On Tuesday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy declared that he was turning three Republican investigations that have already been running since January into “impeachment inquiries” on the basis of … of … well, on the basis of how McCarthy is scared sh--less that the members of his own party might come to collect on all the promises he made to get his big office.
The public could—and has—cheerfully ignored the performance art that three Republican-run committees have been executing with no obvious goal other than to allow them to send out daily fundraising requests that include the phrase “Hunter Biden’s laptop.” People expect Republicans to run pointless inquiries into the same thing over and over again. (See: Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, or the other five investigations into Benghazi.) But an impeachment inquiry seems like it should have at least some tiny scrap of evidence to justify its existence.
It has apparently fallen to Rep. Jim Jordan to provide that scrap. Only what he’s trotting out for the Fox & Friends crowd has a slight problem: It’s all just a scam that blew up on Republicans four years ago.
Here’s what Jordan tried to sell on Fox & Friends as justification for an impeachment inquiry.
”[President Joe Biden] told Ukraine, ‘If you don’t fire the prosecutor, you’re not getting the money.’ That’s exactly what they accused President Trump of doing, which he didn’t do and they impeached him over that. He did it. And he did it — remember, Dec. 4, 2015, Devon Archer and Hunter Biden are meeting with the head of Burisma, Mr. Zlochevsky, and they called D.C. Now, Devon Archer says, ‘I stepped away. I don’t know who they talked to in D.C.’ Now, come on. They called D.C. And then five days later, the vice president of the United States, the current president of the United States, goes to Ukraine and starts the process into getting the prosecutor fired.”
It’s not really possible to feel sorry for Jordan, but it is possible to feel a level of astonishment over just what level of pathetic—patheticness? pathegnosity?—he is willing to reach in order to justify his actions.
To steal the opening from the last two “Spider Man” animated features: Let’s do this one more time.
All of this business about Joe Biden and Burisma goes back to May 2019 and an article that appeared in The New York Times that gave Rudy Giuliani an open mic to make a set of unchallenged claims. Trump immediately picked up those claims and leveled them at then-undeclared candidate Joe Biden. To see just how close they are to what Jordan is saying now, let’s look at what Daily Kos wrote then:
At the heart of the charge Trump is making against Biden is this: Biden’s son Hunter was on the board of an energy company called Burisma Holdings that was targeted by a Ukrainian prosecutor. This prosecutor was one of several figures whom Joe Biden railed against on a trip to Ukraine in which he complained about corruption in the country’s government, including a threat to withhold U.S. funds if Ukraine didn’t clean up its act. In the next election, the prosecutor was voted out, and Ukraine got its funds.
When that was written, on May 2, 2019, there was still some belief that Burisma might have actually benefited from the removal of that prosecutor, whose name was Viktor Shokin. However, just two weeks later, Bloomberg did something that The New York Times apparently never considered: They sent a reporter to Ukraine and checked up on Giuliani’s claims. What they discovered was that not one word held up to the slightest scrutiny.
It turns out that the problem with Shokin was that he wasn’t investigating Burisma, or much of anything else. In fact, as early as 2015, prosecutors in the U.K., who actually were trying to go after both Burisma and Zlochevsky, became convinced that Shokin was actively interfering with that investigation to protect Burisma. British officials didn’t just take their displeasure to the Ukrainian government, they also complained to the U.S.
It was those complaints that caused Joe Biden to include Shokin in a group of officials that the U.S. wanted removed due to suspected corruption, because eliminating corruption in the Ukrainian government was something both the U.K. and the U.S. were actively championing. In getting rid of Shokin, Biden was encouraging investigation of Burisma, not stopping it.
All of this was dutifully walked through during Trump’s first impeachment—an impeachment that happened because Trump tried to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into backing up Giuliani’s false claims.
Where did Giuliani’s faux scandal originate? Simple. Donald Trump sent him. It took until February 2020 for Trump to confess this openly, but he admitted sending Giuliani to Ukraine on a Geraldo Rivera podcast. Trump sent Giuliani to Ukraine, not for any purpose to benefit the United States, but explicitly to talk to people who had run out of the government for being too corrupt to cook up something that could be used against Biden, who Trump saw as his biggest electoral threat.
Of course, those corrupt former officials and members of a pro-Russian faction within Ukraine had a price for giving Giuliani the story they wanted: the ouster of U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. They wanted Yovanovitch out because she was regarded as both an effective advocate for the U.S. and a tireless fighter against corruption. Giuliani snapped up that deal. He sold Trump on the idea that Yovanovitch had said bad things about him—and that she was standing in the way of creating the narrative Giuliani was trying to create in Ukraine. Just like that, Yovanovitch was gone.
None of this is new. In fact, it’s not just four years old, but every aspect of the story has been covered again, and again, and again. Shokin’s deputy has even admitted that the prosecutor was not investigating Burisma.
Everything that Jordan was babbling about on Fox was sad, false, and ridiculous. Deplorable seems like the right word. But hey, he does seem to have convinced one person.
What do you do if you're associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you're Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris' 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before "casting" them. Officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won't shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.