Despite the best efforts of Trump’s henchmen and maybe a Russian agent or two, Sen. Ron Johnson’s “Hunterghazi” report turns out to be a nothingburger. But just like with Benghazi, Republicans will probably continue pretending there’s a there there.
Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman explain:
President Trump has spent over two years trying to “prove” that Joe Biden’s activities in Ukraine were corrupt. He and lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani schemed over this for many months, with Trump ultimately trying to strong-arm the Ukrainian president into announcing an investigation into those activities, which got Trump impeached even as the smears they manufactured crashed and burned.
Now Trump has been counting on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to validate these narratives, via an inquiry conducted by the Homeland Security committee, which Johnson chairs. The goal was to use the official sheen of a Senate probe — one also conducted with the Finance Committee — to manufacture the impression of wrongdoing on Biden’s part.
I’ve previously written about how Russian disinformation has been funneled to Johnson's committee for mainstreaming and legitimizing. It turns out that not even the Russians could manufacture a real scandal.
As Sargent and Waldman outline, the right-wing conspiracy theory is that Biden held up aid to Ukraine on condition of the firing of a prosecutor in order to protect Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of Ukraine’s Burisma. In fact, it was the Ukrainian prosecutor who was corrupt and Burisma was not under investigation at the time.
Johnson's star witness was George Kent, a top State Department official. He raised concerns about the appearance of impropriety and conflict of interest, Sargent and Waldman noted, but he specifically stated there was no actual wrongdoing.
But, apparently, it’s the Democrats who noticed and/or cared.
In that testimony, as the Democratic response to the GOP report details, Kent knocked down every key pillar of the GOP story line:
• Kent debunked the idea that Burisma was protected from investigation, stating that “I did not witness any effort by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny.”
• Kent debunked the idea that the U.S. effort to oust the Ukrainian prosecutor was about stopping an investigation into Burisma, flatly stating that it was not.
• Kent confirmed that the quest for that ouster was about purging Ukraine of corruption, noting that “Ukrainian society” wanted the prosecutor gone because he was “protecting corrupt friends.”
• Kent confirmed that the conditioning of aid as leverage had nothing to do with Hunter Biden and that it originated with those involved in formulating “Ukraine policy.”
Here’s how we know that Fox News and Donald Trump will pay no attention. Fox News Contributor John Solomon “interpreted” the report as having delivered "blockbuster revelations." In an article titled, “Senate report slams Bidens for conflicts of interest, flags possible criminal activity,” Solomon quotes Johnson: “The report raises serious questions that former Vice President Biden needs to answer. There are simply too many potential conflict of interest, counterintelligence and extortion threats to ignore.”
The operative words there are “possible” and “potential.”
So we can count on Solomon, Johnson and other Trump foot soldiers getting lots of friendly Fox airtime to talk about those “possibles” and “potentials” while Kent’s knowledge and facts get overlooked.