A recent Senate committee report entitled “Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Corruption: The Impact on US Government Policy and Related Concerns” contains this statement: “The extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected US policy toward Ukraine is not clear.”
Translation: Despite their best efforts, Senate Republicans could find no evidence that Hunter Biden’s role on the board of a Ukrainian energy company directly affected US policy toward Ukraine. If Senate Republicans had uncovered such evidence, they would deliver it, gift-wrapped, to Sean Hannity, all in the interest of tainting former vice president Joe Biden. But they could not. So, denied an official smoking gun, President Trump’s political allies turned to the smoke of a New York Post story so dubious that the staff reporter who wrote much of it refused to put his name on it, The New York Times reported.
Trump’s strategy is clear. His own children are brazenly trading on the Trump family name to advance the Trump Organization’s business interests. Changing the subject to “What about Hunter Biden?” becomes a way to project the corruption spotlight onto the Bidens and away from the Trumps. Plus, if the final weeks of the campaign are all about Hunter Biden, that allows Trump to distract from what are the real issues: Trump’s failed leadership, especially regarding the coronavirus pandemic; Trump’s ongoing commitment to dividing the country by race and political ideology, rather than trying to unite it; and Trump’s utter lack of character, integrity, and honesty.
The Hunter Biden-Burisma story isn’t pretty. The Senate committee report said the work that Hunter Biden did in Ukraine, for which he was paid $50,000 a month, created a conflict of interest when his father, as vice president, was the public face of the Obama administration’s handling of Ukraine. Hunter Biden — who clearly has had challenges in life — “cashed in” on his father’s name, the report said, raising concerns from at least two Obama administration officials. Still, the report found no clear connection between his role with Burisma and US policy with Ukraine. The New York Post is trying to establish one, with its story alleging that Hunter Biden helped arrange a 2015 meeting between a Burisma executive and his father. The Biden campaign says no meeting, as alleged by the Post, took place.
At least Joe Biden acknowledges it was a mistake for his son to join the Burisma board and is pledging that no family members will have any involvement with any foreign government if he’s elected president. Trump, meanwhile, calls the Bidens “an organized crime family,” yet takes no responsibility for the conflicts of interest corrupting his own presidency.
“Can you imagine if my kids did what this guy Hunter has done,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Florida. “Ivanka! Oh my beautiful, my wonderful Ivanka. She’s a good kid. Can you imagine? "
We can do more than imagine. According to Forbes, the Chinese government has granted 41 trademarks to companies linked to Trump’s daughter. And “the trademarks she applied for after her father became president reportedly got approved roughly 40 percent faster than those she requested before her father’s victory in the 2016 election,” Forbes reported.
Then there are the millions of dollars taken in by Trump properties around the world from people trying to “curry favor” with the president, as The New York Times put it. A Times investigation found “over 200 companies, special-interest groups and foreign governments that patronized Mr. Trump’s properties while reaping benefits from him and his administration.” It all amounts to ”a system of direct presidential influence-peddling unrivaled in modern American politics,” the Times said.
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has also benefitted from Trump’s presidency. As the Times has reported, companies owned by the Kushner family got millions in loans after a White House meeting with Kushner. Everyone involved denies any impropriety, but the appearance of conflict is there.
Those examples are just the tip of the Trump corruption iceberg, which sinks deep into the Trump swamp. Voters are smart enough to see that and won’t be distracted by Hunter Biden — right?
Joan Vennochi is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.