Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly cited an interview with Fox Radio. The interview was with Fox News Radio. This version has been corrected.

Republicans have been arguing that President Trump is innocent because Ukraine never announced the investigation of Joe Biden that Trump demanded, and because the military aid Trump suspended was eventually released. Democrats have countered that the corrupt deal only broke down because the president got caught: The whistleblower filed a complaint, Congress launched an investigation, and Trump realized the jig was up.

So Ukraine never announced that investigation. But if Ukraine won’t do it, then Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) will.

Graham, whose transformation from Trump critic to Trump bootlicker may be more embarrassing than that of any other Republican, has announced that, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he will launch an investigation into whether Biden, as vice president, somehow changed U.S. foreign policy to benefit his son Hunter, who served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. By god, Lindsey is going to get to the bottom of this.

Of course, by now, we know exactly what happened. Like the children of many a powerful person, Hunter Biden got a job he wasn’t qualified for. In his case, it was because Burisma wanted some high-profile names on its board, as many companies do. Biden’s effort to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor widely seen as corrupt was U.S. government policy, supported by our European allies and international organizations.

If anything, the departure of that prosecutor made an investigation of Burisma more, not less likely. There has been precisely zero evidence that Biden ever acted to help his son or Burisma.

But as Graham understands, launching an investigation of an opponent has political benefits as you approach an election — whether you find anything nefarious or not. If you find actual wrongdoing, that’s the best outcome. But even if you find nothing at all, just the fact of the investigation itself can achieve your political purpose.

That’s because even if the largely inattentive public is unlikely to grasp the details, they’ll see that a certain politician is being investigated and conclude that there must have been something shady going on, and, therefore, that politician is untrustworthy. Graham and other Republicans know this can work, because they’ve seen it work so many times before.

Congressional Republicans launched eight — yes, eight — separate investigations into the Benghazi attack, in the hopes of unearthing some wrongdoing on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s part. As House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) candidly admitted in 2015, Republicans knew this was succeeding because “her numbers are dropping." That’s despite Republicans never showing that Clinton did anything wrong.

But the eighth of those investigations discovered that Clinton had been using a personal email account for some government business, which Republicans and the media turned into The Crime of the Century. The way that controversy unfolded lent yet more support to the idea that what matters is not the substance of the investigation but the fact of the investigation.

When then-FBI Director James B. Comey announced 11 days before the 2016 election that the bureau had found some emails to and from Clinton on a laptop belonging to an aide, the media exploded, and there is some evidence it cost Clinton the election. It didn’t matter that they didn’t turn out to be problematic. “Is Clinton corrupt?” became the guiding question of news coverage, despite the fact that she was running against what may be the single most corrupt human being in America. The damage was done.

Republicans are now trying to run that playbook against Biden, to revive and complete the corrupt bargain Trump tried to strike with Ukraine.

But Graham insists this has nothing to do with the 2020 election. He’s doing only what a commitment to integrity and clean government demands, and Hunter Biden getting a sweetheart job is so unconscionable that it must be investigated. As Graham says, “If a Republican was in the same boat they would be eaten alive by the media.”

So true. Imagine if a Republican president had, say, given his daughter and son-in-law, neither of whom knew a thing about government, influential staff positions in the White House. Such a thing would never have been allowed!

Graham is deeply offended — or perhaps deeply defensive — at the suggestion that it’s shameful that he’s going after Biden when he had previously been effusive in his praise of his former Senate colleague. “Nobody in their right mind would suggest that Joe Biden, because of his friendship with John McCain, could not make a case against John McCain being president," Graham told Fox News Radio.

So that’s exactly what Graham will now do: Make a case against Biden being president, using the Senate Judiciary Committee as the tool.

From the testimony of multiple U.S. officials, we learned that the Ukrainians were deeply uncomfortable about announcing an investigation of Biden, since it would draw them into partisan American politics to help Trump. They didn’t do it in the end, so now Linsdey Graham will.

Read more: