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The Bidens and Ukraine: A background

Having both business and political dealings by the same family in a country infamous for corrupt, wealthy oligarchs is not a great image for a presidential candidate running an anti corruption campaign, regardless of the legality of it all.

Photo: NPR

There are some stories that two people can read and they miraculously come to the polar opposite conclusion. This is such a story; therefore, the goal of this article is to lay out the actors, actions, and consequences of a story that Democrats have decided will be the backdrop to impeachment. Interpretation of these actions and the actions of President Trump will take place on the floor of Congress soon enough, so there is no need for any punditry here.

    Hunter Biden is a lawyer and the middle son of former Vice President Joe Biden. His early career focused on the founding of a venture capital firm, but it’s his work in Ukraine that is under scrutiny today. In 2014, Hunter joined Burisma Holdings, a Ukranian natural gas company founded by a man with ties to the Russian government. Vice President Joe Biden was leading an anti-corruption campaign in Ukraine at the time to strengthen the autonomy of the country, which included the withholdment of $1 billion in aid if Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, the top prosecutor in Ukraine, wasn’t removed promptly. The Ukranian Parliament voted to remove Shokin on corruption charges shortly after a visit by Vice President Biden. Shokin had investigated Burisma throughout his time in office.

Burisma has been cleared of all wrongdoing by prosecutors in the United Kingdom, who temporarily froze the transfer of assets into the U.K., and the remaining investigations into the company taking place in Ukraine focus on years predating Hunter’s involvement. The vice president’s son’s addition to the board was seen as a way to westernize the company to gain credibility after the ousting of pro-Russian actors, which–although not an illegal act–is a questionable choice for the son of a prominent political figure. Former business partners of Hunter did not join Burisma because the company has such a history of corruption. Hunter himself maintains that it was his expertise in international affairs that got him the job, and the opportunity to reform the company through more transparency drew him in. Although critics accuse him of taking money and doing no work, effectively taking a bribe by Burisma, no evidence of such an event has been presented. To reiterate, no crime has been committed by any member of the Biden family in Ukraine, according to the United States, United Kingdom, and Ukranian intelligence agencies.

    Concerning Prosecutor General Shokin, his investigation into Burisma was not necessarily an act of an anti-corruption arm of the law. The prosecutor was known worldwide for undermining corruption investigations, leading to his eventual firing. Vice President Biden made the firing a point of emphasis in his dealings with Ukraine, seeing him as an example of systemic corruption that needed to be taken care of. Both the vice president and his son maintain that they did not discuss Hunter’s business dealings and only spoke of Ukrainian politics briefly after the firing of the Prosecutor General.

Neither Hunter Biden nor Joe Biden have committed a crime in the eyes of multiple foreign governments and, most importantly, Shokin’s predecessor, Yuriy Lutsenko. Former Ukranian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who himself is wanted by the Ukranian government for alleged abuses of power, has advocated for an investigation, but his credibility is severely damaged due to his standing with the law. Azarov himself qualifies that, if Hunter Biden was doing work for the company, he is in perfect standing with the law.

It remains to be seen what President Trump wishes to gain from further investigation, as years of work have turned up no crime. However, having both business and political dealings by the same family in a country infamous for corrupt, wealthy oligarchs is not a great image for a presidential candidate running an anti corruption campaign, regardless of the legality of it all.

This story is subject to development as more information surfaces in the impeachment inquiry.

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