Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Grassley Misleading

Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) hunting for vital information and not doing anything related to the Trump campaign in any way, shape, or form, of course, because that would be wrong. Via Tennessee Star.

As one of the first to lodge a complaint about young Hunter Biden failing upward into the Ukrainian energy business and making the Obama government look bad for no conceivable reason (May 2014, as soon as the news came out, and I don't know what Chuckles Grassley was up to at the time—actually I do, he was all in a dither about an imaginary "secret hands-off list" that supposedly forced CBP agents to allow a Muslim Brotherhood member to enter the US)—

As one of the original Hunter critics, I was saying, I feel I have a kind of proprietary interest in the story and its second life as a shiny object in the Quest for the Trumpy Grail of some kind of scandal associated with the name of Joe Biden, including the latest effort from the Republicans of the Senate Homeland Security and Banking Committees, which the chairman of the first, stupidest person in the Senate Ron Johnson, has just released. But it's really pretty pallid stuff, as Josh Kovensky/TPM says

The report — which purports to document the effect that Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma had on U.S. foreign policy — is a rehash of long-debunked allegations that served as the focus of President Trump’s impeachment last year.

But Senate Republicans summed up the result of their probe as well as anyone: “The extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear,” the report reads....

And the Wall Street Journal

I don't know that there's really much for me to add to that, but it's pretty remarkable to note how much of their evidence is gathered from known fabricators, Peter Schweizer (of Clinton Cash fame) and John Solomon in his columns in The Hill, and Andrii Telizhenko, a Giuliani confederate fingered by the FBI as a conduit for Russian disinformation. The only truly respectable source the Republicans made a considerable use of is the State Department's George Kent, who, let's say, does not at all contradict what he told the House Intelligence Committee during the impeachment hearings last year:
GOLDMAN: Let's move to the third excerpt that I mentioned related to Vice President Biden. And it says -- the other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son -- this is President Trump speaking -- that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it, it's sounds horrible. Now, at the time of this call, Vice President Biden was the front runner for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 election. Mr. Kent, are you familiar as you indicate in your opening statement about these allegations related to Vice President Biden?

KENT: I am.

GOLDMAN: And to your knowledge, is there any factual basis to support those allegations?

KENT: None whatsoever.

GOLDMAN: When Vice President Biden acted in Ukraine, did he act in accordance with official U.S. policy?

KENT: He did.

As Kovensky says, all Kent told the Johnson and Grassley committees was
The farthest the report goes towards suggesting that other officials even reacted to Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Burisma is a quote from George Kent, a top State Department official who said in 2016 that the younger Biden’s position was “very awkward” for the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv’s work in spurring the Ukrainian government to fight corruption.

The Report's four pages devoted to showing that John Kerry lied to NBC News when he told them he hadn't known during his time as secretary of state that Hunter was on the Burisma board literally do not show that; they show that Kerry's chief of staff David Wade must have heard about it in the context of finding out that Kerry's stepson Christopher Heinz was not involved with Burisma, and that all Kerry was concerned with was being able to answer press questions about Heinz: 
Question: And when you told him that the information that you were able to confirm with Mr. Heinz that Rosemont Seneca had … not invested or bought Burisma, what was Mr. Kerry's reaction to that? 
Wade: If I recall, his reaction was that he was comfortable answering a press question if he got it. . . . .
Question: [T]hat he was comfortable answering the media question regarding what? 
Wade: Regarding … Christopher Heinz or Rosemont Seneca investing in — in a Ukrainian natural gas company or buying a Ukrainian natural gas company.
The attempt to demonstrate something sinister in Biden's failure to denounce the Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky is even weaker than that:

In his December 2015 speech at the Rada, Vice President Biden told members to have courage to confront corruption and change the course of history for their country. Yet when it came to calling out an individual whom the State Department viewed as a “corrupt” and “odious oligarch,” Vice President Biden’s staff advised him to not accuse Zlochevsky of corruption. In December 2015, while in Ukraine, Biden did not link Zlochevsky with corruption and did not demonstrate the same level of courageousness that he encouraged Ukrainian political leaders to pursue. 

The Republicans could have mentioned that Biden didn't mention any Ukrainian names in the speech, except for those of the great poet Taras Shevchenko and helicopter pilot and parliamentarian Nadiya Savchenko, then being held in detention in Moscow, on bogus murder and illegal border crossing, even though Russian troops had kidnapped her from the other side of the border (she was eventually released, and later jailed for a year in Ukraine in 2018-19, charged by Rudolph Giuliani's favorite prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, with planning a terrorist attack on the Rada, which may also have been bogus).

And they could have made it clearer that Biden did nothing to stop the Ukrainians from investigating Zlochenko, and the Americans did their best—

Several witnesses highlighted efforts by certain U.S. officials to enable a successful investigation of Zlochevsky, and also noted that the U.S. decision to condition a $1 billion loan guarantee was made in part because of the then-Ukrainian prosecutor general’s failure to pursue a case against Zlochevsky. But at the end of the day, between 2014 through 2017, despite the concerted effort of many U.S. officials, not one of the three different Ukrainian prosecutor generals held Zlochevsky accountable.

(That's all the prosecutors who worked with Giuliani.)

Lastly, the Republicans' haughty denial that they could have had anything to do with Russian disinformation spread by a sanctioned Russian agent from Ukraine, Andrii Derkach

A subsequent Politico article, again citing unnamed sources, reported that in 2019, Derkach allegedly sent information to several members of Congress, including the Chairmen and Ranking Member Wyden and Ranking Member Peters.237 The article then further suggested that these weak parallels reinforced the “suspicions” of some Democrats that the Committees’ investigation was ‘“laundering’ a foreign influence campaign to damage Biden.” 238.... Since the offices of Chairman Johnson and Chairman Grassley did not receive, and were unaware of, the information that Derkach had allegedly sent, it is impossible that Derkach’s efforts could have shaped the Committees’ investigation in any way. 

is a piece of wild misdirection, since the Democrats' charge is precisely that the way Russian influence was being "laundered" was by having it presented to the committees not by Derkach but by Telizhenko (who is cited 42 times) instead:

Democrats, meanwhile, have accused Johnson and Grassley of using testimony and subpoenaed records from Blue Star to legitimize anti-Biden claims leveled by one of the company’s former consultants: former Ukrainian diplomat Andriy Telizhenko. Democrats suspect Telizhenko may be functioning as a clearinghouse of sorts, to funnel Kremlin-backed conspiracy theories about the Bidens wielding improper influence over Ukraine policy to congressional investigators and into the public sphere.

Telizhenko, who has promoted the theory that senior Ukrainian officials orchestrated a campaign to support Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump in 2016, has recently published unverified transcripts of taped conversations between Biden and former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. The tapes also were publicized by Derkach, the former Ukrainian politician whom the U.S. sanctioned this week.

Here's hoping (and expecting) their re-do of the as yet unreleased Durham investigation-of-the-investigation-investigation is as lame an effort as this.

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