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Opinion

Editorial: The GOP’s Senate investigation into Hunter Biden is a charade — and they know it

Sen. Ron Johnson
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) with reporters in the U.S. Capitol.
(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

Now that former Vice President Joe Biden is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, is anyone surprised to learn that Senate Republicans are ramping up an official investigation into Biden and his son Hunter?

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is expected to vote next week on whether to issue its first subpoena in the ill-defined and seemingly limitless probe, which it is conducting jointly with the Senate Judiciary and Ways and Means committees.

This effort, which began in November, has always carried more than a whiff of payback for the House Democrats’ move to impeach President Trump. It also recalls the bevy of highly politicized investigations that congressional Republicans launched into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 election. But the inquiries into the lethal attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and Clinton’s use of a private email server had at least a patina of relevance to the national interest, and the email server was also the subject of an FBI probe. What’s going on now, while couched as an investigation into a conflict of interest, is really just a politically motivated fishing expedition grounded in conspiracy theories advanced largely by Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Ukrainian officials tied to previous regimes.

Since launching the probe, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has suggested an array of possible issues to examine, all of which overlap neatly with the questions Republicans raised about the Bidens and Ukraine during the impeachment inquiry. The underlying arguments are that Hunter Biden traded on his father’s status as vice president, and that Ukrainian officials worked with Democrats to try to defeat Trump in 2016.

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It was monumentally bad judgment for Hunter Biden to take a lucrative seat on the board of an allegedly corrupt Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, while his father was the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine. But the committees have yet to offer any evidence that the younger Biden’s position on the board had any effect on U.S. policy. And it’s already well established that Joe Biden’s work in Ukraine advanced the official U.S. policy — vetted by Congress and shared by our European allies — when he pressured the country to crack down on corruption, including on the alleged misdeeds by Burisma’s founder. That meant urging Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor and get a more aggressive one, a move consistent with the reforms that Johnson himself endorsed in a letter in 2016.

Johnson acknowledged the political overtones of the probe when he told the Hill newspaper: “These are questions that Joe Biden has never adequately answered. And if I were a Democrat primary voter, I would want these questions satisfactorily answered before I cast my final vote.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a member of Johnson’s Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, later said the obvious when he told reporters, “There’s no question that the appearance of looking into Burisima and Hunter Biden appears political. I think people are tired of these kind of political investigations.” Too bad the Senate GOP isn’t.


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