Ukraine Holds More Surprises for Biden
[Bloomberg] U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden is about to learn an unpleasant lesson about Ukraine: Once you’ve stepped into the country’s politics, there’s no way to emerge unsullied. Recent developments suggest he’ll be fielding questions about a lot more that what President Donald Trump has already slung his way.
Consider the case of Ukrainian billionaire Dmytro Firtash, which could play into one of the conservative blogosphere’s favorite obsessions: the idea that Ukraine played a role in furthering the "witch hunt" ‐ that is, U.S. Democrats’ efforts to find evidence of Trump’s connection to Russian election meddling.
Firtash, who got rich playing middleman between Russian and Ukrainian energy companies, has long been fighting extradition to the U.S. from Austria. He’s wanted for allegedly bribing Indian officials more than a decade ago, but he could be valuable in other ways: He was once close to now-deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and therefore might know about the Ukrainian activities of Paul Manafort, Trump’s disgraced former campaign chairman.
Earlier this year, on the verge of being sent to America, Firtash retained a duo of Trump-connected American lawyers and presented a Vienna court with a wealth of documents that he says prove that the extradition request was actually politically motivated. Among those documents is an affidavit from former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who testified that Biden "directly manipulated the political leadership of Ukraine on false pretexts" to prevent Firtash from leaving Austria for Ukraine ‐ where, as a Ukrainian citizen, he couldn’t be extradited.
This is the same Shokin whom Biden has boasted of getting fired by threatening to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee. The former prosecutor has since said that Biden ‐ then the U.S. vice president ‐ did it to thwart a Ukrainian investigation into Burisma, a natural gas company where his son Hunter was a well-paid board member. Although the claim is probably false, Trump has picked it up and pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate, sparking a separate scandal about the current U.S. president’s use of his office to dig up dirt on a potential election rival.
Expect the Trump team to try to show that Biden abused his power by coercing Ukrainian authorities into helping him get a prospective Russiagate witness to the U.S. If Firtash works with Trump’s people, he can also provide a steady supply of testimony and documents suggesting that Obama administration officials, including Biden, actively meddled in Ukraine’s domestic politics after 2014. Whether or not they had corrupt motives in doing so is almost irrelevant ‐ conservative conspiracy theorists will take it from there.
Posted by: g(r)omgoru 2019-09-30