Joe Biden is president of the United States because he won the swing states of Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin by a combined total of some 43,000 votes.
But he also owes his victory to the groundwork laid by Democrats and their media allies one year before, during the first impeachment of Donald Trump. That first impeachment failed to oust Trump from office, but it helped secure the White House for Biden – it shielded him from scrutiny, enabling him and his supporters to cast allegations during the campaign about dubious Biden family business ties as rehashed Trumpian conspiracy theories.
Democratic leaders had bet that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion would produce a clearly impeachable offense.
They were wrong. After three years of thorough investigation, Mueller’s final report, issued in March 2019, concluded that the probe “[did] not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Then in August 2019, a CIA employee filed a formal whistleblower complaint against President Trump aimed at forcing Congress to address the matter. He alleged that Trump had pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a July phone call to investigate the Bidens for political purposes, and subsequently made aid to Ukraine contingent on the probe.
Trump reportedly raised the issue because he believed there had never been any serious inquiry into why Biden’s son Hunter, a lawyer with no experience in the energy sector, had been paid upwards of $80,000 a month to serve on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma. Hunter received the appointment in 2014, shortly after his father was asked to oversee Ukrainian affairs as Barack Obama’s vice president. In 2016, Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid to Ukraine unless it fired a prosecutor widely considered to be ineffective. The fired prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, testified that he was driven from office because he was investigating Burisma.
However, the allegations regarding the Trump phone call with Zelensky were problematic from the start. The man who brought the complaint was not really a whistleblower as the term is commonly understood. He had no direct knowledge of the phone call but had been leaked details of it by one of the seven American officials who were on the call with the president.
Despite the procedural problems with the whistleblower complaint, it provided a semblance of formal process to buttress an all-new impeachment attempt. Progressives and much of the media cast the call as an abuse of power by Trump who, they claimed, tried to extort a foreign leader to kneecap a political rival.
From the beginning, the impeachment inquiry was rife with episodes suggesting Democrats had a larger strategy. They took an unprecedented amount of control over the process. While the Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, was the traditional venue for impeachment, Democrats decided that Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, would guide the impeachment inquiry through the Intelligence Committee.
Democrats shut down Republican attempts to probe the Democratic Party’s own connections to Ukraine during impeachment. Schiff’s secrecy and tight control over who got to testify allowed House Democrats to sidestep questions about the chairman’s role in instigating impeachment, the DNC’s involvement with Ukraine, and Biden’s potential role in his son’s corruption.
Ultimately, the Senate refused to convict Trump and many Republicans believed that it did little to harm him politically.
But if impeachment failed to tarnish Trump as much as Democrats hoped, it appeared successful in delegitimizing valid questions about alleged Biden corruption. After impeachment, the mainstream media showed almost no interest in investigating Biden family business ties, which were largely characterized as a series of unsubstantiated and debunked allegations.
Biden’s razor-thin swing state victories might not have materialized if the Trump campaign had been able to gain traction from a series of articles it helped orchestrate in the New York Post that reported information from a laptop owned by Hunter Biden suggesting corrupt foreign business deals that may have involved his father.
As many as 45% of Biden voters said they were unaware of Hunter’s financial scandals before the election. That’s likely because Democrats and much of the media discredited or did not report the accusations in the campaign’s final weeks – accusations bolstered after the election when Hunter admitted that he has been the subject of a federal corruption probe since 2018.
Christiane Amanpour of PBS expressed the prevailing view in an interview with Republican National Committee spokesperson Liz Harrington. When Harrington urged journalists to look into the Biden corruption story, Amanpour responded: “We’re not going to do your work for you.”
As the Senate prepares next week to take up a second impeachment of Trump, Republican objections to the Democrats’ handling of the first go-round loom large. The record of those proceedings shows that they were conducted in a highly unusual manner. In retrospect, it seems clear that they were designed not just to target Trump – but to protect Biden.
This article was originally published on Hiding Biden – How Democrats crafted the first impeachment, helping defeat Trump in 2020 with media help