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WASHINGTON – Two Republican-led Senate committees issued a politically charged report Wednesday on the work Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son did in Ukraine.
Biden’s campaign immediately panned the report, released six weeks before the election, as an effort by an ally of President Donald Trump to damage his election opponent.
Trump has repeatedly drawn attention to the issue even as his own administration has warned of a concerted Russian effort to denigrate Biden and asserted that a Ukrainian lawmaker who is involved in spreading anti-Biden claims is an “active Russian agent.”
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, whose Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is one of the two panels that released the 87-page report, had acknowledged in interviews his goal of making the document public before the election because he expected it would paint an unflattering portrait of Biden.
The investigation produced stark political divisions, with Democrats accusing Johnson of a politically motivated initiative at a time when they said the Homeland Security Committee should be focused on the coronavirus pandemic response and other, less partisan issues. Even before the report was released, the Biden campaign issued a detailed statement aiming to rebut point-by-point allegations that it said had long been debunked by media organizations as well as by U.S. and Ukrainian officials.
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The Senate report examines Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine, where he held a paid seat on the board of gas company Burisma, and alleges that that work posed a conflict of interest at a time when Biden was vice president in the Obama administration and engaged in Ukraine policy.
The allegations were central to the impeachment case against Trump after the president asked Ukraine’s president in a telephone call last year to investigate the Bidens.
One of the claims referenced in the report is that Biden, as vice president, pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, as a way to stymie an investigation into the owner of Burisma.
But the Biden campaign pointed to news reports and public statements showing there was no active investigation into Burisma at the time of Shokin’s ouster in 2016, and that the firing of Shokin was broadly sought by U.S. and European officials and reflected the official Obama administration policy.
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There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens, and Hunter Biden has denied using his influence with his father to aid Burisma. But Republicans who came to Trump’s defense in this year’s impeachment trial encouraged further investigations of his activities. Johnson, a close ally of Trump, took the lead.
“As the coronavirus death toll climbs and Wisconsinites struggle with joblessness, Ron Johnson has wasted months diverting the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee away from any oversight of the catastrophically botched federal response to the pandemic, a threat Sen. Johnson has dismissed by saying that ‘death is an unavoidable part of life,’” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.
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