Now that the President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial has concluded, White House officials and administration allies are signaling readiness to move forward with investigations into the Biden family — the very thing that sparked the impeachment inquiry roughly half a year ago.
One of the main fronts in this process is set to take place through a backchannel, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a staunch Trump ally and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
On CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, Graham, said Attorney General William Barr has set up a “process” for receiving information about the Bidens from Ukraine, using Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as an intermediary.
This revelation came shortly after Giuliani claimed to have a uncovered a “smoking gun” involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, that would legitimate Trump’s request last July for Ukraine’s then-new president to investigate him and his father.
Giuliani made the claim on Fox News’ Watters’ World Saturday night, saying that he and his team now have three witnesses ready to share evidence of Biden’s son having engaged in corrupt activities.
“I want to prove what happened,” Giuliani told host Jesse Watters, “Because I believe if we prove what happened, [Trump] will be totally vindicated.”
The lawyer then made a public request of the South Carolina senator, calling for him to begin an official Senate investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine.
“Lindsey, get started,” Giuliani said.
Sunday, Graham affirmed that the Hunter Biden investigation would be “explored,” but expressed discomfort with leading it, as Giuliani requested. Instead he said it would take place within an information pipeline between Department of Justice, the White House, and Ukraine.
“I’m not going to be the Republican Christopher Steele,” Graham said, referring to the ex-British spy who compiled a dossier featuring salacious allegations against Trump. “If Rudy Giuliani has any information coming out of the Ukraine, he needs to turn over the Department of Justice because it could be Russian propaganda.”
Remarkable. Sen. Graham says he talked to AG Barr this morning and they have set up a "process" by which Rudy Giuliani will now send his Biden "dirt" directly to AG Barr. pic.twitter.com/gteVz53jIG— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) February 9, 2020
He added, “Any documents coming out of the Ukraine against any American, Republican or Democrat, need to be looked at by the intelligence services, who has expertise I don’t because Russia is playing us all like a fiddle.”
Instead of following through his committee, Graham said, “The Department of Justice is receiving information coming out of the Ukraine from Rudy. ... They’ve created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified.”
It is not clear whether the president is on board with this plan, however.
In a message with an opaque meaning, he responded to a CBS Twitter advertisement for the interview with Graham by tweeting, “DeFace the Nation will tell [Graham] that he must start up Judiciary and not stop until the job is done. Clean up D.C. now, last chance!”
He followed that with a clearer message 20 minutes later, tweeting, “Yes!!!!!” in response to a conservative reporter’s tweet calling for a Senate investigation.
While it’s questionable whether now is the time for such an investigation — particularly since Trump’s opponents have argued he now feels unrestrained rather than chastened by the impeachment process — it would seem that the president’s desire for such an inquiry has materialized: Alongside the unofficial investigation that is evidently running between Giuliani and the DOJ, an official one appears to be underway on the Hill as well.
The Bidens also appear to be under investigation in the Senate
Thursday, one day after Trump was acquitted, the New York Times reported that Senate Republicans on the Finance Committee and Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs had requested documents related to Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine last year, a request that the Treasury Department has complied with.
The request suggests Republican senators are looking into Hunter’s finances using standard protocols for Senate investigations. But some Democrats are accusing the administration of complying with this investigation in a way that it refused to in the impeachment inquiry.
“Applying a blatant double standard, Trump administration agencies like the Treasury Department are rapidly complying with Senate Republican requests — no subpoenas necessary — and producing ‘evidence’ of questionable origin,” a spokesperson for Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. “The administration told House Democrats to go pound sand when their oversight authority was mandatory while voluntarily cooperating with the Senate Republicans’ sideshow at lightning speed.”
The Senate Finance Committee chair, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, pushed back on this allegation, according to the New York Times:
“It’s unfortunate that Democrats whom we’ve kept in the loop on our investigations would recklessly seek to interfere with legitimate government oversight,” said his spokesperson; Grassley also reportedly confirmed the investigation is ongoing.
Hunter Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company at the same time that his father, then the vice president, was overseeing policy in the region on behalf of the Obama administration. His detractors — like Trump — have pointed to this as evidence of corruption within the Obama White House.
Trump and others alleged, without evidence, that Joe Biden used the power of his position to help Hunter Biden and his business interests in both Ukraine and China. Trump’s calls for those countries to investigate these allegations kicked off the impeachment inquiry that ended on Wednesday with acquittal.
Now that Trump is in the clear, and as the Democratic primary campaign ramps up — with Joe Biden still in the race — this administration has made clear it will continue looking into the Biden family indefinitely.