Barack Obama has not been shy when it comes to criticizing his successor, but he’s been MIA when it comes to defending his former vice president, Joe Biden. He was conspicuously silent when Joe Biden faced allegations of racism for his past opposition to busing and working with segregationist Democrats. Biden clearly survived the temporary controversy because, I suspect, most people deep down recognize that Biden is not a racist.
But this Ukraine business is another matter entirely. Obama could be out there contradicting allegations of impropriety—in fact, he should be because his own vice president has been accused of a quid pro quo. Obama may want to be neutral in the 2020 Democratic primary, but his administration has a fresh quid pro quo allegation and Obama remains tight-lipped about it.
Biden can’t seem to handle this scandal alone. In the past week, he outright lied about whether he discussed his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings with Ukraine, and seems very defensive about it.
Despite Biden’s claims that everything was proper, we have video evidence of Joe Biden bragging about his role in the firing of Ukraine Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin back in 2016. Shokin was investigating corruption at Burisma Holdings, a Ukranian natural gas firm that Biden’s son Hunter had a high paying job at. Biden told Ukranian president Petro Poroshenko he would withhold a $1 billion loan unless Poroshenko fired Shokin.
Joe Biden brags about how he threatened to pull $1 billion in loan guarantees from Ukraine if it didn’t immediately fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.
The prosecutor, who was fired, was leading a corruption investigation into a company that employed Biden's son, Hunter pic.twitter.com/xZd3vIMbuL
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) September 20, 2019
“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 said he told Poroshenko.
Biden is clearly admitting to a quid pro quo—even if he left out the part that the prosecutor he wanted fired was investigating his son’s company. Biden has claimed there was nothing improper there, so why hasn’t Barack Obama issued a statement saying as much? The answer appears to be in the same video where Biden bragged about getting Shokin fired. Here’s what he said happened after he threatened to withhold the billion-dollar loan:
“They were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, … we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, ‘You have no authority. You’re not the president—the president said’ … I said, ‘Call him.’ I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars.’ I said, you’re not getting the billion. … I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a b—-. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
With those words, it appears Biden implicated Barack Obama in the quid pro quo scandal. Biden was so sure that he could withhold the billion-dollar loan despite Obama’s assurance to Ukraine the loan was a done deal. Biden knew he could withhold the billion dollars because obviously Barack Obama knew, which means Barack Obama had, at some point, approved the quid pro quo to protect Biden’s son.
Barack Obama, who has spent years claiming he had a scandal-free administration, could easily have issued a statement explaining what happened with the billion-dollar loan, but he hasn’t. Why not? I suspect the reason is he can’t. Biden has already hinted that Obama was aware that he was going to threaten to withhold the loan. If Obama makes any statement acknowledging his involvement, he would implicate himself in a situation that, based on Biden’s story, was, an abuse of power and a quid pro quo. Obviously this would not be a smart thing to do when Senate Republicans have the power to investigate and issue subpoenas.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis