Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D–Texas) on Thursday sought to discredit corruption allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden as many Senate Republicans push to have his son, Hunter, testify in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.
As vice president, Biden in 2015 pushed for the deposition of Viktor Shokin, a Ukrainian prosecutor, who had drawn the ire of former President Barack Obama and several international agencies. Some in the GOP insist that the move was instead motivated by a desire to protect his son, Hunter, who had taken a spot on the board of Burisma, a Ukranian energy company mired in scandal.
"Let's be very, very clear," Garcia said on the Senate floor. "Vice President Biden called for the removal of this prosecutor at the official direction of U.S. policy because the prosecutor was widely perceived as corrupt and with the support of all of our international allies, his actions were therefore supported by the executive branch, Congress, and the international community."
As Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown points out, the younger Biden's business dealings may indeed warrant raised eyebrows, as he "was brokering tight business relationships with state-associated companies in China and Ukraine" while his father served as Vice President of the United States. But in that same vein, there is "no evidence that Joe Biden was involved or acted improperly in service of his son."
Garcia also noted that Shokin had stopped actively probing Burisma when he was deposed from office, meaning Hunter Biden was likely not under any legal scrutiny. "Although Shokin vowed to keep investigating Burisma amid an international push to root out corruption in Ukraine, he allowed the Burisma investigation to go dormant," Garcia said. "That is when he was removed. He was not actively investigating Burisma."
Trump was impeached by the House in December for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for his role in pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into announcing investigations that targeted Joe and Hunter Biden. In July, the White House abruptly blocked $391 million in congressionally authorized security assistance to the country, which Democrats allege was part of a ploy to strongarm Zelenskiy into carrying out Trump's request—something that stood to benefit him as he gears up for a potential 2020 matchup with Biden. The president also withheld a much-desired White House meeting from the Ukrainian leader, which Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified was a quid pro quo in exchange for the investigations.
But Republicans say Trump was concerned about ferreting out corruption in the country, although witnesses who worked closely with him on Ukraine matters testified otherwise and the country had already met its anti-corruption benchmarks to receive the aid. Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine and a witness for the Republicans in November, called the allegations against Biden "not credible."
Trump began pushing for a probe into the Bidens in 2019, two and a half years after taking office and four years after the events took place. "Biden became the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and polls showed that he had the largest head-to-head lead against President Trump," Garcia said. "That became a problem."