Read: Imagine if Obama had done this
Hunter Biden seems to have been trading on his father’s famous name to make a buck—a common but distasteful practice familiar from Billy Carter to Roger Clinton, and indeed up to the Trump children today. He’s not exempt from criticism for this behavior, but that isn’t the same as producing evidence that Joe Biden did anything untoward, something that no one has done so far. It’s still possible that more information will emerge that will implicate Biden in trying to assist his son, but Trump has already rhetorically convicted him without any such evidence.
That brings us to the Trump case and its echoes of Biden. Trump’s relationship with Ukraine has been vexed from the start. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had invaded Ukraine, and suggested he accepted Russian annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea. This placed Ukraine in a difficult position: dependent on the U.S. to defend itself against Russian aggression, but aware of Trump’s ambivalence.
Beginning in the spring of 2019, various outlets began reporting on meetings between Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, and Ukrainians, in which Giuliani pushed them to turn up dirt on Biden, apparently without success. According to The Washington Post, Giuliani managed to sideline many key officials, including the experienced ambassador to Ukraine and senior National Security Council aides, as he pursued his quest. In July, according to a separate Post report, Trump told his chief of staff to place on hold about $400 million in military aid to Ukraine. The decision reportedly stunned Ukrainian officials. (The money was finally released to Ukraine this month.)
Trump was scheduled to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Aides reportedly tried to scuttle the call, fearing Trump would use the conversation not to talk about U.S.-Ukrainian relations, but to press for dirt on Biden. That is precisely what happened. On Sunday, Trump acknowledged having spoken to Zelensky about the Bidens.
“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory. It was largely corruption—all of the corruption taking place. It was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to [sic] the corruption already in the Ukraine,” he said.
Trump did not initially acknowledge allegations that he had withheld aid as part of a quid pro quo. On Monday, however, he did.
“We’re supporting a country. We want to make sure that country is honest,” Trump said. “It’s very important to talk about corruption. If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?”
On its face, this sounds similar or identical to what Biden did. Biden was acting as an agent of the president of the United States; Trump is the president of the United States. Both acted, they say, to combat corruption.