Amid all the commotion over President Donald Trump's bid to trade U.S. government favors for election help from Ukraine's president, there's the pesky issue of former President Joe Biden and the sweetheart employment deal his son received from a Ukrainian oligarch. From the looks of it, Biden's son, Hunter, marketed his family name and high-level connections to reap a big financial windfall.
In 2014, while his father was still in office, Hunter Biden was discharged from the Navy after testing positive for cocaine use. He had limited international business experience and certainly no expertise in oil and gas. Yet, quite conveniently, a Ukrainian oligarch who owned one of that country's biggest natural gas companies felt compelled to place Hunter Biden on his company's board of directors. The younger Biden reportedly earned about $50,000 per month.
For Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, these details are a potential campaign killer. Democrats could find this story so distasteful that they wind up dumping the party's frontrunner — even if he has the best prospects of any major candidate of beating Trump in 2020. The reason voters are so turned off, as reflected by Biden's recent downturn in polling, is that the nation has just been through three years of exactly this kind of abhorrent behavior by Trump himself. Americans are sick of politicians skating to the edge of impropriety, and rightly so.
Which is why Democrats should welcome a robust national discussion about this precise subject: Is it wrong for family members of the president or vice president to market their high-level connections for financial gain? If the answer is yes, as Trump asserts it is, then the president shouldn't have any objection to abiding by this exact standard. He should have no problem opening up his tax returns and Trump Organization books so Americans can see the full details of how his family members have exploited their White House connections for personal gain.
Bad as Hunter Biden's story looks, no indications of illegality have surfaced. Family members of presidents and vice presidents have marketed their names throughout American history. President Jimmy Carter's brother, Billy, used his family fame in the 1970s to market Billy Beer. Vice President George H.W. Bush's son, Neil Bush, ran headlong into scandal with a failed savings and loan. The Republican Party helped defray his legal expenses.
Examples abound of how executive branch connections have helped presidents' and vice presidents' family members enrich themselves. But none compare to what's gone on in the current White House, not just with Trump's children but with his own financial interests intermingling hotels and resorts with official business.
If Trump is suddenly the standard bearer for executive branch propriety, then why does he continue to evade the very accountability he demands of the Bidens?
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