Eighteen months later, Democrats' first Trump impeachment tale in tatters
Disclosures from open-records requests, Hunter Biden laptop and Senate testimony undercut Democratic narrative that president's son did nothing wrong in his dealings in Ukraine.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
In the first of their two drives to impeach Donald Trump, Democrats had a simple storyline: The then-president abused his power by requesting an investigation of Hunter Biden's dealings in Ukraine when Joe Biden's son had done nothing wrong.
That mantra carried through the 2020 election, repeated by Democrats and sympathetic news anchors.
"President Trump has falsely accused your son of doing something wrong while serving on a company board in Ukraine," CNN anchor Anderson Cooper claimed as he set up a question during an interview with Joe Biden last year. "I want to point out there is no evidence of wrongdoing by either one of you."
Joe Biden offered similar claims during the 2020 presidential debates. "My son did nothing wrong," Biden said at one point when pressed by Trump. Another time, he added: "Nothing was unethical." In a separate interview, the now-president emphatically stated: "There's nothing on its face that was wrong."
Now 18 months since the rushed Ukraine impeachment vote in the House and subsequent Senate trial acquittal, that Democratic narrative is in tatters following a series of explosive revelations that have come both from open records requests about the Biden family dealings with Burisma Holdings in Ukraine and emails from an abandoned Hunter Biden laptop now in the FBI's possession.
The latest revelation came Friday when Just the News reported emails the FBI obtained in December 2019 from the abandoned laptop showing Hunter Biden was warned back in 2016 by his lawyers and business associates that he had failed to pay adequate taxes to the IRS on approximately $1 million he collected from Burisma in 2014 and 2015.
The discovery caused panic inside Hunter Biden's inner circle because he was subpoenaed by federal authorities early in the 2016 election about his business dealings with partner Devon Archer, who would eventually be indicted and convicted of fraud, the emails showed.
"Hunter and I talked briefly this morning and feel good with where we are on the taxes and the narrative regarding that," Rosemont Seneca executive Eric Schwerin wrote defense lawyers George Mesires and Michael MacPhail on April 14, 2016 as the team tried to secure a cooperation agreement with federal authorities.
The conversations were prompted by a subpoena to Hunter Biden from federal authorities a few weeks earlier, the emails show. "I received a SEC subpoena for any information I have related to the situation Devin [sic] is dealing with," Hunter Biden wrote a lawyer and Schwerin on March 23, 2016.
The inner circle devised a strategy for Hunter Biden to file for an extension to file his 2015 taxes and "begin the process of amending the 2014 returns to reflect the Burisma payments from 2014," the emails stated. The move would buy time so that Hunter Biden's team could develop a proffer and produce documents to federal prosecutors to avoid becoming ensnared in the criminal case against Archer, the emails revealed.
At the time, FBI, SEC and IRS agents were bearing down on Archer, a longtime business partner who also served with Hunter Biden on the Burisma board. Agents arrested Archer a month later in May 2016 on charges he helped defraud an Indian tribe, a move that the emails show was closely monitored by Hunter Biden's team.
Months later, as Trump was about to enter the White House in January 2017, Schwerin would prod Hunter Biden again, reminding him he had still not paid the back taxes for 2014, according to an email Just the News first reported last December.
Federal authorities have confirmed Hunter Biden has been under federal investigation for taxes dating to late 2018, meaning the probe was underway well before the impeachment drive when Democrats portrayed him as an innocent victim of a political smear.
Earlier this month, Politico revealed that an American firm that worked with Hunter Biden in an effort to overturn Ukrainian criminal investigations of Burisma is also under investigation for possible Foreign Agent Registration Act issues.
And late last year, multiple former State Department officials who worked in the Obama-Biden administration testified that Hunter Biden's role on Burisma, a company the U.S. deemed corrupt, created the appearance of a conflict of interest as his father, then-Vice President Biden, led U.S. anti-corruption policy for Ukraine.
One of the officials, former Kiev embassy official George Kent, both wrote in contemporaneous emails and testified to the Senate last year that he believed the Bidens' dealings in Ukraine undercut U.S. anti-corruption efforts in the former Soviet republic.
Kent was so concerned about the "awkward" conflict of interest that he canceled a State Department partnership with Burisma and tried to raise concerns directly with Vice President Joe Biden but was rebuffed, a Senate report revealed last fall.
In October 2015, another senior State Department official, energy adviser Amos Hochstein, raised concerns with Joe Biden directly, as well as with Hunter Biden, that Hunter Biden's position on Burisma's board enabled Russian disinformation efforts and risked undermining U.S. policy in Ukraine. But nothing further happened
"The Obama administration knew that Hunter Biden's position on Burisma's board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine," a report by Sens. Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley concluded.
"Moreover, this investigation has illustrated the extent to which officials within the Obama administration ignored the glaring warning signs when the vice president's son joined the board of a company owned by a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch."
State Department documents obtained by Just the News under the Freedom of Information Act also revealed that Obama-Biden administration officials twice reported they had uncovered evidence that Burisma made bribery payments to Ukraine officials to make investigations go away during the time Hunter Biden served on the firm's board.
One of the bribery payments, estimated to be $7 million in late 2014, was reported to the FBI.
The other came in the form of cheap gas dumped on the market in December 2016 so corrupt officials could by it low and sell it high. That was reported directly to the top U.S. official for Ukraine policy inside the State Department, Victoria Nuland, the memos show.
Unpaid personal taxes. Conflicts of interest. U.S. anti-corruption policy undermined. Bribery allegations.
It turns out there was plenty to investigate when President Trump made the request in summer 2019. And that undercuts the carefully crafted story that the Bidens, Democrats and the impeachment trial gave Americans.