on both articles of impeachment.