At the heart of every single Republican conspiracy about both President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine is a single claim. The claim is that Joe Biden got Ukraine Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin sacked in order to protect energy company Burisma, where Hunter Biden was on the board.
That was the claim former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani brought back from Ukraine, and the basis on which Donald Trump tried to blackmail Ukraine and earned his first impeachment. Also, because Republicans keep saying things long after they know, we know, and they know we know that they’re lying, this claim is also behind the hearings being led by Rep. Jim Jordan in the House. It’s behind the messages being pushed by Rep. James Comer and Sen. Chuck Grassley. And it’s the basis of an improbable number of stories at Fox News.
The idea that Shokin was fired to protect Burisma has been debunked so many times that de bunk is exhausted, but it has seldom gone down with as much grim satisfaction as it did on Sunday when Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade interviewed former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Kilmeade: Is that why he got fired? Because of the billion dollars and the former vice president, now president?
Poroshenko: First of all, this is a completely crazy person. This is something wrong with him. Second, there is not one single word of truth. And third, I hate the idea to make any comments and to make any intervention in the American election. We have very much enjoyed bipartisan support. Please do not use such person like Shokin to undermine the trust between bipartisan support and Ukraine.
It helps to get the laughter flowing if you know that Kilmeade is a near-constant spouter of this false claim who has been treating Shokin as a fount of wisdom. As for Shokin, in his portion of the recording, he states the Republican claim quite succinctly.
“Poroshenko fired me,” said Shokin, “at the insistence of the then-Vice President Biden because I was investigating Burisma. There were no complaints whatsoever and no problems with how I was performing at my job.”
Well, that seems like something that might be checked out. We can start with this Financial Times article where officials from a number of nations (not just the U.S.) sought the removal of Shokin for months before Biden ever became involved because Shokin was not investigating potential corruption cases, including Burisma, and was suspected of being corrupt himself. In addition to U.S. and E.U. officials, senior officials from the International Monetary Fund called for reforms because widespread corruption in Ukraine was seen as the country’s biggest obstacle to growth and stability.
And there was one other group really pushing for Shokin’s removal, as CNN reported in 2019. That group was the Senate Ukraine Caucus, where Republican member Sens. Rob Portman, Mark Kirk, and Ron Johnson dispatched a letter urging Poroshenko to “press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General's Office.”
Shokin’s own deputy testified that there was no active investigation into Burisma at the time of Biden’s actions. And not only was all this looked into as part of Trump’s impeachment, a Republican investigation launched in 2020 specifically to find any wrongdoing by Biden ended in an 87-page report that “contained no evidence that the elder Mr. Biden improperly manipulated American policy toward Ukraine or committed any other misdeed.”
The claim that Biden did something wrong in Ukraine wasn’t true, isn’t true, and can’t be made true through repetition. Shokin was fired because he was corrupt, bad at his job, and everyone complained.
As The Washington Post points out, Fox News and Republicans come out of this looking extremely foolish, though no one should expect them to admit it. They are deeply invested in this lie. In 2020, Republicans looked into this idea and realized it was baseless. But then, 2020 was a year when some Republicans still thought they could pull their party away from Trump and chart a course back to a world where they had both policies and a platform. Connections between Republicans and reality have become much more tenuous since then.
They’ll keep promoting the lie, because without it everything that Jordan, Comer, Grassley, and the rest are doing is revealed as pointless political theater in support of a lie. They know that we know that they know they are lying.
It helps that they don’t care.
Kerry talks with Drew Linzer, director of the online polling company Civiqs. Drew tells us what the polls say about voters’ feelings toward President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and what the results would be if the two men were to, say … run against each other for president in 2024. Oh yeah, Drew polled to find out who thinks Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes he’s been indicted for, and whether or not he should see the inside of a jail cell.