Pri­mary vot­ers not writ­ing off Bi­den yet

Ukraine ques­tions shake con­fi­dence

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

MANCH­ESTER, N.H. | Ken French says he is open to back­ing for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den in the first-in-the-na­tion pres­i­den­tial pri­mary, but first he wants more clar­ity on whether his son Hunter’s busi­ness deal­ings in Ukraine were “on the up-and-up.”

“As a voter, that is a con­cern,” said Mr. French, 61. “Right now, there is a shadow cast over Joe Bi­den.”

The Bi­dens’ his­tory in Ukraine is get­ting an­other look in the af­ter­math of a whistle­blower com­plaint ac­cus­ing Pres­i­dent Trump of us­ing threats to cut off U.S. mil­i­tary aid to pres­sure Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­sky to in­ves­ti­gate the Bi­dens and the son’s prof­itable busi­ness deal­ings in Ukraine.

Mr. Trump has launched a coun­terof­fen­sive deny­ing any quid pro quo. He said in­ves­ti­ga­tors would be bet­ter served look­ing into whether Mr. Bi­den, as vice pres­i­dent, sought the ouster of a Ukrainian prose­cu­tor be­cause he was look­ing into cor­rup­tion at the coun­try’s largest pri­vate gas com­pany, Burisma, where Hunter Bi­den served on the board and re­port­edly raked in $50,000 per month.

Vot­ers in New Hamp­shire are now try­ing to sort out who is telling the truth and whether the for­mer vice pres­i­dent and his son were in­volved in shady busi­ness deal­ings as they con­sider their op­tions in the 2020 pri­mary race.

Mr. Bi­den main­tains the prose­cu­tor lost his job be­cause he dropped the ball when it came to com­bat­ing Ukraine’s “can­cer of cor­rup­tion.” Mr. Bi­den last year boasted that his threat to with­hold $1 bil­lion in aid led to the prose­cu­tor’s ul­ti­mate dis­missal.

He de­scribed Mr. Trump’s ac­count as “bizarre.” He said the sto­ry­line has been de­bunked by ev­ery “cred­i­ble jour­nal­ist” and that it is a bla­tant at­tempt to di­vert at­ten­tion away from what he called the pres­i­dent’s un­hinged and dan­ger­ous be­hav­ior.

“It is such a bla­tant abuse of power, I don’t think it can stand,” Mr. Bi­den said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” where he moved a step closer to back­ing the im­peach­ment push on Capi­tol Hill.

The du­el­ing ver­sions of events date back to 2014 when Mr. Bi­den be­came the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s point per­son on Ukraine af­ter the coun­try’s pres­i­dent was ousted in a revo­lu­tion. Weeks later, Hunter Bi­den landed his plum job on the board at Burisma.

The po­lit­i­cal dust-up has cre­ated an open­ing for some of Mr. Bi­den’s ri­vals in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial pri­mary. Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, who has sprinted past Mr. Bi­den in early pri­mary state polls, has made fer­ret­ing out cor­rup­tion the cen­ter­piece of her cam­paign.

Ms. War­ren used her open­ing when re­porters asked whether she would al­low the child of her vice pres­i­dent to serve on the board of a for­eign com­pany.

“No,” the Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat told re­porters at a cam­paign stop in Keene be­fore say­ing, “I don’t know — I’d have to go back and look at the de­tails.”

Her cam­paign later clar­i­fied to The Wash­ing­ton Post that ethics pro­pos­als Ms. War­ren has in­tro­duced don’t pre­vent chil­dren of a vice pres­i­dent from serv­ing on a com­pany’s board.

Ford O’Connell, a Re­pub­li­can Party strate­gist with close ties to the White House, said the episode is play­ing in Ms. War­ren’s fa­vor.

“If you are El­iz­a­beth War­ren, you have to be giddy,” Mr. O’Connell said. “While de­fend­ing him to the teeth, you’re hop­ing it sinks him.”

Other vot­ers say Hunter Bi­den, who had no pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence in the en­ergy sec­tor, prob­a­bly ben­e­fited from his fa­ther’s po­lit­i­cal clout, but they don’t think he broke any laws and they don’t think it will dent Mr. Bi­den’s chances in the pri­mary race.

Michael Clark said Mr. Bi­den has a “good rap­port” with vot­ers in New Hamp­shire.

“I would back him,” the 65-year-old said. “I like Joe Bi­den. I think he is a good man, and he is a fair guy, I be­lieve.”

Mr. French, mean­while, said he isn’t writ­ing off Mr. Bi­den but will re­main on the fence un­til he learns more — in­clud­ing how Hunter Bi­den landed his cushy job, what sort of role Mr. Bi­den played in se­cur­ing the post and whether he did any­thing for the money he re­ceived.

“If there is an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, I want to see what they come up with,” he said.

“If you are El­iz­a­beth War­ren, you have to be giddy. While de­fend­ing him to the teeth, you’re hop­ing it sinks him.” — Ford O’Connell, Re­pub­li­can Party strate­gist

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