Ronald Reagan famously used the phrase, “There you go again,” to imply that his Democratic opponents were full of bull and hyperbole.
I can't think of a more appropriate response to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's decision to pursue an impeachment investigation into President Joe Biden, in a desperate attempt to throw MAGA House members a bone so they won't try to shut down government funding in September . Without a shred of credible evidence, the GOP will be fishing for an excuse to impeach Biden for allegedly profiting from his son's questionable international ventures.
But what really puts the “again” in Republican efforts to “go there” is this: The GOP is reviving debunked claims that Biden was involved in corruption in Ukraine in 2014 and 2015, during the time his son Hunter was on the board of an energy company there called Burisma.
In fact, just the opposite was true. Biden was fighting corruption in Ukraine, while former President Donald Trump was encouraging it, making his infamous phone call to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that demanded the Ukrainian leader dig up dirt on the Bidens and Burisma. That phone call triggered Trump's (first) impeachment.
Yet House Republicans now want to turn the Burisma scandal on its head. They want to revive Trump's fake “facts” about Biden and Burisma -- and use them as a basis to impeach the president. So let me remind you of what actually went down with Burisma -- of which I wrote about extensively -- and which lays bare the utter sham of the latest impeachment effort.
In 2019, Trump claimed that Biden had gotten “a very good” Ukrainian prosecutor general named Viktor Shokin fired three years earlier because he was investigating Burisma, and Biden wanted to protect his board member son. Trump sent his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden’s “corruption.”
In fact, it was Shokin who was corrupt, as I was told at the time by Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the nonprofit Anticorruption Action Center in Kyiv. She was -- and remains -- one of Ukraine's best-known corruption fighters. “Giuliani and Trump paid tribute to very corrupt prosecutors who were undermining reforms,” she told me by phone in October 2019. “These were very, very bad guys whom we were fighting hard.”
Kaleniuk laughed when asked about Trump's charges that Biden forced out Shokin to protect Hunter. On the contrary, she told me, Shokin showed “no interest” in prosecuting Burisma, and refused even to send evidence to a British court investigating the company. “Everyone knew Shokin was corrupt and protecting a corrupt system.”
Added Brian Bonner, then-editor of the Kyiv Post, which investigated the Burisma story, “Prosecutor Shokin had to go because he was not doing much on corruption. He was unwilling to prosecute Burisma.” No surprise, Trump turned the truth upside down.
As for Biden's threat to withhold $1 billion in US loan guarantees if Shokin wasn't fired: “We were applauding Biden for doing so,” said Kaleniuk. Biden - along with the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch - was encouraging the Ukrainians to prosecute corruption within Burisma, despite Hunter Biden's role his at the company.
Yet, no surprise, Trump fired corruption fighter Yovanovitch and strong-armed Zelenskyy -- all in an effort to defame Biden. And the GOP misuse of the Burisma scandal still hasn't stopped.
In the run-up to McCarthy's decision on the impeachment inquiry, MAGA supporters have worked feverishly on right-wing media to transform the truth about Shokin's corruption into praise for the prosecutor.
On Aug. 28, Fox News spent hours promoting its “exclusive” interview with prosecutor Shokin, in which he claimed Biden got him fired in 2016 because he, Shokin, was investigating Burisma.
With MAGA encouragement, such fake news never dies.
Totally uninformed, or totally dishonest, US Rep. Mike Johnson, R.-La., who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, told Fox & Friends that the Shokin interview should be on “every news outlet in America” and that Shokin should be invited to testify before Congress.
You get the picture of how any GOP impeachment inquiry will proceed.
The latest effort to smear Biden with Burisma corruption claims involves an anonymous, unverified allegation that the president and his son each accepted a $5 million bribe from a Burisma official. Never mind that this claim was debunked in congressional testimony by Devon Archer, who sat on the Burisma board along with Hunter. It was even dismissed by Lev Parnas, one of Giuliani's Ukrainian informants tasked with digging up dirt on Biden.
The lack of any proof won't matter, however, to those who keep promoting Burisma lies.
None of this is to say that Hunter Biden's use of his father's name to get board seats or business deals passes the smell test.
Yet Hunter is a pike compared with Trump's offspring, whose father's name helped them rake in untold millions as they pursued global deals and sold luxury condos during his presidency. Nothing beats the decision by a Saudi Arabian fund run by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to invest $2 billion in a fledgling firm run by son-in-law Jared Kushner, despite objections from the fund's advisors. Payback for past favors or investment in future Trump goodwill?
So if dodgy deals by presidential kids are the issue, there is plenty of material to work with beyond Hunter. But the main issue here is not about that. It is about the “there you go again” GOP resurrection of lies about Biden and Ukraine. And about whether any House Republicans have the guts to stand up for the truth.
Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer. --Ed.
(Tribune Content Agency)