The previous week telephone recordings of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden emerged in Ukraine. The recordings are said to be conversations between then-Vice President Biden and then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. They involve an alleged attempt of American interference in Ukrainian domestic politics, as well as corruption.
The Accusations Against Biden
The latter is no new claim. President Donald Trump has repeatedly been attacking Biden for allegedly protecting his son Hunter Biden from investigations in Ukraine when Biden demanded the dismissal of then Ukrainian Prosecutor General Shokin.
A member of the Ukrainian Rada (parliament) called Andrii Derkach published the telephone recordings on YouTube last week in an apparent attempt to confirm team Trump’s allegations of corruption against Joe Biden.
The accusations against Biden have been a central strategy by the Trump campaign since Biden announced his candidacy. The allegations claim that Biden protected the Ukrainian energy company Burisma — on whose supervisory board his son Hunter had been sitting at the time — from investigations by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin. At the time, Schokin had been considered highly corrupt not only by the United States but the European Union also. President Poroshenko subsequently fired Shokin after Biden had publicly demanded it during a visit to Ukraine. In return, Kyiv received US aid that had previously been withheld.
Assessing the Impact of the Recordings
It is also worth noting that Derkach has been collaborating with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who, despite his best efforts, has yet to present evidence on the Biden corruption claims. Moreover, Derkach claims to have received the recordings “from investigative journalists” – are bizarre at best. After all, journalists usually publish leaked material themselves and are not at the mercy of members of parliament to do so.
Nonetheless, everyone ought to be encouraged to have a listen, as despite the press conference and the pseudo-breaking-news-character Derkach attempted to utilize, at no point in the recordings are Derkach (nor Giuliani’s) claims against Biden confirmed. The term Burisma does not even appear in the recordings once, while a complete lack of context during the conversation, one can hear further disqualifies the recordings.
The recordings and the press conference are thus nothing more than a transparent attempt to provide team Trump with ammunition for new attacks against Biden in the election campaign. It is the latest attempt to frame Joe Biden after President Trump had previously asked current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden himself in order to find incriminating material, and in exchange for military aid — a move that initiated impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Biden’s Quid Pro Quo?
The truth is that the recordings only confirm what everyone with a sense of reality had already been cognizant of: Joe Biden was pushing the Ukrainian leadership to make efforts to fight corruption in exchange for US aid. He did so by arguably intervening more deeply in Kyiv politics than is customary between sovereign states, granted. However, nothing in the recordings contradicts Biden’s or the United States’ official stance on the issue. What it reveals is the difference in power between Washington and Kyiv and the diminutive status of a Ukrainian president on the world stage vis-à-vis an American Vice President.
Ukraine’s current President Zelensky was nonetheless satisfied with the press conference and the accusations against his predecessor Poroshenko. The “evidence” was sufficient to start an investigation into the former president on the grounds of treason, he confirmed.
As for Joe Biden, the story remains what Trump loyalists would otherwise call a “nothing burger”. Rudy Giuliani has been conducting his own “investigation” in Ukraine for months. However, his claims remain so outlandish that even Republicans are not inclined to go near these with a ten-foot pole. The whole saga remains a transparent and incoherent attempt to frame the man who is on course to prevent Trump’s reelection.