Circling the Wagons

circling the wagons

N.Y. Times, May 1, 2019 ,Biden Faces Conflict of Interest Questions That Are Being Promoted by Trump and Allies

Business Insider, Sept. 21, 2019, Here’s the truth about the allegations involving Joe Biden’s son and Ukraine drummed up by Trump and Rudy Guiliani

Republican senators, we are told, are by and large not circling the wagons around Trump. Meanwhile, it seems, lots of folks arecircling the wagons around Joe Biden. Claiming to have learned from Hillary Clinton’s missteps, they are refusing to answer questions about Hunter Biden and haranguing the press not to inquire.

Let me review the bidding here.

Hunter Biden, now aged 49, son of Joe Biden, is a Yale Law grad, sometime lobbyist, sometime business consultant, and sometime international dealmaker. Between 2014 and April of this year, Biden the Younger served as a director of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian corporation that produces natural gas. On the corporate board, Biden served along side a “high profile international” group of fellow directors assembled by the company’s principal, a Mr. Mykola Zlochevsky, typically described as a Ukrainian “oligarch.”

Some say that Mr. Zlochevsky and his company had a penchant for money laundering, tax evasion, and miscellaneous acts of corruption. These suspicions led the local authorities to investigate the alleged wrongdoing.

The extent of Burisma’s payments to Biden the Younger, and the reasons for those payments, are not clear. During all or part of his relationship with Burisma, he was wearing three hats:

  • first, as a Burisma director
  • second, as an employee of Boies Schiller Flexner, a well respected firm providing legal services to Burisma, the exact nature of which remains unknown, and, last but far from least,
  • as a principal in international consulting company that received millions in payments from Burisma.

Biden the younger has denied that his legal efforts involved any investigation of Burisma or Mr. Zlochevsky. According to the younger Biden, “I explicitly limited my role to focus on corporate governance best practices to facilitate Burisma’s desire to expand globally.” (That may or may not be the case, but one would suppose that, wearing his other hat, that of director, he would have a duty to be concerned with the company’s criminal exposure, if any.)

As for Biden the Elder, he has said that he learned of Biden the Younger’s excellent Ukrainian adventure by reading the newspapers—and that he never discussed these activities with his son. His son says that’s right.

Why Did Zlochevsky Hire Biden the Younger?

Three explanations are metaphysically possible.

One. Zlochevsky was bribing Joe Biden. Two. Zlochevsky was unsuccessfully attempting to bribe Joe Biden. (Unsuccessful, that is, because Biden the Younger paid over none of the loot to Biden the Elder, and because Biden the Elder took no account of his son’s activities.) Three, Zlochevsky regarded the payments as money well spent to create the impression that he had an in with the Vice President of the United States, who was at the time tasking a large interest in Ukrainian corruption, a topic with which Mr. Zlochevsky was familiar. Possibilities two and three are consistent with one another, and might both be true.

Joe’s Got Some ‘Splainin’ to Do

Sometimes our close friends and family do things that are unwise—even things that cause us serious harm. That’s just the way life is. A situation like that creates all sorts of dilemmas. It’s hard to know how to respond. And, in the final analysis, you can’t control the unwise decisions made by a son in his forties.

All that said, it just doesn’t work to say, when a reporter thrusts a microphone in your face and asks for comment, “Move along. Nothing to see here. Don’t ask me any more questions. And if you do ask me any more questions, obviously you’re a tool of Trump. And if you persist and keep on raising the issue, then I’ll just throw a hissy fit.”

Nor will it work to claim that “the real story is Donald Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office.”

Well, that’s ONE real story, all right.

But it’s not the ONLY real story.

I Can Relate to Biden—to the Elder and to the Younger

I can relate because I did a fair amount of legal work for bad actors on the international scene. Not to help them commit new crimes and frauds, but, yes, to help protect them from the crimes and frauds they may have committed in the past. And, in many cases, to help them clean up their act going forward.

But if my father had been a leading US politician, with a special concern over corruption in a particular foreign country, I would have had the sense to decline representation of malefactors in that country. And my father would have had a moral right to ask me to decline any such legal work.

Joe just cannot claim the moral high ground here while denying there is anything wrong and denouncing anyone who says otherwise.

That dog won’t hunt.