Politics

The long-awaited defense of Hunter Biden

Of course, Rudy Giuliani would have you believe that Hunter Biden is some kind of financial Jack the Ripper who is somehow linked to a massive money laundering scheme in Ukraine that somehow involves George Soros and a Lithuanian bank, as noted by New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi.

As we sped uptown, [Giuliani] spoke in monologue about the scandal he co-created, weaving one made-up talking point into another and another. He said former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, whom he calls Santa Maria Yovanovitch, is “controlled” by George Soros. “He put all four ambassadors there. And he’s employing the FBI agents.” I told him he sounded crazy, but he insisted he wasn’t.

[…]

He made the case that the Ukrainian prosecutor fired for corruption, Viktor Shokin, was in fact not corrupt and had been forced out by the Obama administration precisely because he had the goods on the Bidens. He also claimed to have a secret source with documentary proof that Hunter Biden had been paid off through a Cyprus bank in a transaction routed through a Lithuanian bank. “When I got it” — that is, the document he claims shows this — “I had already lost Lev, and so I had no translator. I translated it with my app,” he said. He took out his phone to show me how Google Translate works.

The evidence does not support the argument that Shokin was in “hot pursuit” of Hunter Biden, as noted by the Independent.

The wild conspiracy theory on which Trump based his assertion – that Joe Biden had Shokin removed to stop him investigating wrongdoing in his son’s gas company – has already been widely debunked.

Put simply, the chronology doesn’t work – the investigation into Burisma, where Hunter worked, was dormant by the time Shokin was pushed out. It would also represent a major historical anomaly. During Shokin’s 13 months in office, not one major figure was convicted. No oligarch. No politician. No ranking bureaucrat. It would appear unlikely he was in the middle of breaking the habit with the Bidens.

Raw Story reported that Sergii Leshchenko, a reporter at the Kyiv Post, noted that people whom Giuliani has interviewed in his documentary, such as former prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko, who was Shokin’s replacement, are “not trustworthy.”

“Lutsenko has become an informant for the conspiracy theory designed by Trump’s entourage, now broadcast on One America News TV channel,” he wrote. ‘As a journalist who has been covering Ukrainian politics for 20 years, I maintain that Lutsenko and the rest of Rudy Giuliani’s interlocutors in Ukraine are not in the least trustworthy.”

[…]

“Lutsenko repeatedly cooperated with pro-Russian forces throughout his career. After entering parliament in 2002, he became friendly with Andriy Klyuyev, one of the top members of the Party of Regions, led by pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych, the future president. At that time, Lutsenko was also the Socialist Party’s curator in the Donetsk Oblast, where Klyuyev and the Party of Regions had the most influence,” he went on. “Klyuyev later became the last head of the Yanukovych administration before the bloody massacre on the EuroMaidan in February 2014 made both him and the disgraced president flee Ukraine. He is now hiding from justice in Russia.”

Leshchenko also writes that oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who paid Lev Parnas $1 million on loan after he paid Giuliani $500,000, is an “agent of Russia.” Reports Raw Story:

The major behind-the-scenes “agent of Russia,” according to Leshchencko, is Dmytro Firtash, the Ukrainian oligarch whose attorney gave [Giuliani] henchman Lev Parnas a $1 million “loan” that he allegedly tried to hide from federal prosecutors. In [addition] to his connection with Parnas, Firtash also faces extradition to the United States on bribery charges.

“The situation looks absurd, because Firtash, being a suspect in the U.S., evidently contributed to the creation of a document that is now being used by the U.S. president and his associates to defend against impeachment charges,” Leshchenko writes. “What does Firtash want in return? Obviously, the oligarch seeks to use Giuliani to avoid extradition to America.”

All of these are interesting figures who had met with Giuliani during his wild ride through Budapest and Ukraine, where he tried to “gather evidence” against the Bidens, about which I’ve previously written:

During the trip Giuliani and Seth Rich conspiracy theorist Chanel Rion met Yuri Lutshenko in Budapest who claims that Ambassador Yovanovich “perjured herself” in her testimony and that there was a long line of money laundering tied to the Bidens.

They then flew to meet Viktor Shokin in Kyiv, where he said former President Poroshenko had told him that Ukraine wouldn’t get $1 Billion in loan guarantees unless “Shokin stopped investigating Hunter Biden.” Except that Shoken was never investigating him, he had previously investigated Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky for self-dealing and that case ended a year before Shokin was ousted with the help of Biden.

Then they talked to Ukrainian Parliament member Andrey Derkach [who is considered a “not credible source” and was a KGB School graduate] who claims $Billions in US money was mishandled in Ukraine and showed them documents that claim there are 6 criminal investigations into the Bidens in Ukraine [The current prosecutor says there aren’t any investigations of the Bidens.] Derkach claims specifically that $5.3 Billion in US aid for Ukraine was redirected under Yovanovich and Biden into the pockets of George Soros and the Franklin Templeton agency. Derkach wrote Graham, Nunes and Mulvaney letters suggesting the creation of a joint investigative commission between the US and Ukraine to “stop corruption” by the “children of Soros.”  The only problem is the $5.3 billion came from foreign supporters, the US only provided $1.44 Billion and that went to the security of Ukranian Nuclear power plants, not to various NGOs.

And naturally, while we’re talking about nepotism and conflicts of interest, we have to take a moment to talk about Don Trump Jr.’s recent business trip to Indonesia, where he met lots of politicians, as noted by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

On August 13th, Don Jr. attended a pre-launch event to kick off the development of two Trump-brand properties in Lido and Bali, Indonesia. While Donald Trump Jr. denied claims that his trip to Indonesia this week posed any conflicts of interest between his business and the Trump Administration, social media posts from the event show two Indonesian government officials and several other people with close ties to the Indonesian government seized the opportunity to attend an event with the son of the United States president.

Those officials in attendance were the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti and Governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan. Among the other high-profile guests was the projects’ developer Hary Tanoesoedibjo’s daughter, Angela Tanoesoedibjo, who has reportedly been considered for a position with President Joko Widodo’s cabinet. Also in attendance were former Ambassador to the United States Dino Patti Djalal, Golkar Party Chairman Aburizal Bakrie, and Dede Yusuf, who served as Vice Governor of West Java, home to the future Lido resort.

Then there have been all of the international links involved with Ivanka Trump and her various Chinese trademarks, as the AP noted:

The Chinese government granted 18 trademarks to companies linked to President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump over the last two months, Chinese public records show, raising concerns about conflicts of interest in the White House.

In October, China’s Trademark Office granted provisional approval for 16 trademarks to Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, bringing to 34 the total number of marks China has greenlighted this year, according to the office’s online database. The new approvals cover Ivanka-branded fashion gear including sunglasses, handbags, shoes and jewelry, as well as beauty services and voting machines.

The approvals came three months after Ivanka Trump announced she was dissolving her namesake brand to focus on government work.

And then you have a very strange relationship between Jared Kushner and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as documented by The Guardian:

Kushner’s role is particularly troubling because, as the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, he has cultivated and shored up the relationship between Trump and the ruthless Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The Kushner-Prince Mohammed friendship is at the heart of the US-Saudi relationship today, and it’s one reason that Trump has tried to shield the crown prince from blame for the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump and Kushner, both used to shady real estate deals, adapted quickly to Saudi Arabia’s system of patronage and clientelism: unwavering support from the Trump administration for the promise of weapons sales and other business deals.

The project to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia began in late 2016, during the presidential transition, when a group of retired US generals and national security officials coalesced around Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser. Even after Flynn was fired in February 2017, other White House officials revived the plan, despite objections from administration lawyers who worried that the proposal could violate US laws intended to stop nuclear proliferation. And the idea is still alive: Trump met last month with the CEOs of several private nuclear power companies who sought his help in building power plants in the Middle East.

While most attention has been focused on Flynn’s role, Kushner is entangled in several conflicts of interest around the Saudi project, according to the 24-page report from the House oversight and reform committee. One of the potential beneficiaries of a Saudi nuclear deal is Westinghouse Electric, which is owned by a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, a real estate company that recently bailed out Kushner and his family’s company in their ill-fated, $1.8bn purchase of a Manhattan office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue.

The alliance between Kushner and Prince Mohammed has consequences for US policy: Trump ignored a deadline last month to submit a report to Congress on whether the crown prince was personally responsible for Khashoggi’s murder and dismemberment at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as US intelligence agencies concluded. But like Trump’s previous attempts to shield the prince from blame for Khashoggi’s killing, this one will backfire. By defending Prince Mohammed so strongly, Trump has made the crisis worse and has emboldened a tougher response in Congress.

Yes, it’s completely fair to look at the offspring of a president or a vice president and to question their various foreign entanglements and business deals, since it’s their relationship with their father that has likely opened the doors for those deals.  Just for the record, Bill Barr’s son-in-law works for Trump as a legal advisor in the White House. So does Rudy Giuliani’s son working as a sport liason making $95,000 per year.

These are some of the people currently hurling plenty of accusations and allegations back and forth about Hunter Biden, but what are the facts?

First and foremost, Hunter Biden is an attorney with a degree from Yale University Law School. When it comes to prestigious degrees, there is hardly any school that is more famous, with the possible exception of Harvard. This is a school that has produced multiple presidents and members of the Supreme Court, including Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Other graduates include Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor.

The Yale law degree alone would open the doors to nearly any career its possessor wanted, and Biden has already had nearly half of them. After law school, he landed a job at MBNA and eventually became a consultant for the bank, according to the website Celebrity Net Worth.

In 1996 Hunter worked for the Delaware-based bank MBNA, earning an annual salary of $100,000. In 2001 he left MBNA to launch a lobbying practice. Between 2001 and 2005, Hunter was a paid consultant to MBNA. MBNA reportedly paid his consulting firm millions of dollars, according to The New York Times.

He’d worked as a lobbyist starting in 2001, opening his own lobbying firm, Oldaker, Biden and Belair, according to Newsweek.

In 2001, he started working as a Washington lobbyist and eventually launched his own firm, Oldaker Biden & Belair. Joe Biden, then a presidential candidate, paid his son’s lobbying firm at least $143,000 for “legal services” throughout his campaign, according to a timeline compiled by the National Review.

The National Review reports that Oldaker, Biden and Belair worked mostly for universities and hospitals, but also for drug companies such as Achaogen and Pulmatrix. They also worked for the music-sharing company Napster and online gambling sites, noted The New York Times. Biden has said that he never lobbied his father directly.

After this, Biden and an uncle started an investment firm called Paradigm Global Advisors that had its ups and downs. Newsweek continued:

In 2006, Hunter Biden and his uncle James Biden (Joe’s younger brother), purchased a hedge fund called Paradigm Global Advisors. To buy the firm, they paid with an $8.1 million promissory note. Over their five year tenure at the firm, Hunter and James were not particularly successful investors. They reportedly lost money in frauds and Ponzi schemes on more than one occasion. During his time with the fund, Hunter drew an annual salary of $1.2 million. Hunter and James unwound the fund in 2010 and never paid off the $8.1 million promissory note.

Although that investment firm ultimately failed, Biden earned a salary of $1.2 million, which, for the record, happens to be twice as much as he earned as a board member at Burisma Holdings at $50,000 per month. His earnings at Burisma were essentially a pay cut from what he had previously earned.

Following Paradigm, Biden continued working as a lobbyist for several years and was appointed to the board of Amtrak by President George W. Bush. He had also been the vice chairman of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation. He then founded a private equity firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners, in 2009, which later partnered with the Chinese government to form yet another equity firm, called BHR, where he held an unpaid board position. Trump likes to argue that Biden took “tons of money” from China, but again—this position was unpaid.

He ended his lobbying career and left the Amtrak board as his father became vice president, then started another consulting firm in 2008, as noted by Newsweek.

In 2008, Hunter Biden also founded Seneca Global Advisors, a consulting firm that helps companies expand into global markets. His earnings from Rosemont Seneca and Seneca Global Advisors are not publicly available.

Biden then joined the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, which features superstar lawyer David Boies as its primary partner and chairman. While at Boies Schiller, Biden was involved in advising Burisma, which was a client at the time being personally handled by Biden, who was advising them on corporate reform, according to Hunter Biden’s lawyer, George Mesires:

In April 2014, Hunter was asked to join the board of Burisma, the largest independent natural gas producer in Ukraine. At the time, Hunter was of counsel with Boies Schiller Flexner LLP [fn 1] (“Boies Schiller”), a major U.S. law firm, and was advising Burisma on its corporate reform initiatives, an important aspect of fueling Burisma’s international growth and diversity. Vibrant energy production, particularly natural gas, was central to Ukraine’s independence and to stemming the tide of Vladimir Putin’s attack on the principles of a democratic Europe.

To further its goals of independence, Burisma sought to adopt standards and practices traditionally employed by Western companies. At Hunter’s urging, Boies Schiller engaged Nardello & Co., a leading global investigative firm, to assess, among other things, Burisma’s corporate structure and governance practices. Burisma agreed to pay the legal expenses of Boies Schiller to support Hunter in developing corporate reform initiatives.

Because of Burisma’s stated commitment to corporate best practices, it was able to attract well-qualified board members, including the former president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, a leading advocate of democratic principles in the region. President Kwasniewski, familiar with Hunter’s work on behalf of Burisma, recommended that Hunter join the board.

Again, this view is consistent that Biden ultimately joined by the board for Burisma Holdings to help it with its efforts regarding “corporate governance,” as noted by Wikipedia.

In the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, Mykola Zlochevsky faced a money laundering investigation,[33][34] and his company Burisma Holdings, the largest natural gas producer in Ukraine,[14] assembled a “high-profile international board” in response.[35][34] Biden, then an attorney with Boies Schiller Flexner, was hired to help Burisma with corporate governance best practices, and a consulting firm in which Biden is a partner was also retained by Burisma.[36][37][38] Chris Heinz, John Kerry‘s stepson, opposed his partners Devon Archer and Hunter Biden joining the board in 2014 due to the reputational risk.[34] Among those who joined the board of directors in April 2014 were Biden, Archer and former Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski.[39] Biden served on the board of Burisma until his term expired in April 2019,[40] receiving compensation of up to $50,000 per month in some months.[37][41]

So it appears that Biden was placed on the board of Burisma as part of its effort to “clean up” its practices after the allegations of money laundering by Zlochevsky, which had previously occurred in 2012. Biden took a pay cut to be on the board compared to what he’d earned as an investment banker, although it may have been an upgrade compared to what he likely earned at Boies Schiller. Biden had nothing to do with the investigation of Zlochevsky and was never investigated himself.

According to the current Ukrainian prosecutor, he’s not being investigated now, the Los Angeles Times notes:

Ukraine’s top anti-corruption official said Friday his agency hasn’t investigated former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden or his son as U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested.

[…]

Trump alleged that the Biden family inappropriately benefited from their ties to Ukraine and he pushed Zelensky to investigate the case during the July 25 call that is now the focus of the impeachment probe.

Nazar Kholodnitskiy, the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, said in an interview with NV radio that Biden and his son weren’t the subject of any investigation.

He was on the boards of Amtrak and BHR prior to being on the board of Burisma. He’s worked as a banker and as an attorney at a prestigious law firm, and started a lobbying firm, a consulting firm, and at least two equity firms. Again, Hunter Biden has faced marital problems and was discharged from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for drugs. But the idea that he didn’t have the experience or qualifications to be on the board of Burisma is simply not the true.

Trump and Giuliani want to turn Trump’s Senate trial into a trial of Hunter and Joe Biden. It’s about time that someone spoke up and turned that argument around.

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