By Kent R. Kroeger (NuQum.com, October 2, 2019)
If they can get you to ask the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers. (Thomas Pynchon, author of “Gravity’s Rainbow”)
Nothing exemplifies the dishonesty of the mainstream media and the Democratic Party better than their defense of Joe and Hunter Biden’s relationship with the Ukrainian government and Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company, in 2014.
The most common media narrative defending the Bidens in their dealings in the Ukraine is summarized by Mother Jones’ David Corn, once the majordomo anti-establishment journalism, but who is now mostly a messenger boy for the Democratic Party’s corporate wing:
“(Trump) cites the fact-free conspiracy theory that Biden, when vice president, urged the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor (who was widely seen as corrupt) to protect a Ukrainian company on whose board Biden’s son, Hunter, sat. (Biden did press for this prosecutor’s dismissal, representing the desire of many Western nations, and there is no evidence it had anything to do with his son’s connection to the Ukrainian firm.)”
The gist of Corn’s Biden defense is that when Barack Obama’s Vice President threatened in late-2015 to cut off military aid to Ukraine if their government did not appoint an anti-corruption prosecutor, he was working against the interests of his son, Hunter, who was already on the board of Burisma Holdings, a gas company founded by Mykola Zlockevsky in 2002.
Biden and the Obama administration wanted the Ukrainian prosecor to go after Zlochevsky, the man paying Hunter Biden $50,000-a-month to “lead” Burisma’s legal team. Case closed on any Biden corruption, right?
Not so fast. Step back. Take a deep breath. And review the basic timeline of the Ukraine-Burisma-Biden story:
2002: Mykola Zlochevsky founds Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company.
2010: Under the Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych, Zlockevsky was named Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources from July 2010 until April 2012 and was the deputy secretary for Economic and Social Security on the National Security and Defense Council from April 2012 until February 2014.
2012: Since 2012, the Ukrainian prosecutor general had been investigating Zlochevsky (and Burisma Holdings) over allegations of money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption.
Early 2014: Believing Zlochevsky was laundering money through a British bank, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office froze a $23 million account controlled by Zlochevsky’s.
February 2014: Yanukovych, widely seen in the West as a Moscow-aligned kleptocrat, was removed from power in February 2014 as a result of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution.
February— March 2014: In late-February, in the aftermath of the Ukrainian revolution, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the extrication of the deposed Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and told his security service chiefs that “we must start working on returning Crimea to Russia.” Crimea is subsequently annexed by Russia.
April 2014: In an effort to bring stability and transparency to the Ukraine’s lucrative energy industry, the Barack Obama administration and its European partners sent top officials to a forum on Ukrainian asset recovery, co-sponsored by the U.S. government, in London, where Mr. Zlochevsky’s case was cited as an example of ongoing corruption within the country. At this time, Hunter Biden, the Vice President’s son, is named to the board of Burisma Holdings, receiving $50,000-a-month for his services.
May 2014: On 29 May, Poroshenko won the Ukrainian presidential election with 54.7% of the votes. Poroshenko was widely seen as aligned with US-European interests.
Early 2015: Viktor Shokin becomes the Ukrainian prosecutor general, inheriting the Burisma investigation from the previous prosecutor. The Obama administration concludes Shokin is protecting Ukraine’s political elite and considers him an obstacle to anti-corruption efforts.
December 2015: Joe Biden threatens Ukrainian President Poroshenko that if he did not fire Shokin, whose own deputy claimed was “slow-walking” the Burisma investigation, the US would hold back its $1 billion in loan guarantees.
March 2016: Shokin was dismissed by the Ukrainian Parliament.
May 2016: A US-approved prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, was appointed in Shokin’s place.
September 2016: Burisma paid approximately USD $7.5 million in taxes and fines, concluding Prosecutor General Lutsenko’s anti-corruption efforts against Burisma and Zlochevsky. At the same time, a money laundering case against Zlochevsky was closed in a London court, as well as an embezzlement case against him, according to Lutsenko.
Zlochevsky said that the end of investigation of Burisma Group “will allow to increase production, investment in production and to attract international companies to Ukraine.”
April 2019: Hunter Biden leaves Burisma’s board. By all accounts, Hunter Biden performed no tangible or documented services for Burisma.
The most lucrative corruption is legal
If this timeline exonerates Joe Biden and his son, the definition of corruption must be rendered meaningless.
In the timeline, Zlochevsky’s hiring of Hunter Biden appears independent of the appointment of Shokin as the Ukrainian prosecutor general. Instead, its timing is most likely connected to the broader project of protecting Zlochevsky and Burisma Holdings as targets of U.S. and European-led anti-corruption efforts. And to that end, Zlochevsky and Burisma Holdings could not have been more successful.
Why commit a bribery crime when a legal path is equally, if not more, effective? Putting the son of a sitting U.S. Vice President on the board of your company at a time when your company is being accused of corruption is not just common sense, it is a proven business practice.
The defense of Joe and Hunter Biden by the Democratic Party and the mainstream media is predicted on this deliberate and unsubtle imposture.
Is it a crime? Probably not. Is it corruption? Absolutely. And here’s why:
When Hunter Biden became a director at Burisma, ostensibly hired to lead a legal team that would ensure the company followed proper governance norms as it positioned itself for lucrative contracts in Ukraine’s fast growing energy sector, he had no prior experience in the natural gas industry or the Ukrainian regulatory environment. And, by Hunter Biden’s own admission, after joining Burisma, he did not actually lead a legal team.
So why did Burisma hire Hunter Biden (along with his business partner Devon Archer)?
The Atlantic’s Sarah Chayes, author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens National Security, spells out Hunter Biden’s key qualification:
“In April 2014, he became a director of Burisma, the largest natural-gas producer in Ukraine. He had no prior experience in the gas industry, nor with Ukrainian regulatory affairs, his ostensible purview at Burisma. He did have one priceless qualification: his unique position as the son of the vice president of the United States, newborn Ukraine’s most crucial ally.
When Hunter Biden joined Burisma’s board, $23 million of Zlochevsky’s riches were being frozen by the British government in a corruption probe. Zlochevsky fled Ukraine. The younger Biden enlisted his law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, to provide what The New Yorker describes as “advice on how to improve the company’s corporate governance.” Eventually, the asset freeze on Zlochevsky was lifted.”
If President Donald Trump and his private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, were a smidgen more sophisticated, they would know there is little new information for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up on the Bidens. For the most part, the story has been thoroughly researched and reported in the news media.
The problem is not lack of reporting. The problem has been the deliberate naivete of the news media in interpreting the story’s facts. When The New York Times declared earlier this year that “no evidence of wrongdoing” had been uncovered in their research into the Biden-Ukraine story, they ignored the naked act of bribery standing right in front of them: Burisma hiring the Vice President’s son to a $50,000-a-month, task-free gig WAS THE BRIBE!
Most lamentable about the Biden-Ukraine story is that such acts of corruption are not just legal, but openly flaunted. George Carlin was right when he described the U.S. economic and political establishment as a “big club and you ain’t in it.”
U.S. law does not prevent the family members of senior administration officials from sitting on corporate boards of foreign companies run by corrupt oligarchs. And while civil libertarians will rightfully protest any attempt to give the federal government discretion on what corporate boards private citizens can sit on, the current system goes to the other extreme, placing few (if any) restraints on the overt corruption on display with the Bidens.
As for the federal government’s ethics rules governing nepotism, the focus in on inhibiting family members from holding senior positions within a chain-of-command inside the same department or agency. Federal law and ethics rules say diddly squat about family members of senior administration officials trading on their name and access for private financial gain.
“When prominent Americans leverage their global reputations for financial gain, they attract almost no attention today,” writes Chayes. “So when this same Biden takes his son with him to China aboard Air Force Two, and within days Hunter joins the board of an investment advisory firm with stakes in China, it does not matter what father and son discussed. Joe Biden has enabled this brand of practice, made it bipartisan orthodoxy. And the ethical standard in these cases — people’s basic understanding of right and wrong — becomes whatever federal law allows. Which is a lot.”
China? Oh, poor Joe Biden. We haven’t even started to talk about how the Dover Cosa Nostra profited from that relationship.
We’ll save that for another day.
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