Bill Black: Eric Holder is the Official Missing from Discussions of the Bidens’ Ukrainian Efforts

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By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

Michelle Goldberg published an excellent column on September 30, 2019 “Trump’s Claims About Biden Aren’t ‘Unsupported.’  They’re Lies.”  It accurately describes Trump’s lies and his unlawful and unethical acts of trying to use the power of our government to induce Ukrainian and Chinese officials to smear his political opponents.  The House should cite those Trump lies as part of the basis for impeaching him.

Rule No. 1:  No Freebies

I am not a politician or political tactician.  A campaign for the presidency (nomination or ‘general’) is above my pay grade.  Nevertheless, I know Rule No. 1 – Never give your political opponents freebies to use against you.  That was my rule during the savings and loan debacle when we blew the whistle on the Speaker of the House, the five Senators who became known as the “Keating Five,” the White House, Vice President Bush’s office, and the head of our own agency for his cowardice in surrendering to the political extortion.  Our goal was to end our leaders’ corrupt and cowardly surrender to Charles Keating, the nation’s most corrupt banker.  We know that Keating hired private detectives at least twice to investigate me.

Serious whistleblowers inevitably suffer vicious retaliation.  We know that Roger Martin, one President Reagan’s appointees running our federal regulatory agency purported to have conducted an investigation of me.  We know that Keating presented to the leaders of our agency a Rudy Giuliani style smear package (known at the agency as ‘the secret file’) that supposedly had dirt on me.  Keating sued me for $400 million.  We knew that we were in a decisive fight for the agency’s soul and honor and protecting our fellow American’s from Keating’s frauds and acts of predation and that he would use anything against us.  Any affair, overstated resume, intemperate statement, drug use, or anything remotely scandalous was certain to be ammunition Keating and the leaders of our agency would use against us.

Joe Selby exemplifies the valid exception to my rule.  Joe should be a revered national hero.  Ed Gray personally recruited Joe to restore the rule of law to the nation’s most criminogenic region during the savings and loan debacle – Texas.  Gray personally recruited Mike Patriarca to purge the second-most corrupted region, which included California and Arizona.  Gray’s system was simple, he asked everyone he respected who the nation’s two best supervisors were.  Ed, Joe, and Mike saved the nation from suffering a Great Financial Crisis, avoiding trillions of dollars in losses and millions of lost jobs.

Joe was the world’s most respected bank supervisor.  He could not follow the ‘no freebies’ rule because in that era Speaker Wright’s attack on Selby on the ‘grounds’ that he was gay qualified as a lethal attack.  Joe could not, of course, cease being gay.  Danny Wall, the head of our agency, publicly took ‘credit’ for forcing Joe’s resignation in order to placate Speaker Wright and the Keatings of the industry.  Speaker Wright was a Democrat.  Danny Wall was a Republican.  Sleaze, greed, bigotry, and cowardice were common in both parties.

Joe and Hunter Biden Handed Trumps Dual Freebies

Goldberg’s column is unusually honest for a Democrat like Goldberg.  It includes two important admissions about Joe and Hunter Biden’s poor judgment in dealing with Ukrainian matters.

As all this was happening, Biden’s son, Hunter, sat on the board of Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company that Zlochevsky co-founded, at some points earning $50,000 a month. Zlochevsky might have thought he could ingratiate himself with the Obama administration by buying an association with the vice president. All available evidence suggests he was wrong.

We need to put Hunter Biden’s $50,000 per meeting in perspective, he began receiving it in 2014, when the purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita GDP figure for Ukraine was slightly over $8,500.  In a single month, Hunter Biden received fees over six times what a typical Ukrainian received in a year.  Hunter Biden had no relevant expertise to be on the Ukrainian firm’s board of directors.  The only disagreement I have with Goldberg’s description is her use of the word “earning” instead of “received.”  Hunter Biden does not “earn” his money.  He makes money off those who seek to get in good with his dad.  The Trump children, of course, have super-charged this sleaze.

Hunter’s one real job miraculously led to his ludicrously rapid promotion to EVP of a major bank.  The bank, of course, was a major contributor to his dad.  Hunter’s miraculous advancement to EVP is a typical sleazy payoff to elite politicians’ kids.  Both parties do it.  The sole reason Zlochevsky hired Hunter was to try to influence favorably his dad and the Obama administration.  This too is typical elite sleaze.  Yes, we should remember that Trump’s spouse, children, and their spouses, make Hunter look like a highly competent saint when it comes to cashing in on their tawdry Trump ties.

Goldberg correctly notes the modest nature of the sleaze in the Bidens’ case.  There is no evidence that hiring Hunter Biden ingratiated the Ukrainian firm with the Obama administration.  There is no evidence that hiring Hunter Biden ingratiated the Ukrainian firm with Joe Biden.  Joe Biden’s successful effort to fire the corrupt non-prosecutor increased the chances that the Ukrainian government would sanction the firm.  Trump’s claim that the fired prosecutor was an anti-corruption hero investigating Hunter’s purported corruption is a double lie.  Trump’s attacks on Joe and Hunter Biden are lies.  This should not surprise us.  First, Trump always lies.  Second, Joe and Hunter Biden’s sketchy actions are not crimes or ethical violations.  They may be ‘corrupt’ in the broad sense of that word in everyday usage, but not in the legal sense of statutes against corruption.  Trump, therefore, has substituted lies for the nuanced reality.

Sadly, the fact that Trump’s attacks on both Bidens are lies does not mean that either acted at the minimum level of integrity we should demand.  Goldberg implicitly admits Joe Biden’s fundamental failure through her effort to excuse it.

It’s not hard to imagine why Biden didn’t press Hunter. The Biden boys and their father had been through hell together. Hunter has said his first memory was waking up in the hospital next to his older brother, Beau, after the car crash that killed their mother and baby sister. He grew up to be a troubled man, his life pockmarked by addiction and failure.

Beau died of brain cancer a few months before Biden traveled to Ukraine to push the government to crack down on corruption. It’s not shocking that, at a moment when his family was consumed by grief, Biden wasn’t inclined to confront his surviving son.

We can agree with Goldberg’s sympathy for Joe Biden while recognizing that he displayed terrible judgment.  He put himself in an obvious apparent conflict of interest when he chose to take the lead in the Obama administration’s effort to replace Ukraine’s corrupt prosecutor.  Biden volunteered to take that role.  There was no need to do so.  The Obama administration and the various European and international organizations that agreed with the need to fire him had a host of effective leaders with the leverage to get him fired.

Joe Biden’s Problems Dealing with Hunter Biden’s Demons

The sympathetic accounts stressing Joe Biden’s concerns with protecting Hunter Biden miss three related point.  The common denominator is that Joe has acted in a manner sure to harm Hunter.  The first point is the nature of Joe’s special concerns about Hunter.

Mr. Biden nearly did not run for president because of the effect it would have on his family — and particularly on Hunter Biden and his children, according to multiple advisers to the former vice president. Hunter Biden has struggled for years with substance addiction and had recently gone through a very public divorce from his first wife.

As parents and humans, it is easy to sympathize with Hunter and Joe Biden.  We also have to discuss how an immensely powerful father who desperately wishes to be President needs to address his surviving son’s demons.  We can start with the fact that Joe had no good answer available.  Sometimes, all the available options range from bad to terrible.  Hunter is an alcoholic.  He repeatedly abuses hard drugs.  He cheated on the women he professed to love.  That pattern of abuse had a number of obvious, deeply harmful implications.  He lied, probably hundreds of times, to the people who loved him most.  That pattern is inherent to abusing alcohol and drugs and cheating on the women you say you love.  The pattern of lies means that no one close to Hunter could believe him without being repeatedly deceived.

The decades-long pattern of alcoholism and hard drug abuse meant that Hunter was frequently unable to meet his family and business responsibilities.  He washed out of the National Guard because he continued using drugs even when he knew the Guard would test him for drug use.  Yes, like millions of Americans he ‘struggled’ with addiction – without success.  The odds that he has put his loved ones’ lives in danger by driving or providing child care while impaired approach certainty.  Given the tragic history of the Bidens that began with the fatal car crash, this must have terrified the entire family.  Hunter is not in control of his life.  Drugs and alcohol control his life.  He was not loyal to the central member of his family – his spouse.  Joe knew from repeated, bitter experience that he could not rely on Hunter’s word, judgment, restraint, or moral compass.

These facts were essential for Joe to take into account when considering what to do about Ukrainian events. He knew he could not trust whatever Hunter told him about his Ukrainian business deal.  Again, the key is to understand that Hunter’s demons meant that Joe had no good choices.  Even if Joe recused himself from all Ukrainian matters, Hunter was likely to embarrass him.  Joe has stated publicly that he did not discuss Hunter’s business involvements with Hunter, which is a strategy that invites apparent conflicts of interest and scandal.  Joe knew that no company of integrity would put Hunter on its board of directors and pay him $50,000 a meeting.  Hunter had no meaningful expertise, no knowledge of Ukrainian matters, a history of sketchy hires and promotions by those hoping to buy influence with his politically powerful and ambitious dad, and a history of screwing up royally.

Hunter, of course, has a Yale law degree and is an adult.  He knew better than to take the Ukrainian position and cash.  Throughout his adult life, however, Hunter has been willing to take advantage of his dad’s name and contacts.  We can be sympathetic with Hunter’s demons, but we also need to hold him accountable for his record of terrible decisions.

Joe knew that the Ukrainian company hired Hunter for one reason – he was Joe’s son.  Joe knew that was a terrible reason to hire Hunter.  Joe knew that hiring Hunter indicated that the Ukrainian firm lacked integrity.  Joe chose to take the administration’s lead on Ukrainian events in circumstances he knew created an apparent conflict of interest with Hunter and his Ukrainian firm.  Joe knew that there was no reason why Hunter needed to accept the sketchy Ukrainian firm’s over-the-top largess and no reason why Joe had to take the Obama administration’s lead in implementing its Ukrainian policies.

Joe knew that the apparent conflict of interest would expose Hunter and Joe to attack by Joe’s political enemies – and that Hunter’s addictions and record put Joe and Hunter in a position where they could not effectively fight back.  Joe knew Hunter was particularly vulnerable to political attack and humiliation.

Summing it Up: Both Bidens Gifted Trump Freebies

Joe knew the action he could take that guaranteed venomous partisan attacks on Hunter was running for president.  No one has ever doubted Joe’s ambition to be President.  What we do not understand is what Joe’s policy passion is.  His statement of why he is running cannot be true.  No one rational believes that electing Joe as President would turn Moscow Mitch into a bipartisan legislator eager to pass Biden’s legislative agenda.  It is fine to yearn for a ‘Kumbaya’ bipartisan fantasy world.  Even in that fantasy, few of us have any sense what legislation Biden thinks McConnell would support that Democrats would not find odious.

Joe knew that the Democratic Party was rich in talent.  He did not have to run for President to save the Party or the Nation.  Joe knew that he and Hunter had each gifted Trump Ukrainian freebies.  Joe knew that his infamous ‘electability’ mantra ignored both freebies that Trump was sure to exploit.

The next to last thing Joe should have done was add to the incentive to attack Hunter by creating gratuitously an apparent conflict of interest by taking the lead role in firing the corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor.  The absolute last thing Joe should have done if he wanted to protect Hunter from attack was to run for president.  Joe’s decision to run made it a certainty that Trump would concentrate his attacks on Hunter – and Joe’s apparent conflict of interest in gratuitously taking the administration’s lead on firing the Ukrainian prosecutor given Hunter’s cashing in on the Ukrainian firm’s desire to buy influence.  Joe’s ambition trumped Joe’s desire to protect Hunter.

Even more bizarre, while it has been clear for months that Trump was setting up to attack Joe and Hunter Biden’s far from excellent Ukrainian adventures, Joe’s response to those attacks has been feeble.  Joe’s ‘electability’ trope has died – and Joe is the one that killed it.  If Joe cannot manage an effective response to Trump lies he has known are coming for months, imagine what will happen in a debate when Trump hits him with unexpected smears.  Trump’s smears will be lies, but few believe that Biden will prove agile and tough in counterpunching against novel Trumpian lies.

It is Impossible to Compete with Trump or the Democrats’ Unintentional Self-Parody

We need to step back for a moment and stress the unbelievable chutzpah of Trump claiming that his passion for ending corruption explains his obscene perversion of the powers of government to extort other nations to create – not reveal – dirt on his political opponents.  The Trump administration is the most corrupt in U.S. history.  Relatives of the corrupt cabinet members that made the Harding and Grant administrations infamous can rejoice that their forbearers have become relatively less infamous.  Trump is profoundly corrupt and he loves his fellow corrupt autocrats like Putin.  The willingness of Republican enablers to repeat his corruption excuse for urging other nations to investigate his political opponents is simply another in the long line of examples proving that they have betrayed America and their oath of office.

The Obama administration, however, had its own geyser of hypocrisy when it came to the way it phrased its demands that Ukrainian officials fire their top anti-corruption prosecutor.  The hypocrisy is not that they unjustly insisted that Ukrainian leaders fire the prosecutor.  The evidence is conclusive that the prosecutor was, at best, a coward who refused to prosecute elite corrupt officials and CEOs.  The hypocrisy is that at the same time the Obama administration was (correctly) pointing out the need to fire prosecutors who refuse to prosecute the most elite business fraudsters, the Obama administration’s top prosecutor was refusing to prosecute our elite fraudsters.

The key character we should be talking about is Eric Holder, President Obama’s Attorney General.  No one has commented on the chutzpah of the Obama administration demanding Ukraine fire Viktor Shokin, its top prosecutor, for failing to prosecute Ukraine’s most elite criminals that had corrupted the entire system.  Goldberg explains:

“Shokin was seen as a single point of failure clogging up the system and blocking corruption cases,” a former official in Barack Obama’s administration told me. Vice President Joe Biden eventually took the lead in calling for Shokin’s ouster.

The Wall Street Journal provided a similar explanation.

“We weren’t pressing Ukraine to get rid of a tough prosecutor, we were pursuing Ukraine to replace a weak prosecutor who wouldn’t do his job,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Volker in his deposition defended Mr. Biden’s work in Ukraine and pointed out that the prosecutor was corrupt and worked to shield favored people from prosecution, rather than go after wrongdoers, according to the person familiar with his testimony.

USA Today’s account agreed.

The international effort to remove Shokin, who became prosecutor general in February 2015, began months before Biden stepped into the spotlight, said Mike Carpenter, who served as a foreign policy adviser to Biden and a deputy assistant secretary of defense, with a focus on Ukraine, Russia, Eurasia, the Balkans, and conventional arms control.

As European and U.S. officials pressed Ukraine to clean up Ukraine’s corruption, they focused on Shokin’s leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

“Shokin played the role of protecting the vested interest in the Ukrainian system,” said Carpenter, who traveled with Biden to Ukraine in 2015. “He never went after any corrupt individuals at all, never prosecuted any high-profile cases of corruption.”

That demonstrated that Poroshenko’s administration was not sincere about tackling corruption and building strong, independent law enforcement agencies, said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based foreign policy think tank.

I have not found any article that points out the obvious hypocrisy of the Obama administration demanding that a nation’s top prosecutor be fired for failing to prosecute the nation’s most powerful, corrupt, and destructive elite financial criminals.  The hypocrisy of Obama praising Holder while demanding Shokin’s ‘head’ was epic.  To fix a problem one must first admit it and resolve to fix it.  Instead, Holder and Obama went with the preposterous lie that there were no fraudulent elite bankers, so they brought no prosecutions of the elite bankers whose frauds drove the GFC.

President Obama and Vice President Biden ignored that hypocrisy.  The media continue to ignore the hypocrisy.  Trump and the Republicans ignore the hypocrisy.  We need to emphasize that in addition to refusing to prosecute elite banksters, the Trump administration has reduced white-collar prosecutions even below Obama’s pathetic record.  Worse, Barr and Trump are making it clear that while their elite contributors can loot with impunity, the Department of Justice now threatens to prosecute corporations that oppose Trump on obviously pretextual grounds.

If Holder had prosecuted the elite banksters, Trump would have been defeated in the election.  The refusal to prosecute the banksters who gained immense wealth by leading frauds and predation, along with the massive bank bailout, was a critical contributor to the public rage that gave Trump his Electoral College victory.

Hillary Clinton’s gratuitous decision to enrich herself through secret speeches to two of the world’s most fraudulent banks – Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank – gifted freebies essential to Trump’s election.  Clinton advisers repeatedly warned her that the Republicans would use the secret paid speeches as a mace to attack her.  She and Bill Clinton were, through tens of millions of dollars in speech fees, already wealthy.  She had no financial need to take money from two of the world’s most destructive criminal enterprises.  Her greed trumped her ambition, so she ignored her advisers’ warnings and did the secret speeches.  Those freebies gifted the election to Trump.

Why, given that bitter failure by the 2016 Democratic candidate who won her Party’s nomination based on her purported ‘electability’ would Biden gift Trump a freebie?  From the beginning of this campaign, Biden’s paramount claim has not been policies, but his purportedly unique ‘electability.’  The highly electable do not give the Trumps of the world freebies to bash them during the election contest.  The highly electable do not stare like a deer mesmerized by a car’s headlights when Trump lies about them and their children on a daily basis.  They do not simply counterpunch – they unleash a devastating assault on the lies and smears, Trump’s corruption, and Trump’s hypocrisy.

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  1. Monty

    “his obscene perversion of the powers of government to extort other nations to create – not reveal – dirt on his political opponents.”

    Have you seen some evidence that I have missed? I remain agnostic, but would be interested to learn where the author’s apparent certainty comes from.

    1. Drake

      Yes, ditto.

      ‘obscene perversion of the powers of government’ -> overthrowing an elected Ukrainian leader to piss off Russia

      ‘extorting other nations’ -> pretty much the whole purpose of Nato and the US-centric financial system

      ‘to create — not reveal — dirt on his political opponents’ -> mostly a Democratic prerogative in 2016 and immediately after

      I despise being put in the position of defending/supporting Trump, but I find myself forced into that position again and again. I hated him for about 30 years, right up until 2016. I tend to judge a man by who his enemies are, which turns Trump into a saint in my book.

      Interestingly enough, I went to high school with Bidens in Delaware back in the 80s (I think I was in a year in between Beau and Hunter), and Trump was my college commencement speaker in ’88. Bad memories all around.

      1. Drake

        As for Goldberg’s op-ed in the NYT, it concludes:

        “But Trump’s weaponized disinformation is corrosive to democracy no matter whom it targets.”

        Pretty rich coming from the paper of misrecord.

        1. pjay

          Thank you for these comments. I am a great admirer of Bill Black, but in this case he is simply reinforcing neoliberal/MSM propaganda. Their framing is: Joe’s actions reflected (1) a genuine concern about “corruption” in the Ukraine, and (2) a concern to protect his son — who by the way deserves our deep sympathy, no matter how much he screwed up, given everything that has happened to him. Regarding (1), I find it incredible that anyone as astute as Professor Black could actually believe the Obama administration was concerned about “corruption” in the Ukraine. What does he think all that “aid” money and clandestine assistance was for? Corrupt oligarchs and officials were no problem — as long as they were *our* corrupt oligarchs and officials. Biden (and the Obama administration) wanted Shokin fired because Poroshenko wasn’t cleaning out the “bad” oligarchs fast enough — i.e. those linked to the old “pro-Russia” administration — *like Zlochevsky!* (A related question: who owned/owns Burisma, and when?). The idea that the Obama administration cared about “corruption” in itself, given our history in the Ukraine, is absurd.

          Regarding (2), I’m sure Joe wanted to protect his son. But the MSM narrative attempts to excuse this example of Democrat corruption as simply “bad judgment” under the extenuating circumstances of the Biden family tragedies. This compared to Trump’s treasonous evil. Bill simply buys this narrative.

          Like Drake, I absolutely despise being put in a position of defending Trump. But his level of criminality and destructive behavior on a global level cannot compare to that of the neoliberal Democrats (or their neocon co-conspirators). “Ukrainegate” is Russiagate 2.0. At this point, my only consolation — and it is a very bitter one — is that this faction of the elite will get their clocks cleaned by Trump in the backlash.

          1. Olga

            Yes, a puzzling piece. His analysis is usually much sharper. The fog of Ukraine seems to be spreading even to our wisest…
            (“Goldberg correctly notes the modest nature of the sleaze in the Bidens’ case….” The modest nature…?! Modest by whose measure? What would have Hunter had to do to qualify as a medium sleaze?)

          2. pretzelattack

            i had to lol at the idea of biden being concerned with corruption. concerned with not getting a cut of it, that i can see.

      2. Cpm

        Went to that high school as well, in between Papa and the two Bros.

        Our class President ,all 4 years, ended up dying in a Delaware state prison where he was imprisoned for murdering his mistress/office administrator. He was a golden boy in HS. No apparent reason other than that his very wealthy father had the headmaster’s ear (and purse strings).

        The Money power is always with us and corrupts all it touches. Trump has put this on open display during his presidency. That’s why they need to shut him down. It’s unseemly and embarrassing for them. They have a merocratic democracy to run here and don’t like being laughed at by their European friends.

        Or ridiculed by the deplorables…

    2. rps

      “his obscene perversion of the powers of government to extort other nations to create – not reveal – dirt on his political opponents.”

      I had to re-read that line a couple of times. At first, I thought Black meant “her” rather than “his” and was referencing the obscene perversion of the powers of government to extort other nations to create dirt on her political opponent. Namely, the Steele dossier.

      1. Kilgore Trout

        I too was troubled by this accounting of the Bidens and Trump, as too favorable to the Bidens, and too harsh to Trump, who is, let’s be honest, facing a second soft coup attempt from the foreign policy blob. Our little coup in the Ukraine that started this mess is little mentioned, and would sooner be forgotten by the PtB, since it doesn’t quite fit the narrative. But we were in bed with far-right neo-Nazis in pushing the coup–one more unsavory fact about our Ukraine involvement. And how did Cofer Black end up on the board of Burisma, along with Biden’s son? The stench of corruption and greed here by our betters is over-powering. One team’s corruption was traded for another’s. But at least the other team’s claim to legitimacy involved an election.

      2. d

        And who in the past had the power that current president did that? Which other president has asked China to help them get elected? And when running for office asked for from Russia ? Some seem to think that being secretary of state has the powers the president does? And didn’t the famous Steele report start as a gop candidates oppo research? And it wasn’t it generated by a retired spy, not as part of working for say Russia or China was it?

        1. pretzelattack

          reagan campaign asked iran for help. nixon campaign asked south vietnam for help in derailing the peace process.

        2. ggm

          Pro life tip for the political class: You can now avoid being investigated by your opposition if you confine your corrupt dealings to foreign countries.

          And no, the GOP stopped making payments to Fusion GPS for oppo research before Steele was hired by the firm.

  2. Pelham

    The Bidens certainly aren’t alone. The most salient point for many of us in all this is that self-dealing is so common in Washington and perfectly legal, apparently because the creatures making the laws have decided to make it so. Thus we send off to DC a modest businessman or woman from a congressional district and they come back years later as multi-millionaires — or never return, instead taking up lavishly compensated residencies on K Street. All snowflake pure and clean, la di da.

    The sainted Obamas, who had no more than up upper middle-class income before DC, now can afford a multi-million-dollar mansion on some prime seashore real estate. The Clintons basically ran a pay-to-play outfit even while Hillary was Secretary of State. Republicans are no better.

    Examined in any detail (as it almost never is), it’s a truly breath-taking three ring circus of depravity, isn’t it? How perfectly goddam delightful it all is, to be sure.

    1. Mr Broken Record

      Wasn’t Chelsea Clinton paid $600,000 per year by NBC? I’m sure she was quite the seasoned journalist

  3. Acacia

    While I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Black’s damning account of Obama and Holder’s hypocrisy w.r.t. the GFC, I have trouble with his portrait of Joe Biden. It’s very difficult to square the deeply reflective and putatively perspicacious Joe Biden in this article, with the aw shucks, word salad, early senility Joe Biden I’m seeing in the news every week now. Did “Joe know” all the things that Mr. Black asserts? I find it hard to imagine.

    1. Susan the other`

      Yes, I think he did know. The Obama administration was a big mess and Joe was the number 2 guy. I don’t think “Joe and Hunter’s far from excellent Ukranian adventures” were all that unintentionally hapless. The Obama administration was foolish enough to think they could pull off a coup and get rid of Russian influence in Ukraine. They were funded by very rich like-minded people, would be politicians, like Soros. Nor is Joe Biden any sort of saint. He’s always been a MIC advocate; I can’s imagine he hasn’t had his grubby hand out the whole of his career. We have no honor in our national government. Our politicians are all compromised. That’s why we need better legislation at every level; to correct all our human shortcomings. We should never again have to suffer some sleaze ball president explaining to us that the mass behavior of greedy financiers who managed to destroy the country was “immoral but not illegal.” We got the gift of Trump not because we were looking for a savior, we’re way beyond that; we got Trump because we all wanted to poke our entire political class in the eye. Because most of us don’t give a damn anymore.

      1. flora

        And this is why, imo, Pelosi will never send articles of impeachment to the Senate: the Senate would get to dig into this and question the Bidens on various points related to US politics and meddling by us or them, and at who’s behest.

        1. Susan the other`

          What made Nancy pretend it was an impeachment procedure when it clearly wasn’t? She must have been pitchforked by the really rabid crusaders who are out to get Trump by hook or crook.

          1. Off The Street

            Pelosi’s kid is a neuralgic point, and she doesn’t want that pursued. He is one of several pol kids or polecats that lurk around DC and slurp at the papatation opportunities. Citizens need to keep demanding answers. When I write to her, or to Feinstein, I ask them to recall their Oath of Office when exercising their duties. Not much evidence of that, yet, voluntarily.

      2. Acacia

        @Susan: oh, I agree with all the points you’re making. The part I find difficult to follow is Black’s series of claims about Joe’s relationship with Hunter and what he really “knew”. E.g.:

        Joe knew from repeated, bitter experience that he could not rely on Hunter’s word, judgment, restraint, or moral compass.

        If he really knew this, then why did Joe help Hunter land these cushy positions in the Ukraine and China? Could it be rather that he chose to ignore this, because he wanted to try and help redeem his disgraced cokehead son by leading him to some shoo-in stability and easy money?

        Joe knew that no company of integrity would put Hunter on its board of directors and pay him $50,000 a meeting. […] Joe knew that the Ukrainian company hired Hunter for one reason – he was Joe’s son.  Joe knew that was a terrible reason to hire Hunter.  Joe knew that hiring Hunter indicated that the Ukrainian firm lacked integrity.

        All of this suggests that inside Joe knew better. Did he? Or did he simply not care? After all, this is business as usual, so who would hold the Bidens accountable?

        Joe knew that the apparent conflict of interest would expose Hunter and Joe to attack by Joe’s political enemies – and that Hunter’s addictions and record put Joe and Hunter in a position where they could not effectively fight back.  Joe knew Hunter was particularly vulnerable to political attack and humiliation.

        Again, what if Joe — like the Clintons before him — assumed his family could jam their paws in the cookie jar and get away with it?

        After all, isn’t that what the MSM and Dems are pretty much doing right now — making excuses, blame shifting, looking the other way, and obfuscating when one of their chosen candidates gets cast in the spotlight for helping a family member join in a little post-coup neo-liberal looting of the Ukraine?

        1. Susan the other`

          Agree. Bill Black knows how fraudsters operate. So he knew Joe was not innocent, but he hedged really slamming him because Bill Black went up against some really bad all-American guys like Keating. No foreign policy intrigue to ease the guilt. So on the Bill Black scale of scoundrels Biden is a soft one. And Hunter is a turkey.

    2. shinola

      I can just picture “uncle Joe” channeling sergeant Schultz from the old TV show ‘Hogans Heros’: “I know nothing!”

      (Kinda shows that I am of a “certain age” don’t it?)

    3. Burritonomics

      Same here. Why do people insist on the mind reading thing? We “know” what corrupt Trump is thinking and we “know” what poor Biden was thinking and going through.

      No, we don’t. No need to speculate on the unknowable; the rest of the article is sufficient without a mind reader “nudge” to influence the narrative.

    1. Samuel Conner

      Maybe not TDS per se, but in order to be taken seriously by the D establishment (assuming that is a goal of this piece) re: JB, one might have to prove bona fides with a sufficiently earnest denunciation of DJT.

      I have a vague memory of WJC back in ’92 on an evening talk show, playing his saxophone. The host said something like “it’s nice to see a Democrat blowing something that isn’t an election.”

      I have no doubt that if the D establishment gets its way, we will blow another election.

        1. Off The Street

          Bubba’s sax was on display in a little bar in Summerland after his years coming to the Pacific Standard Time / Prime Television Time western outpost. Haven’t been in there in a while so maybe it went elsewhere. Smithsonian, Library, Mena?

    2. JEHR

      No, I think Bill has told the truth about both the Obama administration and the Trump administration. I thought that nepotism was considered unworthy of lawmakers. Like Obama’s declaration of bank thievery: “it’s not illegal, only immoral,” the same can be said for nepotism.

    3. John Wright

      In my view, Bill Black does occasionally defend people of questionable character of whom he has some personal knowlege.

      He seems willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

      Here is his defense of John McCain, a foreign war/MIC supporter/promoter of the first rank (“bomb, bomb Iran”).


      I prefer to judge politicians by the good and harm they have done, and, in my view, Biden’s and McCain’s actions over the years make them poor candidates for praise and support.

  4. Michael Hudson

    I think that the implication of what my colleague Bill Black is saying is that Trump can up his accusations: While Biden was moving to remove a Ukrainian prosecutor (who apparently will provide an affidavit to Trump that he was planning to move against Biden’s son’s firm Burisma), Trump can say that this was part and parcel of the Obama-Biden presidency. The counterpart of corrupt Shokin was corrupt Holder blocking any prosecution of the crooked bankers who became major Democratic campaign contributors and sponsors of Hillary’s speeches in a kindred “buyout package.”
    This will give Trump a broad populist anti-bank as well as anti-Biden patina, even as his policies serve Wall Street.

    1. flora

      That’s a good argument that doesn’t need the distracting pro-Joe/anti-Trump pretzel-twisting to make the point, imo.

    1. anothermichael

      Maybe. But first he needs to take couple classes on ethics and integrity if he believes the sentence he wrote: “Second, Joe and Hunter Biden’s sketchy actions are not crimes or ethical violations.”

      1. polecat

        Well of course not !! .. when the Bidens (and by extension most everyone else knocking down drinks in Mos Isley on the Potomic) who do it ! For virtually everyone else, it’s an all-expense-paid holiday in the Slammer … right, William ??

        Only the peons do penance.

  5. Carolinian

    They do not simply counterpunch – they unleash a devastating assault on the lies and smears, Trump’s corruption, and Trump’s hypocrisy.

    Some of us don’t have a problem with the Dems employing any kind of attack campaign they want. Except impeachment. Turning the Constitution itself into a “lawfare” weapon is an attack on the sovereignty of the voters themselves. That was true during Clinton’s impeachment and it’s one reason many liberals were forced to hold their noses and defend him.

    And it’s also true even for Trump–especially this close to an election. There’s also the fact that the Dems and the intelligence community wanted to impeach Trump before he even took the oath. Michael Moore said he should step aside for the good of the country. There’s something higher at stake here than the partisan wrangling over which party is more corrupt.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        This. We must posit ubiquitous corruption on both “sides”, ever has it been thus since politicians wore togas. The only brooms against those tides are: Institutions.

        RussiaGate > UkraineGate looks to me like the CIA versus the Presidency. I don’t care if the president is Vlad the Impaler, the institution of the presidency must win this battle or we are truly lost. Why not just cancel 2020 now, a secret cabal of skulldigging spies will pick the president for us.

        1. polecat

          Yes, exactly !

          …. meanwhile, over in Iraq ….. another ‘Maiden-like’ imbroglio in the making, courtesy of …

  6. Wellstone's Ghost

    Trump has managed to squarely put Joe Biden in the frame of “Biden and his kid are no better than me and mine”, and for that Biden must drop out of the race to be the Democratic nominee for President.
    This Ukrainian story has been so twisted that it reminds of a battle with a tangled fishing line.
    People don’t have the time and inquisitiveness to research the facts of the case, but that doesn’t matter when you hear $50,000 a month to your son for doing NOTHING.
    That was all it took.
    Trump has solidified in people’s minds the widely held “belief” among a majority of Americans that “they’re all crooks” and “there is no difference between the two parties” to sufficiently diminish participation in the 2020 election should Biden be the nominee.
    Voter disenfranchisement through the purging of voter rolls and electronic voting machine fraud will distort the results even more towards the Republicans in 2020.
    The Democratic Party power brokers are sadly ok with this.
    They would rather Trump be reelected than see Bernie in the White House.
    Get ready for that Constitutional Convention we hoped would never happen.

  7. shinola

    I found this from Bill Black rather curious (& a bit disappointing):

    “…Joe and Hunter Biden’s sketchy actions are not crimes or ethical violations. They may be ‘corrupt’ in the broad sense of that word in everyday usage, but not in the legal sense of statutes against corruption.”

    There seems to be a continuous effort to separate the definition of “legal” from ethics or corruption. Just because some action is legal does NOT mean it is ethical; just because it’s legal does NOT mean it is not corrupt. (A lesson that should have been learned from the GFC).

    I also have to opine that the corruption of the Grant/Harding/Trump admin’s is nothing compared to the lies of the death dealing Bush/Cheney admin.

    1. Basil Pesto

      But thia is precisely what he’s saying. When you say ”just because it’s legal does NOT mean it’s not corrupt”, this is the every day usage of the word ‘corrupt’ that he is referring to.

      He’s speaking with the precision and rigor of a legal scholar. which is what he is. I understand why a lot of NC readers might struggle to stomach that, but I guess I want to point out where I see BB coming from.

  8. Craig Dempsey

    “Pride goeth before a fall.” Joe Biden’s decision to run for President has not only opened up himself to intense scrutiny, but Obama as well. As a liberal Democrat, I must admit it has been a painful experience. Why did he not just retire at a ripe old age and enjoy the honor of being Obama’s VP?

    Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of Joe Biden showing terrible judgment. Remember Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill? Biden made a bi-partisan deal in the men’s Senate locker room to block any supporting testimony for Hill. Fast forward about thirty years, and Senator Grassley followed the Biden strategy to the letter as he blocked supporting testimony for Ford against Kavanaugh. What did Biden learn about his error in those thirty years? What did he stand up and say? Virtually nothing. Then he decided to run for President, and called Hill to offer an apology for how he let the GOP treat her. She rejected his apology. God bless her. I would rather have her for President than either Biden or Trump. He still does not know what he did so terribly wrong thirty years ago (or at least cannot admit it). Biden is significantly responsible for both Thomas and Kavanaugh being on the Supreme Court.

    For some insight into what Biden would publicly admit during the Kavanaugh hearings, see this AP story:

    1. pretzelattack

      and before that, biden helped sanitize the october surprise. nothing to see here, move along.

  9. rps

    We need to put Hunter Biden’s $50,000 per meeting in perspective, he began receiving it in 2014
    Goldberg correctly notes the modest nature of the sleaze in the Bidens’ case.</em

    This too is typical elite sleaze. Yes, we should remember that Trump’s spouse, children, and their spouses, make Hunter look like a highly competent saint when it comes to cashing in on their tawdry Trump ties.

    The Trump children, of course, have super-charged this sleaze (please elaborate Mr. Black).

    Black had an opportunity here to go beyond the name-calling and tit for tat politics such as Trump is profoundly corrupt and he loves his fellow corrupt autocrats like Putin. while pointing out that Obama and his administration’s hypocrisy; yet, not at the level of Trump’s corruption, and Trump’s hypocrisy are far worse– more hyperbole.

    Namely, he could have delved into the organizational malfeasance found in all offices of the U.S. government. Malfeasance is openly exercised by both factions, and, one is not better than the other, rather, by degrees of hyperbole. Black missed the opportunity to move beyond party lines and have a discussion about what we have been witnessing in all offices of government: “Normalization of Deviance.”

    Sociologist Diane Vaughn’s coined the phrase “Normalization of Deviance,” in describing industrial and organizational malfeasance. People within the organization become so much accustomed to a deviant behaviour that they don’t consider it as deviant, despite the fact that they far exceed their own rules. It is a complex process with some kind of organizational acceptance. The people outside see the situation as deviant whereas the people inside get accustomed to it and do not. The more they do it, the more they get accustomed.”

    Clearly, it’s accepted at many levels from organizational onto our cultural drift whereby circumstances classified as not okay are slowly reclassified as okay. That is, unless the opposing political faction in power, does it too.

  10. Ping

    I find this drama Shakespearean. One that makes obvious our entire political system is structured for technically legal looting, elite profiteering.

    Any guess how much Wilbur Ross (and entire cabinet) has profiteered on non public information in recent years?

    Pulleeease, the Clinton Foundation has to be one of the most cynical “pay to play” operations ever, soaking up hundreds of millions in funds that should have gone to legitimate charities, co-mingling Secretary of State business hence the need for private server while adding further hardships to areas like Haiti.

    Apparently both James (brother) and Hunter have a long history of cashing in on Joe’s influence, associating with fraudulent scenarios. What was he thinking in running for president, that this wouldn’t be a major issue? Especially as Ukraine is considered easy pickings, a wild west for looting. He is obviously in early stage dementia. No doubt his schedule is limited to accommodate and avoid huge verbal blunders or being photographed with the vacant stare .

    With an awful voting record directly impacting middle/low income citizens (especially bankruptcy bill, MIC) I can’t stand Biden’s “working class Joe” shtick or constantly trotting out his deceased son for sympathy as though losing a family member is unique. Egads, his “backslapping” negotiation style of compromising with atrocious ideologues.

    The political system is designed to elevate and accommodate corruption, profiteering and looting and readily available meaningful fixes will never be implemented.

  11. Chris Smith

    It is as likely that Biden threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine unless they fired a prosecutor who was investigating his son so that the prosecutor would be replaced by a tougher prosecutor as it is that Trump asked Ukraine to look into Biden’s actions because Trump only wants to root out corruption.

    Are people really this family-bloggin’ dumb?

    1. inode_buddha

      Dunno about dumb, but they certainly are that partisan. I have worked in places where certain peoples feces doesn’t stink, full stop. Regardless of their behavior, it always comes up smelling like roses.

    2. pretzelattack

      h clinton asked britain for help, and received it. i’ve read that obama was undermining trump via british intelligence. as for the the ukraine, the last one was busy fomenting a coup there.

  12. Watt4Bob

    Like everyone else, I’m having a real hard time with the whole, “It’s sleazy, but not illegal” thing.

    IIRC, there’s book, Perfectly Legal, that outlines how the very rich have owned the political process in order to reduce their taxes and transfer the load to the middle class and below.

    Here’s a few details;

    1. How a law meant to prevent cheating by the top 2 percent of Americans no longer affects most of them, but has morphed into a stealth tax on single mothers making just $28,000

    2. How the IRS became so weak that even when it was handed complete banking records detailing massive cheating by 1,600 people, it prosecuted only 4 percent of them.

    3. How some corporations avoid paying any federal income tax

    The point being, in a sane world we would be kicking congress’ a** in an effort to roll back the laws that turn something completely corrupt, but perfectly legal, into something that is codified as not only corrupt, but illegal.

    And by that I mean making it illegal for our elected leaders kids to ride their parents coat-tails to great wealth in the manner we are witnessing with the Clintons, Obamas, Bidens, and Trumps.

    The way I read Bills post, it seems he believes we haven’t got a chance?

    1. Off The Street

      The average person doesn’t have a chance, not being in that big club about which George Carlin spoke. NC helps readers and whatever circles of influence we might have keep up the fight. Taking down Joe and a few others can only help get more sunshine on DC.

  13. doug s

    Sad Bill B has given bank lover (too many supporting examples to mention) & woman hater (any doubt after what he singularly did to Anita Hill?) Joe a free pass. I thought from Bill B’s writings he was an ideological Democrat. Maybe I’m being too harsh, almost everyone today is forced to give up so enormously to pay the bills. It’s neat that YS shares crap like this for us to decide, with her sole comment being no comment. Bill B has done a LOT of good over decades.

  14. Rob Urie

    Here is a link to the sworn affidavit by fired prosecutor Viktor Shokin attesting that 1) Joe Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine unless, 2) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko fired him because 3) he was investigating Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma Holdings.

    Whatever the truth is, it isn’t clear that the good and righteous Bill Black knows what it is in this piece.

    the link can also be found here:

    1. tgs

      Your piece on this affair at Counterpunch is the best I have read, & I have been following this closely

  15. Splashoil

    Has anyone heard more from Elizabeth Warren? She was going to review her policy in light of Joe and Hunters dilemma. She has been very keen on corruption….

  16. CarlH

    This is as disappointing an article as I have read here at NC. If even Bill Black is falling for this nonsense it is troubling in the extreme.

    1. flora

      I work in academia not far from UMKC. I know the pressures exerted in liberal academia to be vocal about towing a certain line wrt Trump. Think of the movie “A Man For All Seasons”. Silence is regarded as suspect.

      Prof. Black has my inestimable regard for the work he did during the S&L crisis to clean up the Savings and Loan corruption. (I still think S&Ls are cleaner than big national banks. O let the big nationals off the hook for their malfeasance.) Did Prof. Black work to clean up the S&Ls because he was a Dem working against corruption spawned during GOP admins? Or did he work to clean up corruption because it was the right thing to do, regardless of party. I always thought Prof. Black acted as he did because it was the right thing to do.

      Have the demands of liberal academia wrt Trump moved Prof. Black toward pleasing an academic ‘mob’ vs. writing without fear or favor. This post seemed like 2 essays in one: ‘Trump hate’ to please the academic mob and serious parsing of the difficulties the Dems have created for themselves. The essay ends up as neither fish nor fowl, imo.

      Adding: Prof. Black will always have my deepest regard about cleaning up the S&L crisis.

      1. ambrit

        Alas, I fear we might have to call Prof. Black back to clean up another series of bank failures pretty soon.

    2. notabanker

      I agree, really disappointing. That Goldberg piece is hardly excellent and a prime example of US intelligence propaganda covering the Democratic Party apparatchiks.

  17. Robin Kash

    Black omits entirely the larger context of US efforts to draw Ukraine into NATO and the EU. He passes lightly over the Nazi character of Ukrainian corruption.
    Black seems to harbor a kind of affection for Joe Biden despite his deep immersion in racial and anti-feminist politics for years.
    This is one of the most disappointing pieces by Black I’ve read.
    I look forward to his return to form. Maybe NC will wait until he does before putting his work forth in future.

  18. makedoanmend

    Thanks for the article. Mr. Black’s analysis is incisive and revealing.

    The reaction of many commentators is…well…interesting.

    It has parallels with events outside of the USA.

    1. Prairie Bear

      Agreed. It is careful and meticulously detailed in explaining all the background and giving Joe Biden the benefit of every doubt. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be what most people want these days from critique and analysis.

  19. johnt

    I have admired Bill Black for years, for many of the reasons that have been stated. I am disappointed, to say the least, in this article. BUT–it is good to hear the push-back from so many of those commenting, and grateful for NC to post the article and the comments.

  20. templar555510

    Poor Bill. He cannot leave the mainstream . He believes it can be reformed and that, given time, a leadership will emerge to do ‘ the right thing ‘ . Think again Bill . It isn’t going to happen. If the election of Trump didn’t bring that about nothing will. Collapse is the only possible route out of the swamp.

  21. jaymo

    fails to address the most important issue: why is the u.s. meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation?

    1. Prairie Bear

      Yes, that is one big question that is being begged here. Why should USA officials, or EU ones for that matter, be saying who should or should not be an AG in Ukraine?

  22. Knute Rife

    “Clinton advisers repeatedly warned her that the Republicans would use the secret paid speeches as a mace to attack her.”

    But Hillary has never been much at listening to advice. She’s always the smartest one in the room, just ask her.

  23. JohnyB

    On the Hypocrisy of Biden –

    On Bandera and Ukrainian nazis –

    On 22 January 2010, the outgoing President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, awarded Bandera the posthumous title of Hero of Ukraine.[11] The European Parliament condemned the award;[12] so did Russian,[13] Polish and Jewish politicians and organizations.[14][15][16] The incoming president, Viktor Yanukovych, declared the award illegal, since Bandera was never a citizen of the Ukraine, a stipulation necessary for getting the award. This announcement was confirmed by a court decision in April 2010.[17] In January 2011 the award was officially annulled.[18] Nonetheless in December 2018 the Ukrainian parliament has moved to again confer the award to Bandera.[19]

    Bandera remains a highly controversial figure in Ukraine,[20][21][22] with some hailing him as a liberator who fought against both the Soviets and the Nazis state while trying to establish an independent Ukraine, while some others condemn him as a fascist[23] and a war criminal[24] who was, together with his followers, largely responsible for the killing of Polish civilians[25] and partially for the Holocaust in Ukraine.[26][27][28][29]

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