One of the more distressing episodes of the Obama Presidency was the administration’s apparent interest in appointing Judd Gregg, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, to be Secretary of Commerce. This was part of the hope-springs-eternal element in that president’s politics that so frustrated so many of his supporters. Gregg turned down the position anyway, citing political differences with the administration. That didn’t stop Obama from appointing Gregg to the Simpson-Bowles commission, one little bit of bipartisan foolishness in what was a virtual sea of it.
It’s probably a blessing that this romance did not go further, because the current evidence is that Judd Gregg has left the trolley far behind. He apparently believes that Joe Biden is Caesar, and the women he might pick as his running mate are a cabal of lean and hungry ones. Let us look at Gregg’s theory of The Underlying Agenda. From The Hill:
The underlying agenda is becoming more and more apparent:
— Promoting and promulgating — not merely accepting — the massive protests that have occurred in some cities, even when they have led to lawlessness, looting, riots and declarations of autonomy.
— Searching out and destroying unbelievers in pursuit of a politically correct version of history, and doing so with a zeal that would have made Cotton Mather blush
— Removing statues of historical figures that are deemed unacceptable based on today’s parameters of social justice.
Let’s skip on down to Gregg’s point, shall we, because it’s a doozy.
Within a few months of assuming the presidency, Biden may find himself being the next statue toppled as the socialist/progressive movement moves closer to power. Replacing him with his vice president could be deemed necessary to the cause. His colleagues could declare him too old to handle the presidency and remove him under the 25th Amendment. Et tu, Brute? The Cause will have been completed. Power will be fully in the hands of the statue-removers, the social justice police and those who see America’s political history as basically evil. It will be a coup. Look over your shoulder, Joe. Watch your back. Donald Trump is not your most threatening problem.
(A question for The Hill: do you allow anyone to write anything and publish it without reading it?)
The answer is not in Shakespeare, however. It can be found in the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Pore Judd is nuts.
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Charles P. Pierce Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976.
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WASHINGTON — President Trumps’ impeachment defense attorneys switched gears on Monday and went on the attack: against former Vice President Joe Biden.
The president’s team asserted Trump had good reason to ask Ukraine’s president to “look into” Biden, whose son Hunter held a lucrative paid position on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company called Burisma while his father was handling Ukraine policy in the White House.
The president’s defense team focused, at length and in minute granularity, on the details of Hunter Biden’s employment at a time when his father was urging Ukraine to root out corruption.
But they never quite made the direct claim that any real wrongdoing took place. And that may have been simply because they can’t: While even some of senior Biden’s associates have said the arrangement presented the appearance of a potential conflict of interest, no serious evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity by Joe or Hunter Biden has ever emerged.
Instead, the presentation Monday appeared designed to raise questions about the arrangement and justify Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the now-notorious July 25 phone call as some kind of legitimate anti-corruption activity.
Democrats have blasted the request as part of a campaign to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation of Biden ahead of the 2020 election, when Biden is a top contender to win the Democratic nomination.
The full Biden
Trump’s attorney Pam Bondi kicked off the assault on Biden, zeroing in on the moment when the former vice president insisted in 2015 that Ukraine fire a top prosecutor named Viktor Shokin.
“Why was Hunter Biden on this board?”
“Why was Hunter Biden on this board?” she asked. “All we are saying is that there was a basis to talk about this, to raise this issue. And that is enough.”
The Trump team’s decision to task Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida, to make the case against Biden came with its own particular irony, given her background with Trump.
When Bondi was Florida AG, she nixed an investigation into Trump University around the same time she received a $25,000 donation from one of Trump’s charities via a political action committee that was raising money for her reelection. Bondi’s spokesperson has denied Trump’s donation was in any way connected to her decision not to pursue action against Trump University.
While Bondi presented Biden’s bid to remove Shokin as questionable, it was supported by official U.S. government policy, as well as America’s European allies.
Trump’s attorneys suggested Biden was secretly motivated by a desire to block an investigation of corruption at Burisma. In fact, the opposite is far more likely true: Shokin’s removal has been widely seen as assisting anti-corruption investigations in Ukraine, because Shokin was seen as a participant in the corrupt dealings for which the eastern European country is widely and justifiably famous.
The Ukrainian oligarch and former government official behind Burisma, whose name is Mykola Zlochevsky, has indeed been investigated in Ukraine over allegations of corruption and tax evasion. He’s never been charged.
All about corruption
Trump attorney Pam Bondi insisted that her point was really that Trump had legitimate reason to ask Zelensky to “look into” the Bidens.
Biden’s spokesperson dismissed the presentation as ludicrous.
“Here on Planet Earth, the conspiracy theory that Bondi repeated has been conclusively refuted,” Biden spokesperson Andrew Bates wrote in a statement. “The diplomat that Trump himself appointed to lead his Ukraine policy has blasted it as ‘self serving’ and ‘not credible.’”
But Trump’s lawyers said the questions deserved investigating — apparently, at the level of two heads of state having a private phone call.
“Why would it not merit investigation?” asked Eric Herschmann, another Trump lawyer who followed Bondi, referring to the “supposedly discredited” allegations against the Bidens.
“Ukraine had a particularly bad corruption problem,” he said. The payments to Hunter were “highly questionable.”
The Trump team also took a page from the Democratic House impeachment managers’ playbook in using video clips to help press their point. In this case, they rolled out video of Hunter saying that might not have received such high-paying work if his father weren’t Joe Biden. And they played a clip of Joe Biden himself boasting, in public remarks, about pressuring Ukraine to fire Shokin.
Yet the moment also presented Trump’s defenders, who have spent weeks arguing that the well-documented case against Trump for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his Democratic, with a certain ironic turn.
Now, they were arguing that Trump’s efforts to spur an investigation were legitimate, even though Trump has rarely, if ever, expressed concerns about corruption elsewhere that did not involve a political opponent. Rather, Trump’s chummy relations with the leaders of countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia have not involved parallel personal entreaties for them to investigate corruption.
And while Trump’s defenders have just spent weeks arguing the Democratic case to impeach Trump wasn’t sufficiently air-tight, they presented a case against Biden that contained no concrete allegation of wrongdoing by the vice president, but by their own account, was simply aimed at raising questions.
—Liz Landers contributed to this report.
Cover: Pam Bondi, a White House adviser and member of the legal team, arrives at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Former vice president Joe Biden’s extraordinary campaign memo this week imploring U.S. news media to reject the allegations surrounding his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company makes several bold declarations.
The memo by Biden campaign aides Kate Bedingfield and Tony Blinken specifically warned reporters covering the impeachment trial they would be acting as “enablers of misinformation” if they repeated allegations that the former vice president forced the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who was investigating Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden worked as a highly compensated board member.
Biden’s memo argues there is no evidence that the former vice president’s or Hunter Biden’s conduct raised any concern, and that Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin’s investigation was “dormant” when the vice president forced the prosecutor to be fired in Ukraine.
calls the allegation a “conspiracy theory” (and, in full disclosure, blames my reporting for
the allegations surfacing last year.)
the memo omits critical impeachment testimony and other evidence that paint a
far different portrait than Biden’s there’s-nothing-to-talk-about-here rebuttal.
are the facts, with links to public evidence, so you can decide for yourself.
Fact: Joe Biden
admitted to forcing Shokin’s firing in March 2016.
is irrefutable, and not a conspiracy theory, that Joe Biden bragged in
this 2018 speech to a foreign policy group that he threatened in March 2016
to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Kiev if then-Ukraine’s president Petro
Poroshenko didn’t immediately fire Shokin.
“I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion.’ I’m going to be
leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said:
‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting
the money,’” Biden told the 2018 audience in recounting what he told Poroshenko
“Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place
someone who was solid at the time,” Biden told the Council on Foreign Relations
Fact: Shokin’s prosecutors were actively investigating
Burisma when he was fired.
While some news organizations cited by the Biden memo have reported
the investigation was “dormant” in March 2016, official files released by the
Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office, in fact, show there was substantial investigative
activity in the weeks just before Joe Biden forced Shokin’s firing.
To put the payments in perspective, the annual amounts paid by
Burisma to Hunter Biden’s and Devon Archer’s Rosemont Seneca Bohais firm were 30
times the average median annual household income for everyday Americans.
For a period of time in 2015, those investigations were stalled as Ukraine was creating a new FBI-like law enforcement agency known as the National Anti-Corruption Bureau ((NABU) to investigate endemic corruption in the former Soviet republic.
There was friction between NABU and the prosecutor general’s office for a while. And then in September 2015, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt demanded more action in the Burisma investigation. You can read his speech here. Activity ramped up extensively soon after.
In December 2015, the prosecutor’s files show, Shokin’s office
transferred the evidence it had gathered against Burisma to NABU for investigation.
In early February 2016, Shokin’s office secured a court order
allowing prosecutors to re-seize some of the Burisma founder’s property, including
his home and luxury car, as part of the ongoing probe.
Two weeks later, in mid-February 2016, Latvian law enforcement sent
this alert to Ukrainian prosecutors flagging several payments from Burisma
to American accounts as “suspicious.” The payments included some monies to Hunter
Biden’s and Devon Archer’s firm. Latvian
authorities recently confirmed it sent the alert.
Shokin told both me and ABC News that just before he was fired under pressure from Joe Biden he also was making plans to interview Hunter Biden.
Fact: Burisma’s lawyers in 2016 were pressing U.S.
and Ukrainian authorities to end the corruption investigations.
Burisma’s main U.S. lawyer John Buretta acknowledged in this
February 2017 interview with a Ukraine newspaper that the company remained under
investigation in 2016, until he negotiated for one case to be dismissed and the
other to be settled by payment of a large tax penalty.
released under an open records lawsuit show Burisma legal team was
pressuring the State Department in February 2016 to end the corruption allegations
against the gas firm and specifically invoked Hunter Biden’s name as part of
the campaign. You can read those documents here.
In addition, immediately after Joe Biden succeeded in getting
Shokin ousted, Burisma’s lawyers sought to meet with his successor as chief
prosecutor to settle the case. Here
is the Ukrainian prosecutors’ summary memo of one of their meetings with
the firm’s lawyers.
is substantial evidence Joe Biden and his office knew about the Burisma probe and
his son’s role as a board member.
The New York Times reported in this December 2015 article that the Burisma investigation was ongoing and Hunter Biden’s role in the company was undercutting Joe Biden’s push to fight Ukrainian corruption. The article quoted the vice president’s office.
In addition, Hunter Biden acknowledged in
this interview he had discussed his Burisma job with his father on one
occasion and that his father responded by saying he hoped the younger Biden
knew what he was doing.
Ethics rules requires government officials to avoid taking policy actions affecting
of Government Ethics rules require all government officials to recuse
themselves from any policy actions that could impact a close relative or cause
a reasonable person to see the appearance of a conflict of interest or question
“The impartiality rule requires an employee to consider appearance
concerns before participating in a particular matter if someone close to the employee
is involved as a party to the matter,” these rules state. “This requirement to
refrain from participating (or recuse) is designed to avoid the appearance of favoritism
in government decision-making.”
State Department officials testified the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine created the
appearance of a conflict of interest.
In House impeachment testimony, Obama-era State Department officials declared the juxtaposition of Joe Biden overseeing Ukraine policy, including the anti-corruption efforts, at the same his son Hunter worked for a Ukraine gas firm under corruption investigation created the appearance of a conflict of interest.
In fact, deputy assistant secretary George Kent said he was so
concerned by Burisma’s corrupt reputation that he blocked
a project the State Department had with Burisma and tried to warn Joe
Biden’s office about the concerns about an apparent conflict of interest.
Likewise, the House Democrats’ star impeachment witness, former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovich, agreed the Bidens’ role in Ukraine created an ethic issue. “I think that it could raise the appearance of a conflict of interest,” she testified. You can read her testimony here.
Fact: Hunter Biden acknowleged he
may have gotten his Burisma job solely because of his last name.
interview last summer, Hunter Biden said it might have been a “mistake” to
serve on the Burisma board and that it was possible he was hired simply because
of his proximity to the vice president.
your last name wasn’t Biden, do you think you would’ve been asked to be on the
board of Burisma?,” a reporter asked.
don’t know. I don’t know. Probably not, in retrospect,” Hunter Biden
answered. “But that’s — you know — I don’t think that there’s a lot of
things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden.”
law enforcement reopened the Burisma investigation in early 2019, well before
President Trump mentioned the matter to Ukraine’s new president Vlodymyr
This may be the single biggest under-reported fact in the impeachment scandal: four months before Trump and Zelensky had their infamous phone call, Ukraine law enforcement officials officially reopened their investigation into Burisma and its founder.
The effort began independent of Trump or his lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s legal work. In fact, it was NABU – the very agency Joe Biden and the Obama administration helped start – that recommended in February 2019 to reopen the probe.
director Artem Sytnyk made
this announcement that he was recommending a new notice of suspicion be opened
to launch the case against Burisma and its founder because of new evidence
uncovered by detectives.
Ukrainian officials said that new evidence included records suggesting a possible money laundering scheme dating to 2010 and continuing until 2015.
later in March 2019, Deputy Prosecutor General Konstantin Kulyk officially
notice of suspicion re-opening the case.
The implications of this timetable are significant to the Trump impeachment trial because the president couldn’t have pressured Ukraine to re-open the investigation in July 2019 when Kiev had already done so on its own, months earlier.