(CNSNews.com) – The adjective “baseless” has been widely used by House Democratic leaders and media outlets to describe concerns about former Vice President Joe Biden’s dealings in Ukraine, but during Monday’s Senate impeachment trial hearing a member of President Trump’s legal team pointed to media reporting at the time on concerns about potential conflict of interest.
Pam Bondi, a former Florida attorney general, quoted from media reports saying the appointment of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, to the board of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma at a time when it and its oligarch owner were facing corruption investigations, raised the troubling appearance of a conflict of interest on the part of the vice president.
While Biden was heading the Obama administration’s outreach to Ukraine, his son was being paid more than $83,000 a month for sitting on the Burisma board, despite having “no experience in natural gas, no experience in the energy sector, no experience with Ukrainian regulatory affairs.”
“As far as we know, he doesn’t speak Ukrainian,” Bondi said. “So, naturally, the media has asked questions about his board membership,” she added sarcastically.
“The appointment of Joe Biden’s son to the board of Ukrainian gas firm Burisma has raised eyebrows the world over,” Bondi quoted a May 2014 report by Germany’s Deutsche Welle as saying.
Buzzfeed News – “an outlet with bias for Democrats,” she said – reported the same month that, “The move raises questions about a potential conflict of interest for Joe Biden.”
She quoted from a Washington Post story at the time, saying that “the appointment of the vice president’s son to a Ukrainian oil board looks nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst.”
Trump stands accused of withholding military aid from Ukraine last year in an attempt to pressure its government to investigate claims that Biden – a 2020 presidential rival – sought while vice president to disrupt a corruption probe targeting Burisma.
The House impeached Trump last month for abuse of power in his dealings with Ukraine, and for obstruction of Congress as it sought to investigate the matter.
Bondi said that in their trial memorandum and presentation, the House impeachment managers referenced the Bidens and Burisma more than 400 times, and in doing so described concerns raised about them as “sham” and “baseless.”
“Now, why did they say that? Why did they invoke Biden or Burisma over 400 times?” she asked.
“The reason they needed to do that is because they’re here saying that the president must be impeached and removed from office for raising a concern.”
“And that’s why we have to talk about this today,” Bondi continued. “They say ‘sham.’ They say ‘baseless.’ They say this because, if it’s okay for someone to say, ‘Hey, you know what? Maybe there is something here worth raising,’ then their case [against the president] crumbles.”
“They have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there is no basis to raise this concern. But that is not what public records show.”
‘How bad it would look’
Bondi recalled that one of Hunter Biden’s two partners in an investment firm, Chris Heinz – stepson of then-Secretary of State John Kerry – had also expressed concerns about the arrangement.
“He [Heinz] thought that working with Burisma was unacceptable,” she said. “He was worried about the corruption, the geopolitical risk, and how bad it would look. So he wisely distances himself from Hunter Biden and [the third partner] Devon Archer’s appointments to Burisma.”
Bondi said Heinz hadn’t simply contacted Kerry to voice his concerns, or raised them with his partners. “He went so far as to send an email to senior State Department officials about this issue. He wrote, ‘Apparently Devon and Hunter have joined the board of Burisma, and a press release went out today. I can’t speak to why they decided to, but there is no investment by our firm in their company.’”
Bondi then quoted Heinz’ spokesman telling the Washington Post last September that, “the lack of judgment in this matter was a major catalyst for Mr. Heinz ending his business relationship with Mr. Archer and Mr. Biden.”
Wrapping up her presentation, Bondi said the House managers had spoken about the Bidens and Burisma hundreds of times, but without giving the full picture.
“But here are those who did. The United Kingdom serious fraud unit [which investigated Burisma], deputy assistant secretary of state George Kent, Chris Heinz, the ABC White House reporter, ABC Good Morning America, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Ukrainian law enforcement, and the Obama State Department itself.”
“They all thought there was cause to raise the issue about the Bidens and Burisma.”
“Now the House managers might say, without evidence, that everything we just said has been debunked, that the evidence points entirely and unequivocally in the other direction,” she said.
“That is a distraction. You’ve heard from the House managers. They do not believe that there was any concern to raise here, that all of this was baseless. And all we are saying is that there was a basis to talk about this, to raise this issue. And that is enough.”