Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz posed this question to House Democratic impeachment managers today: If President Barack Obama, who ran against Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, had evidence Romney’s son “was being paid $ 1 million per year by a corrupt Russian company,” and Romney “had acted to benefit that company, would Obama have authority to ask that that potential corruption be investigated?”
Their question was, of course, hypothetical. But it included the implication that Joe Biden had “acted to benefit” the Ukrainian company, Burisma Holdings, where his son, Hunter Biden, had sat on the board of directors.
Facts First: None of the available evidence suggests that Joe Biden acted to benefit Burisma.
As vice president, Biden successfully lobbied Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who had been criticized for failing to investigate accusations of corruption. Shokin had been criticized in particular for impeding a probe into the owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky.
Because of Shokin’s reputation for ineffectiveness and for being corrupt himself, the US and its allies believed that removing him would increase, not decrease, the chances of people like Zlochevsky being pursued.
Some more context: In a speech in 2015, Geoffrey Pyatt, then the US ambassador to Ukraine, castigated Shokin’s office for obstructing the Zlochevsky probe. Pyatt called for people in Shokin’s office to be fired, “at minimum.”
“Rather than supporting Ukraine’s reforms and working to root out corruption, corrupt actors within the prosecutor general’s office are making things worse by openly and aggressively undermining reform,” Pyatt said.
Attempting to remove Shokin was the policy of not only the Obama administration but of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Watch: CNN fact checks Trump’s legal team