Remember Burisma? Expect to hear a lot more about it as Biden surges

Dylan Stableford
Senior Writer

Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. There are four days until the next contests in the Democratic primary and 242 days until the 2020 presidential election.

After Bernie Sanders won the Nevada caucuses, cementing his position as the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic nomination, Republicans were preparing to take on the Vermont senator over his self-proclaimed democratic socialism and his praise for literacy programs in communist Cuba and for the Moscow subway system.

But now, after Joe Biden’s remarkable comeback in the Democratic primary, those same Republicans are turning their guns back to the former vice president and his son Hunter, a line of attack they employed for much of last year and, it seems, only temporarily shelved. 

For those who might have forgotten, the issue concerns Hunter Biden’s appointment to the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, while his father was overseeing U.S. policy toward the government. 

For the GOP, Burisma is emerging as the Clinton emails of this presidential cycle, complete with chants of “lock him up.” 

President Trump and his allies claim Joe Biden acted corruptly in his dealings with Ukraine as vice president. Trump’s repeated calls for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens led to his impeachment by the House last year, and were at the center of the Senate trial that ended with his acquittal.

Joe Biden has denied any wrongdoing by him or his son, and there is no evidence the older Biden acted inappropriately in carrying out U.S. policy in Ukraine. Still, as the former vice president inches closer to the Democratic nomination, expect to hear a whole lot about Burisma.

“Burisma wasn’t necessary in the Republican playbook when Biden was down and out,” New York Times correspondent Peter Baker said on MSNBC. “He was a fourth-place, fifth-place finisher in the early primary states, and they had bigger fish to fry. Now that Biden is resurgent, you’re going to hear a lot more about Burisma and Hunter Biden.”

Earlier this week, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to fellow members saying he wants to begin issuing subpoenas for witnesses and documents in the panel’s ongoing investigation of Hunter Biden and Burisma.

Then-Vice President Joe Biden with his son Hunter in 2010. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

On Thursday, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a member of the committee, told reporters that the probe appears to be politically motivated — and that he was not in favor of moving forward with it.

“There’s no question that the appearance of looking into Burisma and Hunter Biden appears political,” Romney said. “And I think people are tired of these kinds of political investigations. I would hope that if there’s something of significance that needs to be evaluated, that it would be done by perhaps the FBI or some other agency that’s not as political as perhaps our committee.”

“We also have a lot of work to do on matters that are not related to Burisma,” Romney added. “We probably ought to focus on those things.”

Romney said he would speak to Johnson as to “whether there’s something that might be helpful to clarify exactly what has happened in the past and put this behind us.”

It’s doubtful Johnson or the GOP are ready to do that.

“Joe Biden has never adequately answered these questions,” Johnson said on Fox News Wednesday. “I’ve said repeatedly, if there’s wrongdoing, the American people need to understand that.”

Johnson said his panel is close to releasing an interim report on its investigations into the Bidens and Burisma.

“It’s not our fault that Joe Biden, Hunter Biden got wrapped up in the whole Ukrainian story,” Johnson said. “We are not closing our eyes to this.”

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Romney said he would vote for the subpoena next week after Johnson assured that interviews with witnesses would be done in a “closed setting without a hearing or public spectacle.”

Stay tuned.

Michael Bloomberg in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami on Tuesday. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Money well spent?

Billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent more than $500 million on his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, appearing on the ballot for the first (and last) time in the race on Super Tuesday. What did he get for his money? Four delegates from American Samoa, or roughly $125 million per delegate.

The Washington Post published a comprehensive postmortem on Bloomberg’s ad spending on Thursday, a day after he dropped out and endorsed Biden.

According to the Post estimates, he spent between $60 and $220 per vote in 14 states that held primaries on Tuesday. (The analysis does not include what Bloomberg spent on other aspects of his campaign, such as staffing and transportation.)

Bloomberg got the most bang for his buck in Colorado and Virginia, and the least ROI in Minnesota and Maine.

• Minnesota: $220 per vote ($13 million spent; 62,000 votes)

• Texas: $180 per vote ($54 million spent; 301,000 votes)

• Maine: $180 per vote ($4.3 million spent; 24,000 votes)

• California: $170 per vote ($74 million spent; 440,000 votes)

• Utah: $170 per vote ($5.1 million spent; 30,000 votes)

• Alabama: $170 per vote ($8.9 million spent; 53,000 votes)

• Vermont: $150 per vote ($2.3 million spent; 15,000 votes)

• Oklahoma: $130 per vote ($5.6 million spent; 42,000 votes)

• Arkansas: $120 per vote ($4.8 million spent; 39,000 votes)

• Tennessee: $100 per vote ($7.9 million spent; 80,000 votes)

• North Carolina: $90 per vote ($15 million spent; 172,000 votes)

• Massachusetts: $70 per vote ($12 million spent; 157,000 votes)

• Colorado: $60 per vote ($10 million spent; 169,000 votes)

• Virginia: $60 per vote ($7.4 million spent; 128,000 votes)

Source: Washington Post


A note of caution: When doing political advertising calculations on live television, make sure to double-check your math.

Verbatim

“Gender in this race, you know, that is the trap question for every woman. If you say, ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says, ‘Whiner!’ And if you say, ‘No, there was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, ‘What planet do you live on?’ I promise you this: I’ll have a lot more to say on that subject later on.”

— Elizabeth Warren, when asked by a reporter to talk about the role gender played in her failed presidential campaign

“No, I think lack of talent was her problem. She had a tremendous lack of talent. She was a good debater, she destroyed Mike Bloomberg very quickly, like it was nothing, that was easy for her. But people don’t like her. She’s a very mean person, and people don’t like her. People don’t want that. They like a person like me, that’s not mean.”

— President Trump to reporters when asked if sexism played a role in Warren’s demise

“Here’s the deal, folks: Social Security is on the ballot this year, and the choice couldn’t be clearer: I’ll protect and expand it. Donald Trump will cut it and take it away.”

— Joe Biden on Twitter Thursday

“Here’s the deal: Joe Biden has repeatedly advocated for cuts to Social Security. I’ve fought my whole career to protect and expand it.”

— Bernie Sanders’s tweeted response

“Get real, Bernie. The only person who’s going to cut Social Security if he’s elected is Donald Trump. Maybe you should spend your time attacking him.”

— Biden’s rejoinder

“I will protect your Social Security and Medicare, just as I have for the past 3 years. Sleepy Joe Biden will destroy both in very short order, and he won’t even know he’s doing it!”

— President Trump’s reply

Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Detroit on Tuesday. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

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