Hunterghazi is underway.
If you thought we learned pretty much what we needed to about Hunter Biden and Ukraine during impeachment, you’d be wrong. So on Wednesday, Johnson’s committee approved a subpoena for documents and testimony from a consulting company called Blue Star Strategies that worked for Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm on whose board Hunter Biden sat.
They’re particularly interested in a Blue Star employee named Andrii Telizhenko, a Ukrainian national who has played a key role in spreading a conservative conspiracy theory that the real meddling in the 2016 election campaign came not from Russia’s well-documented effort to help Donald Trump, but from the Ukrainian government trying to help Hillary Clinton.
Telizhenko just might be the guy to connect all the dots, wrapping red thread around Hunter; his father, Joe; Burisma; Ukraine; and maybe Area 51 while we’re at it, all arrayed on a corkboard of craziness.
If you feel a sense of horror at the prospect of getting sucked once again into this fever swamp, your repulsion is understandable. But don’t worry: Republicans don’t care about the details any more than you do.
They aren’t actually angry that Hunter Biden got a lucrative Burisma job as the vice president’s son (which he admits). If they had a principled objection to the relatives of powerful officials reaping undeserved gains, they might look into presidential son-in-law and dilettante-of-disaster Jared Kushner’s recent conversion of a $5 million real estate investment into somewhere between $25 and $50 million using a tax break he personally lobbied for. But they won’t.
What’s also noteworthy is that this new interest in Congress exercising its power to investigate comes at a time when the GOP has lined up behind Trump’s assertion that the legislative branch has essentially no power to investigate the president at all.
It’s important to understand that the investigation is the end in itself. Just as Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe Biden regardless of what it might uncover, congressional Republicans want to produce lots of headlines in which the words “Biden” and “investigation” appear together, so the implication of corruption can be spread regardless of what the facts are.
That’s not to say they won’t be happy if they uncover some terrible thing Hunter Biden did; they certainly will. But the point is to spend the next five months spreading the idea that Joe Biden is just as corrupt as Trump. They hope voters will see it and say, “Ugh, they’re all crooks.”
Convince people of that, and Trump’s bottomless corruption doesn’t look so bad. You won’t ever fool voters into thinking Trump has any integrity, but if you can get them to conclude that integrity isn’t even something we should care about, you’ve won half the battle. In the best of circumstances, you might be able to drum up the same contempt for Biden that many people had for Hillary Clinton.
Republicans are undertaking this effort in a comprehensive way. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, is launching an equally bogus investigation into the Obama administration’s actions in 2016 and 2017, when intelligence officials realized Russia was trying to get Trump elected and there were a suspicious number of contacts between Russians and people on Trump’s campaign.
The administration’s resources are also being mobilized. At the request of none other than Sen. Johnson, the administration declassified an email from then-National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice describing a meeting with President Barack Obama, Vice President Biden, and others in which the matter of incoming Trump administration officials’ contacts with Russia was discussed.
Though the email showed the Obama officials agreeing to handle the matter carefully and “by the book,” Republicans have somehow decided that it just shows how nefarious the conspiracy is.
To that, we can add the Justice Department’s expected effort to discredit the Russia investigation at Trump’s command, which could involve efforts to tar Obama administration officials. Attorney General William P. Barr gives Trump what he wants.
Hunterghazi went dormant for a while when it seemed that Joe Biden might not be the Democratic nominee after all. But once that changed, congressional Republicans rediscovered their passionate commitment to holding the children of high-ranking officials to account, a commitment that can be compared only to their ardor for proper email management and comprehensive consular security.
While they will use all their power to create a stench of corruption around Joe Biden, the rest of us should give this oversight Kabuki no more respect than it deserves. We don’t have to chase down every absurd claim, or give every hearing wall-to-wall coverage, or act as though the whole thing isn’t phony.
Because it is. And we shouldn’t forget that for a moment.