Here's the simple truth about the fake Hunter Biden scandal Team Trump wishes was a 'smoking gun'

Here's the simple truth about the fake Hunter Biden scandal Team Trump wishes was a 'smoking gun'
Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump is trying hard to recreate the perfect storm that landed him in the White House in 2016 despite being the most unpopular candidate in the modern polling era. That year, the Clinton campaign's hacked emails were dribbled out over the final six weeks of the race. There wasn't much to them, but internal campaign communications tend to be frank and are easily mined for scandalettes. Having established the storyline that Clinton was as corrupt as Trump, they provided a steady stream of stories with "emails reveal" in the headlines which served to reinforce the right's narrative.

We can expect a similar stream of stories of ostensible "smoking guns" stemming from Hunter Biden's emails (whether hacked or fabricated) to come our way in the final weeks of this race. And some people who want to see themselves as fair will inadvertently amplify the right's preferred narratives by assuming that there must be something there.

So it's very important to keep in mind that the "scandal" is supposed to be that then-Vice President Joe Biden pushed for the removal of Ukraine's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to stave off an investigation into Burisma Holdings--the Ukrainian gas company whose Board Hunter sat on--in order to protect his son. It is supposed to be a story about conflict of interest--of the elder Biden using the office of the Vice Presidency to help his son.

There is not a shred of truth to those claims. The effort to get Shokin fired "was prompted by a push for anti-corruption reforms developed at the State Department and coordinated with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund," The Washington Post reported. And according to CNN, a bipartisan "letter from 2016 shows that Republican senators pushed for reforms to Ukraine's prosecutor general's office and judiciary, echoing calls then-Vice President Joe Biden made at the time."

Shokin was corrupt, and that was a problem. Vitaliy Kasko, a former deputy of Shokin's who resigned over his boss's habit of stymieing corruption probes, told Bloomberg that Shokin was not investigating Burisma during the period in question. "There was no pressure from anyone from the U.S. to close cases against" the firm or its owner. "It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015," Kasko said. And Daria Kaleniuk, a prominent Ukrainian anti-corruption crusader, told The Washington Post that "Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation, but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation."

Without some impropriety on Joe Biden's part, Hunter Biden's business ventures aren't a story. He isn't running for office. Like many, if not most children of the powerful, the younger Biden leveraged both his family name and the connections he'd made at Yale to land various business deal and secure a cushy, high-paying position on a corporate board. Both Hunter and Joe Biden have acknowledged that associating himself with a shady Ukrainian gas company--as opposed to, say, a reputable American or Western European firm--was an error of judgment, but it was neither illegal nor unethical. This isn't a meritocracy, and this is one way that wealth and power are reproduced from one generation to the next. It's distasteful and unfair, but that's a class issue, not a scandal. Hunter isn't running for office and his judgment, or lack thereof, isn't a matter of public concern.

Joe Biden spent years in the Senate, and year after year he ranked among the least wealthy members of that body. We know how he came into his wealth--mostly through a multi-million dollar book advance and speaking gigs after leaving office. Biden may not be everyone's cup of tea, but there's no evidence that he's corrupt.

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