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Jim Jordan’s dishonest argument of wrongdoing by Biden

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has a well-honed persona that he presents on Capitol Hill. He wears a suit jacket as infrequently as possible, a performative demonstration of his unfancy approach to things. He speaks quickly and aggressively, presenting his comments as though he’s merely the conduit of universal truths who must offer them to the public as rapidly as possible. It comports with his well-known background as a wrestler and wrestling coach.

This has served him well, helping boost his authority within the Republican caucus and contributing to his elevation to lead the House Judiciary Committee. It was in that role that he appeared at Thursday’s initial hearing focused on finding evidence that might lead to the impeachment of President Biden.

And, with characteristic bluster and the characteristic lack of a jacket, Jordan made a sharp allegation of wrongdoing by Biden that was quickly revealed as unsubstantiated.

“This is a tale as old as time: Politician takes action that makes money for his family and then he tries to conceal it,” Jordan began.

“Never forget four fundamental facts,” he continued. First, that Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Second, Jordan continued, Hunter Biden was “not qualified” for that role — something that he claimed Hunter Biden had himself admitted. When Jordan made similar comments last week, CNN pointed out that his articulation was misleading.

“Fact number three,” Jordan continued, “the executives at Burisma asked Hunter Biden to weigh in and help them with the pressure they are under from the prosecutor in Ukraine. Fact number four, Joe Biden goes to Ukraine on December 9th, 2015, gives this speech attacking the prosecutor that starts the process of getting that guy fired.”

He went on to suggest that these “facts” lent credence to a secondhand allegation of bribery against Biden that was recorded in an FBI document that “the Justice Department didn’t want to let this committee see.” That’s also not true; the Justice Department didn’t want to release the form documenting the allegation publicly out of concern that it might expose their informant — and because it was unsubstantiated. They made the document available to members of the House Oversight Committee this year.

The important arguments, though, are Jordan’s third and fourth points. Witness Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, pointed this out.

“I listened to Congressman Jordan, whom I respect a great deal, when he said there are four facts,” Gerhardt said. He began by noting that the first two weren’t related to Joe Biden at all.

“Third,” Gerhardt continued, “there were executives who asked Hunter Biden for help. Again, not yet any proof about any kind of complicity of President Biden. And lastly, Joe Biden gave a speech.”

“If that’s what exists as basis for this inquiry, it is not sufficient,” he continued. “I say that with all respect and I think that that is part of the problem I think, and many Americans think may, exist with respect to these proceedings.”

It’s actually worse than what Gerhardt asserts.

Jordan’s claim about Burisma asking Hunter Biden for help is established first in his appointment to the board, clearly and admittedly a function of his last name. It was also addressed in testimony from Hunter Biden’s business partner Devon Archer. Archer told Oversight investigators that there was “constant pressure” on Burisma executives and that, particularly after a board meeting in Dubai in 2015, those executives appealed to Hunter Biden to do what he could.

What Archer didn’t say, though, was that this pressure was coming from the “prosecutor in Ukraine,” a man named Viktor Shokin. In fact, Archer testified that “Shokin wasn’t specifically on my radar as being an individual that was targeting” Burisma’s founder, Mykola Zlochevsky. In fact, Shokin blocked a British probe into Zlochevsky by failing to turn over evidence.

More importantly, Joe Biden’s speech in December 2o15 was not what “start[ed] the process” of getting Shokin fired. Jordan is implying — as he did without pushback on Fox News earlier this year — that the Joe Biden speech on Dec. 9 of that year followed directly from the Dubai meeting, which was a few days before. But the trip to Ukraine was scheduled weeks earlier and Biden’s speech wasn’t the first push the U.S. government had made to have Shokin removed.

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt had called out Shokin’s failure to address corruption in a speech that September. That came months after international actors here and in the European Union had begun discussing how to deal with Shokin’s failures to address corruption.

“I know how the idea to have Shokin fired came up, and it wasn’t Biden,” one former Treasury official told the Financial Times in 2019. “His direct involvement came late in the game.”

The process was underway before December 2015. Biden’s speech that month was not a function of Burisma’s efforts to get Hunter Biden engaged. And that engagement wasn’t a response to Shokin.

But other than that, Mr. Jordan, how’d you enjoy the play?

Gerhardt’s dismissal of Jordan’s “four facts” prompted the legislator to offer a rejoinder — however tangential.

“It wasn’t just a speech,” Jordan insisted. Biden also “leveraged $1 billion of American tax money, and he did so at a time when our government was supportive of the prosecutor.” Jordan pointed to official comments from State Department official Victoria Nuland in June 2015 expressing support for Shokin and an October memo backing the loan guarantee that Biden would later use as leverage for Shokin’s ouster.

Here’s The Washington Post’s fact-checker on Nuland’s June 2015 praise:

“But in July, key prosecutors under Shokin, including his former driver, were caught with stashes of diamonds and incriminating documents in their homes, causing an uproar in Ukraine. Nuland said Shokin was perceived to be protecting them.”

Things changed.

Jordan continued.

“The most telling evidence is what his business partner said,” the Ohio representative said. “Devon Archer, when we deposed him under oath just two months ago, said this — here’s the question: ‘The request was help from the United States government to deal with the pressure they were under from their prosecutor?’ You know what Mr. Archer’s response was? ‘That’s correct.’”

“Next question: ‘What did Hunter Biden do after he was given that request?’” he continued. “‘He called his dad.’ That’s what we’re investigating.”

A few minutes later, Rep. Daniel S. Goldman (D-N.Y.) sought to introduce into evidence another part of Archer’s testimony — in which Archer denied that Joe Biden had taken any action on behalf of Burisma.

Hunter Biden “did not provide the Burisma executives with actual access to his father. The access to his father was an illusion of access to his father. Is that right?” Goldman asked Archer.

“Right,” Archer replied. He’d previously admitted that he didn’t actually know whether Hunter Biden had called his father in December 2015 — and, in fact, that he only knew that a call had been placed to “D.C.,” where Burisma had consultants whom Hunter Biden had helped engage.

It’s also useful to note that all of this was occurring at a moment when both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times were seeking comment about Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma.

Goldman sought to have this testimony entered into the record. Republicans denied the request, though House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), leading the hearing, later allowed it under unanimous consent.

At the Biden impeachment inquiry hearing, House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-KY) refuses to recognize Rep. Dan Goldman’s (D-NY) point of order.

Comer: “You keep speaking about no evidence. Why don’t you all just listen and learn?”

Goldman: “I’m trying to introduce evidence!” pic.twitter.com/eo1X3ihUSB

— The Recount (@therecount) September 28, 2023

Jordan and others have focused heavily on Joe Biden’s threat to withhold the loan guarantee as proof of his corruption. It’s a weird argument, as it was years ago when it was first debunked. That Biden later boasted about the ploy is presented as somehow a huge error, an admission he’d done something wrong.

But given that Shokin was not applying pressure to Burisma — in fact, Archer testified that he was told Shokin’s firing was bad for Burisma — and given that there’s no evidence Hunter Biden asked Joe Biden to take any action on Burisma’s behalf, there’s a more obvious conclusion. Joe Biden, we can assume, was doing what he said he was doing: using American power to effect a policy change sought by the American government.

Jordan should know all of this. This argument about the loan guarantee, his comments about the December 2015 trip, two of his four “facts”: All have been revealed to be inaccurate in multiple places. But by outward appearances, Jordan is not interested in conveying accurate information. He seemingly is using the impeachment inquiry to undermine Biden politically before the 2024 election, in which the incumbent president is likely to face former president Donald Trump, whom Jordan has endorsed.

There was a point in the hearing when Jordan did his own fact-checking, by the way. Democrats had pointed out that the amount of money received by Hunter Biden paled next to the amount vacuumed up by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner after leaving the White House.

“I would just add to the gentleman’s remarks that Jared Kushner was a key player in the historic Abraham Accords!” Jordan interjected.

Stipulated.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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