WASHINGTON – An election-year investigation by Senate Republicans into corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, involving Ukraine found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president, closing out an inquiry that its leaders had hoped would tarnish the Democratic presidential nominee.
The investigation found that Hunter Biden had "cashed in" on his father's name to close lucrative business deals around the world. It also concluded that his work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company then mired in a corruption scandal, while the former vice president was directing U.S. policy toward Kiev had given the appearance of a conflict of interest and alarmed some State Department officials.
But an 87-page report summing up the findings, released Wednesday by the Senate Homeland Security and Finance committees, contained no evidence that the elder Biden improperly manipulated U.S. policy toward Ukraine or committed any other misdeed. In fact, investigators heard witness testimony that rebutted those charges.
The homeland security panel's Republican chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, had made little secret of his political ambitions for his report, boasting for weeks that his findings would demonstrate Biden's "unfitness for office." Instead, the result appeared to be little more than a rehashing six weeks before Election Day of unproven allegations that echo an active Russian disinformation campaign and have been pushed by Trump.
In the days before its release, Johnson conceded that there would be no "massive smoking guns."
The report's primary conclusions, though, were largely the ones Johnson and his investigative partner, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had made before they began their work, with some new details from State Department and financial transaction reports.
Hunter Biden's position "hindered the efforts of dedicated career-service individuals who were fighting for anticorruption measures in Ukraine," the Republicans wrote. They did not clarify beyond saying that the situation had been "awkward" for State Department officials.
It was also filled with details that emphasized the unseemly appearance created by the younger Biden's involvement with Burisma, given his father's position. "What the chairmen discovered during the course of this investigation is that the Obama administration knew that Hunter Biden's position on Burisma's board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine," the report said.
The Trump campaign quickly promoted the "explosive new revelations," zeroing in on financial records obtained by the senators that showed Hunter Biden receiving large sums of money — sometimes as large as seven figures — from foreigners in China, Russia and elsewhere while his father was in office. Tim Murtaugh, a campaign spokesman, called them "stunning levels of corruption."
In their own competing document challenging the report, Democrats accused Republicans of cherry-picking their findings. All 10 witnesses interviewed by investigators, they noted, had testified that neither Biden nor anyone else had altered U.S. policy because of his son.
"Every witness stated that Hunter Biden and his associates had no role in the formulation of U.S. policy, that Hunter Biden's role did not influence U.S. foreign policy decisions, and that Vice President Biden carried out U.S. foreign policy in the interest of the United States," the Democrats wrote.
The lack of meaningful new information and the overlap with a Russian disinformation campaign that U.S. intelligence officials have said is designed to denigrate Biden only fed charges by Democrats and Biden's campaign that Johnson had abused his Senate powers to aid Trump's re-election campaign — and in so doing, had aided Moscow.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden's campaign, accused Johnson of subsidizing "a foreign attack against the sovereignty of our elections with taxpayer dollars" by promulgating "a long-disproven, hard-core right wing conspiracy theory" about the former vice president.