When Sen. Kamala Harris asked Attorney General William Barr whether Trump or anyone else at the White House had ordered him to investigate a political opponent, it was one of the highlights of Barr’s Senate appearance, because of both Harris’ forceful questioning and Barr’s sputtering reply. But while Trump has frequently demanded that anyone who ever said something less than laudatory about him get an immediate visit from the FBI, there’s a particular topic that Harris may have had in mind—one that relates to one of her fellow candidates for office in 2020. Because for weeks now, Donald Trump has been trying to create a false narrative to use against Joe Biden.
When Americans think about Ukraine, it’s mostly because Russia has been conducting nearly constant military intervention in the former Soviet republic for a decade, or because it’s another place where Trump’s campaign chair helped escort a pro-Russian president into power. But lately Republicans have been bringing up the name Ukraine as if there’s something that Democrats did there. On Thursday, Trump retweeted a link to a tweet claiming that Biden was “entangled in a Ukrainian corruption scandal,” but as a New York Times story details, the real scandal here isn’t happening in Ukraine.
At the heart of the charge Trump is making against Biden is this: Biden’s son Hunter was on the board of an energy company called Burisma Holdings that was was targeted by a Ukrainian prosecutor. This prosecutor was one of several figures whom Joe Biden railed against on a trip to Ukraine in which he complained about corruption in the country’s government, including a threat to withhold U.S. funds if Ukraine didn’t clean up its act. In the next election, the prosecutor was voted out, and Ukraine got its funds. Burisma may have benefited from that change, though it’s not clear to what extent. Not surprisingly, the whole purpose of adding Hunter Biden and other prominent Americans to Burisma’s board was the hope of positioning the Ukrainian company to leverage its American connections. To the extent that it raised the company’s visibility, it probably did work. Hunter Biden’s term on the board was for five years. It has since expired, and Biden stepped down earlier this year.
But the reason this story is reentering the public eye isn’t that any evidence has turned up that Hunter Biden and Joe Biden coordinated with Ukrainians to affect U.S. foreign policy. It’s that Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani are using U.S. foreign policy as their latest weapon against a political opponent.
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