Politics & Policy

Obama Spox Claims GOP’s Biden-Ukraine Investigation Is Based on ‘Russian Disinformation’

Former President Barack Obama delivers the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture, marking the centenary of the anti-apartheid leader’s birth, in Johannesburg, South Africa, July 17, 2018. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Former president Barack Obama accused Senators Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) of giving “credence to a Russian disinformation campaign” by probing a possible conflict of interest between Hunter Biden’s business dealings and Joe Biden’s diplomatic work.

In a March letter to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) — which maintains presidential records — Obama’s office said that Grassley and Johnson’s requests for “Obama administration records related to certain meetings connected to Ukraine” did not meet NARA’s threshold for authorizing special access to presidential records ahead of their scheduled release.

“The request for early release of presidential records in order to give credence to a Russian disinformation campaign — one that has already been thoroughly investigated by a bipartisan congressional committee — is without precedent,” the letter reads. “This use of the special access process serves no legitimate purpose, and does not outweigh or justify infringing confidentiality interests that all presidents have sought to protect.”

It also cites the impeachment testimony of former National Security Council staffer Fiona Hill, who warned that Russia was promoting the “fictional narrative” that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, to suggest the probe “arises out of efforts by some, actively supported by Russia, to shift the blame for Russian interference in the 2016 election to Ukraine.”

Johnson and Grassley have continued to probe the matter, sending a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week requesting an interview with State Department officials and records of communication between Joe Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

In a November letter to Pompeo, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said Biden “held a series of phone calls with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko regarding previous demands to dismiss Prosecutor General Shokin for alleged corruption.” Shokin, who had seized property from Burisma’s founder Mykola Zlochevsky, was fired by Poroshenko.

Johnson’s spokesman Austin Altenburg told National Review that the Obama letter’s accusations were “unfounded.”

“Our legitimate oversight is based on the many unanswered questions that surround potential conflicts of interest relating to the Obama administration’s policy decisions with respect to Ukraine and Burisma Holdings,” Altenburg said. ” . . . The real Russian disinformation, we now know, was contained in the Steele dossier. Baseless accusations aside, our legitimate oversight will continue until we get answers for the American people.”

Obama’s letter concludes by saying the records requested by Johnson and Grassley could be released “in the interest of countering the misinformation campaign underlying this request.”

The National Archives has given approximately 9,400 pages of records to the Senate committees, an agency spokesperson told Buzzfeed. Johnson, who has defended the probe on the basis of transparency, revealed last month that his investigation into the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine would be released “sometime this summer.”

President Trump has said the probe “will be a major issue in the campaign.”

“I will bring that up all the time because I don’t see any way out for them. I don’t see how they can answer those questions. I hope they can, I’d actually prefer it that they can’t but I don’t believe they will be able to answer those questions. That was purely corrupt,” Trump said in March.

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