Back in December 2015, reporter James Risen covered Joe Biden’s trip to Ukraine for the New York Times. He seems to have been the first person to report on the fact that, while the vice president was pressuring that country to more effectively prosecute corruption, Hunter Biden was working for one of the most corrupt oligarchs in the country.
Risen now works for the Intercept and recently wrote a piece about how the right wing has turned that whole story upside down.
Hunter Biden was the family millstone around Joe Biden’s neck, the kind of chronic problem relative that plagues many political families. George H.W. Bush had his son Neil; Jimmy Carter had his brother Billy.
Still, when Joe Biden went to Ukraine, he was not trying to protect his son — quite the reverse.
The then-vice president issued his demands for greater anti-corruption measures by the Ukrainian government despite the possibility that those demands would actually increase – not lessen — the chances that Hunter Biden and Burisma would face legal trouble in Ukraine.
Similarly, Michelle Goldberg wrote a column directed to her media colleagues titled, “Trump’s Claims About Biden Aren’t ‘Unsupported.’ They’re Lies.”
Journalists, perhaps seeking to appear balanced, have sometimes described Trump’s claims about Biden as “unsubstantiated” or “unsupported.” That is misleading, because it suggests more muddiness in the factual record than actually exists. Trump isn’t making unproven charges against Biden. He is blatantly lying about him. He and his defenders are spreading a conspiracy theory that is the precise opposite of the truth…
…getting rid of Shokin made an investigation of Burisma more likely, not less. “He didn’t want to investigate Burisma,” the Ukrainian anti-corruption activist Daria Kaleniuk told The Washington Post. “Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation, but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation.”
However bad the optics around Hunter Biden, Joe Biden was not serving his son’s interests. If anything, they were working at cross-purposes.
I’d suggest that we should take things one step further, especially for those of us in the business of writing opinion and analysis. It is beyond time to point out that former Vice President Joe Biden should be commended for what he did in Ukraine, not maligned. That is because he did the exact opposite of what we’ve seen from Trump over and over again: he prioritized the interests of our country over the interests of his own son. As both Risen and Goldberg pointed out, Biden’s call for Shokin—Ukraine’s lead prosecutor—to be fired made it more, not less, likely that Burisma would be investigated.
The twisting of this story by Trump and his enablers is a perfect example of all that is ugly and evil about this administration. It is reminiscent of the president’s attacks on John McCain’s time as a POW as well as the way a Goldstar family was maligned during the 2016 campaign. Donald Trump takes the very things that demonstrate integrity and twists them into something odious. Every American should resent the hell out of that because it undermines the values we all hold in common.
There are plenty of reasons to have disagreed with John McCain’s politics, just as Joe Biden might not be your first choice among the Democrats running in 2020. But to the extent that we value things like courage, integrity, and patriotism, it is in all of our interests to stand up and challenge these kinds of attacks. Joe Biden did what we all hope to see from public servants when he put duty to country first.