Now that former vice president Joe Biden has cemented his hold on the Democratic nomination, an urgent question has arisen: How far will President Trump go in corrupting the government to smear Biden between now and November?

One Democratic senator — Chris Murphy of Connecticut — has hit on a novel way to try to get ahead of what’s about to happen.

Murphy has formally asked the inspectors general at numerous government agencies to review whether those agencies are selectively cooperating with efforts by Trump’s allies in Congress to launch “investigations” to damage Biden — while refusing cooperation with Democratic oversight efforts directed at Trump.

It’s a reasonable line of inquiry. Senate Republicans are set to take a big step forward with their probe of Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son. They have sought extensive documents from many agencies in pursuit of this. Those agencies appear to be cooperating.

Yet some of these same agencies either faithfully obeyed Trump’s corrupt demand that they refuse any and all cooperation with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, or continue to stiff-arm other Democratic oversight efforts.

So Murphy is asking the inspectors general at several agencies — including the State, Treasury and Homeland Security departments — to investigate this double standard. Murphy’s letter to those IGs asks the following questions:

  1. Whether your respective agency cooperated with any congressional requests related to the president’s political opponents, including those associated with Hunter Biden or Burisma;
  2. If so, to what extent your agency complied with such requests;
  3. Whether your respective agency cooperated with congressional requests related to recent impeachment proceedings or the president’s tax returns;
  4. If so, to what extent your agency complied with such requests;
  5. Whether there has been a different standard applied to document requests for investigations related to the president’s political opponents and document requests related to investigations of the president.

We already know this is happening. The only question is how bad it is.

Agencies are helping Republicans investigate Hunter Biden

Several agencies may already be cooperating with GOP investigations into Hunter Biden out of multiple committees. But we don’t know exactly what these agencies have turned over, because much remains shrouded in secrecy — which may be the point.

For instance, Senate Democrats on the Finance Committee have warned that the Treasury Department has turned over various financial records supposedly relevant to Hunter Biden. Democrats have declined to say what the committee obtained. But Treasury is plainly cooperating with GOP demands to some degree.

This is the same Treasury Department that has long refused to turn over Trump’s tax returns to a Democratic House committee, in violation of the law.

Meanwhile, Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security Committee are demanding extensive documents from the State Department to further their ongoing investigation into Hunter.

This piece of the investigation may be the most live one. The Homeland Security Committee will vote Wednesday to subpoena a key witness against Hunter Biden — a Ukrainian political consultant for the company representing Burisma (on whose board Hunter sat) in the U.S.

Two Hunter Biden narratives

Republicans appear to be pursuing two narratives about Hunter Biden. The first is that as vice president, Joe Biden ousted a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect Burisma and Hunter. In reality, ousting the prosecutor had nothing to do with protecting Burisma and Hunter. It was U.S. anti-corruption policy backed by international institutions and by Republicans.

The second narrative appears to hold that Hunter Biden traded on his family connection to influence State Department policy toward Burisma. But the GOP materials themselves show that thus far, there’s little there. All Republicans have established is that a U.S. representative for Burisma dangled Hunter Biden’s name in trying to lobby the State Department.

There’s no indication yet that Hunter Biden played any role in that lobbying or that it changed State Department policy. While there are good reasons to criticize Hunter Biden’s Burisma role, and while more might emerge about him, Republicans are very far away from tying any of this to Joe Biden himself.

But Republicans are casting a wide net to dredge up whatever they can on Hunter Biden. And government agencies appear willing to assist — while simultaneously protecting Trump from legitimate Democratic-run oversight.

Trump is corrupting everything

There’s a crucial principle at stake here. Trump and his allies treat congressional oversight solely as something to be weaponized against political enemies even as he maximally refuses cooperation with it himself. This upends the balance in which coequal branches of government operate as checks on one another for the public good — all to benefit Trump.

“Agencies throughout the government are systematically stonewalling just about every effort at oversight,” Noah Bookbinder, the executive director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told me. “This has been what the president has said he wanted the government to do.”

“And yet, when his allies find something they want to investigate that would be helpful to the president, it appears agencies have been quick to comply,” Bookbinder continued. “There’s really a directive that agencies should see their role as helping the president.”

All this comes as Trump has placed the government at the disposal of his reelection in numerous ways.

Trump dangled official acts to extort Ukraine into helping validate his fake Biden narratives. Numerous agencies (including State) helped rebuff congressional efforts to get to the bottom of it. Some worked to bury the whistleblower complaint exposing the scheme.

Meanwhile, Trump’s attorney general is working to absolve Russia of 2016 electoral sabotage — potentially paving the way for Trump to benefit from more outside interference — even opening a pipeline for “information” from Trump’s personal lawyer to do so.

It’s unclear whether the inspectors general will honor Sen. Murphy’s request. But either way, this glaring double-game has now been placed squarely on the national agenda for extensive scrutiny.

And not a moment too soon. Because now that Biden is the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, this will only get a lot worse.

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