After months of rumors and anticipation, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., D-Del., formally announced his candidacy in April, quickly emerging not only as the frontrunner in the crowded Democratic field but also as the single greatest threat to President Donald Trump’s reelection prospects. Since then, Trump and his allies have become fixated on the possibility of a matchup against Biden in the general election with polling data, including from their own sources, consistently showing few, if any, possible avenues for reelection. This threat is only further amplified by the fact that most polls have continued to show the former vice president to be well ahead of Trump in many of the states that proved to be decisive in securing his 2016 victory including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Because of this, Trump has already begun to employ many of the same ruthless tactics that he used back in 2016 in order to attack the former vice president, deriding him as “Sleepy Joe” among other things. Furthermore, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have also begun putting out ads questioning Biden’s mental faculties and exploiting his tendency to veer off script when speaking at events. However, all of these political ploys, as baseless and juvenile as they may be, pale in comparison to the outright conspiracy theory currently being propagated by the Trump administration alleging Biden’s involvement in rampant corruption and nepotism in Ukraine.
The majority of these allegations are centered around Biden’s push in 2016 for Ukrainian officials to dismiss General Prosecutor Viktor Shokin, an individual widely seen in the eyes of both the Ukrainian general public as well as the international community to be corrupt and incompetant. However, prior to his removal, Shokin had inherited an investigation from his predecessor into Burisma Holdings, a company where Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, served on the board of directors. Although the investigation was considered to be dormant by 2016, conservatives have insisted that Biden’s motives in pushing for Shokin’s removal were guided purely by nepotism and not out of his duties and responsibilities as vice president.
This sudden change in narrative is especially ironic given that support for reforming Ukranian politics was almost universally favored by Republicans and Democrats alike back in 2016. In fact, Republican Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) even went so far as to send a letter to then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko explicitly calling for “reforms to the Prosecutor General’s office,” echoing similar calls by Biden and the Obama administration.
Another discrepancy in Trump’s conspiracy theory can be seen in the very manner in which Hunter Biden has been portrayed. While Trump and his allies have been quick to exploit Hunter’s troubled past — one that was almost undoubtedly shaped by the tragic loss of his mother and sister in a car accident in 1972 and later his brother, Beau, in 2015 — they have erroneously described him as being “unqualified.” Not only did Hunter graduate from Georgetown University and Yale Law School but he has also worked at a wide array of institutions including MBNA, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Amtrak, the World Food Program and the National Democratic Institute. At the time of his appointment to Burisma, Hunter was working as an international consultant and investor, believing that he could that he could “help reform Burisma's practices" in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution.
As documents and testimony have shown, Vice President Biden fully complied with executive branch ethics standards and never discussed, had knowledge of or intervened on behalf of his son’s business interests. Correspondingly, during his time at Burisma Holdings, Hunter Biden was never a subject of investigation by Ukranian officials and joined the board of directors after the General Prosecutor’s office had already launched an investigation into the company and its founder.
Ultimately, while Hunter Biden himself has acknowledged that the decision to join Burisma was, in retrospect, “poor judgement,” in no way was it illegal or indicative of corruption and nepotism as Trump and his allies have contended. If anything, Trump’s erratic behavior in relation to this baseless narrative is reflective of a growing sense of desperation that he and his campaign have with the prospect of standing next to Biden on the debate stage. Should this president continue to perversely distort and blatantly disregard the Constitution when attacking his foes, then it should be the duty and obligation of the American people to bring his worst nightmare into fruition by electing Joe Biden come next November.
Thomas Driscoll is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.