Watching the members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) attempting to either exonerate or crucify Donald Trump… depending on which side you’re on… it is necessary to remind ourselves over and over again what this is all about and what is at stake.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in the early ‘90s, many of the Warsaw Pact nations of eastern Europe have been used as pawns in the endless post-Cold War chess game between NATO and the Russian Federation. While the U.S. and its NATO allies have attempted to nourish the seeds of freedom and democracy in countries such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and others, the Russian Federation, led by former KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin, has continued to agitate throughout the region, hoping to one day regain its Cold War dominion over Eastern Europe.
One of Russia’s most brazen moves has been the invasion of eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in February and March 2014. That incursion set in motion a series of events that has culminated in the current attempt by Democrats to impeach the president of the United States.
The Ukrainians, ill-prepared to withstand the Russian onslaught, appealed to the United States and its NATO allies for military assistance. Barack Obama, implementing his preferred “whistling past the graveyard” policy for dealing with international troublemakers, sent supplies of blankets and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). No war-fighting materiel was sent and for a period of three years the Ukrainians suffered heavy losses on the battlefield.
Throughout 2016, the Ukrainians were fully aware that the American people were about to elect a new leader… either former secretary of state Hillary Clinton or businessman Donald Trump. And although they judged either to be far preferable to the Obama administration, in terms of their willingness to supply anti-tank weapons and other lethal weaponry, they knew that if they were to avoid returning to the smothering embrace of their Russian neighbors, they would have to establish a new bilateral relationship with the U.S. Their greatest mistake was to assume the truth of what they were reading in the New York Times and the Washington Post… that Hillary Clinton was destined to be the next president of the United States. Wrong!!
Soon thereafter, when the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) detected friendly signals emanating from Ukraine, a DNC contractor, a Ukrainian American, Alexandra Chalupa, paid a visit to the Ukrainian embassy in Washington. The purpose of her visit was to solicit dirt on Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, establishing the appearance of a link between Trump and the Russian leadership. According to the Ukrainian ambassador, Valeriy Chaly, the DNC contractor also sought to arrange for Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to promote the appearance of a Trump-Putin relationship by commenting on Manafort’s Russian consulting activities during a visit to the U.S. during the 2016 campaign.
Ambassador Chaly also stated that, at the time of the 2016 contacts, the embassy knew Chalupa primarily as a Ukrainian American activist and learned only later of her ties to the DNC. As such, the embassy considered her efforts to be a clear violation of a treaty between the U.S. and Ukraine signed on July 22, 1998, a treaty that obligated both countries to root out corruption whenever and wherever it was found in the bilateral relationship.
So, how do we make sense of all this? According to a Real Clear Politics report published on October 4, 2019, it was in December 2013 and February 2014 that vice president Joe Biden was assigned to serve as the Obama administration’s “point man” for U.S. relations with China and Ukraine, respectively.
On December 2, 2013, Biden flew to Beijing, presumably to formalize his position as “point man” for U.S.-Chinese relations. Flying with him on Air Force Two was his son, 43-year-old Hunter Biden. According to author Peter Schweizer in his book Secret Empires – How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, the Bidens returned to Washington just ten days later. On that date, it was announced that the Chinese had agreed to provide an infusion of capital in the amount of $1billion (later increased to $1.5 billion) to a small private equity firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, which was underwritten by Christopher Kerry, the stepson of former secretary of state John Kerry, and operated by Hunter Biden and his business partner, Devin Archer.
When questioned about what appeared to be a high-dollar enrichment scheme, designed to benefit the scions of the Biden and Kerry families, and others, Biden responds, unfailingly, that his son has not received a single dollar from the Chinese. Biden must have learned how to parse words from the King of Parsers, Bill Clinton. Of course, Hunter Biden has not been paid a single dollar by the Chinese. But when Rosemont Seneca Partners begins to realize long term profits from their private equity lending activities, the income from those investments will be enormous.
Schweizer tells us in “Secret Empires” that, just two months after Joe Biden was made “point man” for U.S.-Ukrainian relations, Hunter Biden and his business associate, Devin Archer, were appointed to the board of directors of Burisma Holdings Ltd, a notoriously corrupt Ukrainian energy company. According to court documents obtained by Peter Schweizer, both men were compensated at the rate of $53,300 per month, even though neither man had any background or experience in the energy industry.
Almost immediately, Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma raised eyebrows in Ukraine and in the Washington’s foreign policy community. However, nothing was done to mitigate the appearance of a major conflict of interest. Schweizer tells us that, “Interviews with more than a dozen people, including executives and former prosecutors in Ukraine, paint a picture of a director who provided advice on legal issues, corporate finance, and strategy during a five-year board term which ended in April of this year.” Those interviewed also said that Hunter Biden’s presence on the Burisma board didn’t protect the company from charges lodged against its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, a multimillionaire former minister of ecology and natural resources… charges of tax violations, money-laundering, and license fraud during the period in which Zlochevsky served as a cabinet minister.
Then, on April 21, 2019, President Zlochevsky was defeated for reelection by Volodymyr Zelensky, a popular Ukrainian actor and TV personality, prompting a congratulatory telephone call from Donald Trump on July 25, 2019. This was followed by a letter from an anonymous “whistleblower” who charged that, in that July 25 conversation, Trump used the threat of losing $400 million in U.S. military aid to pressure Zelensky to open a probe into possible corruption involving Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. However, true to his reputation for doing the unexpected or the unconventional, Trump was quick to release a transcript produced by two separate simultaneous translators who listened in as Trump and Zelensky spoke. The operative portion of the transcriptions quote Trump as saying, in part:
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation… I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
No reasonable person would describe Trump’s words as being extortionary, threatening, or in any way an attempt at a quid pro quo. But that is how the implacable Democratic opposition sees it, prompting Democrats to vote overwhelmingly in favor of a series of impeachment hearings, on the basis that Trump had threatened to withhold $400 million in U.S. military aide from Ukraine if they failed to investigate official corruption by a political rival, Joe Biden.
To the contrary, and the argument that congressional Republicans fail to make, is what any reasonable person would conclude. When a U.S. president speaks with a foreign leader, he speaks first and foremost as president of the United States. The fact that he also happened to be a candidate for reelection, and that the investigation he requested might damage the political fortunes of a major rival for the U.S. presidency, was merely coincidental. In requesting an investigation of the Ukrainian business activities of a U.S. citizen, or citizens, Trump was simply doing his job; he was following the dictates of the July 1998 anti-corruption treaty.
Another aspect of the Trump impeachment farce that Republicans totally fail to exploit is the question of the existence of an anonymous “whistleblower.” Instead of proceeding from the assumption that the Democrats are speaking the truth when they claim that there is, in fact, a “whistleblower,” Republicans should be going on the offense by questioning whether or not there is, in fact, such a person… or was the whistleblower letter produced by Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of HPSCI, and his staff of anti-Trump radicals?
If there is systematic corruption in U.S.-Ukrainian affairs, it is not corruption with the Trump family name on it; it is corruption with the Biden family name written all over it. In fact, members of Congress and the mainstream media are in possession of a videotape in which Joe Biden boasted at a 2018 Council on Foreign Relations conference that he had once threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukraine failed to fire a federal prosecutor who was getting close to unearthing Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian business activities… a clear quid pro quo.
Now, just one year later, Democrats are attempting to throw Trump out of office because they support the notion that the Ukrainians should be in a position to receive $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, whether or not they agree to investigate corruption in a Ukrainian energy corporation with close ties to the Biden family. It appears that Trump is now in a position to remind corrupt Democrats and self-serving Ukrainians of the old adage that, “Beggars can’t be choosers!”
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.