But it turns out there is a case that is very important to the president in which the administration has been more than happy to turn over private financial records in response to a congressional request — without fuss or delay.
By a shocking coincidence, in this case, the records relate to an individual named Hunter Biden, and the congressional lawmakers making the request are Republicans.
The Treasury Department has turned over financial records about Hunter Biden in response to requests from GOP senators who are running an investigation that appears designed to validate Trump’s alternate-reality version of the Ukraine scandal.
Yahoo News reports that Senate Democrats are raising alarms about the administration’s sudden willingness to turn over these documents, and contrasting this with the years of stonewalling of requests from Democrats.
Senior GOP senators — including Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), the chairs of the Finance and Homeland Security committees — have demanded so-called suspicious activity reports, or SARs, which are confidential reports that financial institutions file with Treasury to help it monitor money laundering.
These senators have demanded that Treasury turn over any SARs relating to Hunter Biden and the Ukraine tall tale that Trump has been telling. This story alleges that Joe Biden, Hunter’s father, withheld loan guarantees from Ukraine to pressure it to oust a prosecutor, supposedly to protect Ukrainian company Burisma, on whose board Hunter Biden sat.
As Yahoo News reports, GOP senators have cast a wider net than this, requesting documents from numerous other agencies, all apparently designed, at least in part, to fortify that narrative and to dig into Hunter Biden’s business activities in Ukraine more broadly.
The story about the Bidens is fabricated on every level. The withholding of loan guarantees to leverage the prosecutor’s ouster happened, but this was unrelated to Hunter Biden and was U.S. policy designed to clean up corruption in Ukraine — policy backed by international institutions. Some GOP senators demonstrably know this.
Nonetheless, the administration is complying with some of the GOP senators’ requests, according to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who is also on the Finance Committee. It’s not clear what documents involving Hunter Biden have been turned over to the committee, but Wyden’s office says the documents are of “questionable” investigative significance.
Ashley Schapitl, spokesperson for the Finance Committee, declined to tell me what was turned over, claiming this had to remain confidential.
Noah Bookbinder, the executive director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told me the contrast itself raises serious questions.
“When it’s an investigation into somebody related to the president’s political rival, suddenly the Treasury Department is happy to comply quickly and completely,” Bookbinder said.
“When the executive branch is complying without a second thought with investigations that are helpful to the president — but throwing up every possible roadblock to investigations into the president — that creates a troubling contrast,” Bookbinder added.
These GOP senators have sought the documents for months to prop up the narrative that Trump has cited to justify his effort to extort Ukraine into announcing sham investigations into the Bidens. The claim has been: Yes, Trump did demand these investigations, but he had good reason to suspect the Bidens were corrupt (which he didn’t), so that was totally kosher.
But, now that impeachment is over, these GOP efforts look likely to continue with a forward-looking purpose: To keep trying to smear Joe Biden in case he does become the nominee.
Grassley’s office has denied any political motivation, and Treasury has declined to comment.
This situation is crying out for more answers. It would be useful to know who in the executive branch is getting Treasury to comply with these requests, and whether there are conversations between GOP senators and administration officials coordinating them, Bookbinder noted.
The mere fact that Treasury is complying with the requests — in contrast with the administration’s other stonewalling — may reflect its own form of corruption. Administration officials appear to know they should comply with requests from GOP lawmakers that serve investigations that will help Trump politically.
“This is a total reversal in the way that executive agencies are dealing with oversight, and suggests that they’re being principally controlled by the president’s political interests,” Bookbinder told me. “Which is distressing.”
The bottom line is that it looks as if the effort to smear the Bidens that drove the Ukraine shakedown that got Trump impeached is now being run out of the U.S. Senate.
There’s a lot of talk about how Trump will be newly emboldened by his acquittal to use the government in all kinds of corrupt ways to target his political enemies and cheat his way through the next election.
It may already be underway. This is the post-impeachment world we live in now.