Biden Accuses Trump of Trying to 'Hijack an Election' in Ukraine Call
On Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden, the flagging frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic primary, accused President Donald Trump of trying to "hijack an election" in the July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky at the center of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry.
"He'd like to get foreign help to win elections," Biden told a few dozen people at a campaign fundraiser in San Marino, Calif., USA Today reported.
Shortly after making those remarks, Biden announced his support for the impeachment inquiry on Twitter.
"Every day it becomes clearer, the core values of our nation — our very democracy — are at risk with President Trump in the White House. We must hold Trump accountable. We cannot let him get away with shredding our Constitution," the former VP wrote.
Contrary to Biden's suggestions, however, Trump's call with Zelensky did not suggest an attempt to "hijack an election." It may be improper for Trump to ask a foreign president to help investigate alleged corruption surrounding his political opponent, but the 2020 election does not come up in the call with Zelensky, according to the transcript.
The transcript, released Wednesday, showed a friendly exchange between the presidents of the U.S. and the Ukraine. Trump did indeed ask Zelensky to help the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, investigate potential Ukraine corruption involving Hunter Biden, the former VP's son. Trump had frozen $391 million in military aid to Ukraine before the call, leading Democrats to suggest a quid pro quo.
There was no quid pro quo mentioned in the call, however. Furthermore, when Trump did ask for a "favor," that involved researching foreign meddling in the 2016 election. The president mentioned CrowdStrike, the Silicon Valley cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC to investigate Russian hacking.
Trump mentioned Hunter Biden because the former VP's son struck it rich in Ukraine. Biden traveled to Ukraine in April, days before the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma hired Hunter Biden and Democratic fundraiser Devon Archer. Neither had experience in the energy sector. Hunter Biden was hired to handle transparency and corporate governance, despite his lack of experience in Ukrainian law or professional law of any kind.
At the time, the British government's Serious Fraud Office was seizing $23 million from Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky's bank accounts. This should not be surprising, since Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Out of 148 nations studied by the World Economic Forum, Ukraine ranks 143 for property rights, 130 for "irregular payments and bribes," 133 for "favoritism in decisions of government officials," and 146 for "protection of minority shareholders' interests."
As Peter Schweizer noted in his book Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, the vice president's son brought much-needed legitimacy to the shoddy gas company.
Vice President Biden championed $1.8 billion in taxpayer-backed loans to be given to Ukraine courtesy of the IMF. That money disappeared, and Burisma was implicated in its disappearance.
Vice President Biden would pressure Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who happened to be leading three investigations into Burisma at the time. Unlike in Trump's case, where no quid pro quo emerges in the July 25 call transcript, Biden did explicitly threaten Ukraine funding in order to get Poroshenko fired.
"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 recalled telling Poroshenko. "Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time," Biden bragged at an event in 2018.
Biden has some explaining to do. His overblown attacks on Trump cannot deflect from his own Ukraine scandal.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.