Monday, October 14, 2019

Donald Trump ad misleads about Joe Biden, Ukraine and the prosecutor

A campaign ad from President Donald Trump claims it has "facts" about the Bidens and Ukraine, but instead mashes ideas together to create a highly misleading 30-second tale.

"Fact: Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its prosecutor," the narrator says, and then cuts to a clip of a Biden statement: "if the prosecutor is not fired you’re not getting the money. Well son of a bitch, he got fired."

The ad then continues:

"Fact: the prosecutor said he was forced out for leading a corruption probe into Hunter Biden's company. Fact: Democrats want to impeach President Trump for discussing this investigation with Ukraine's President. Fact: Donald Trump won but Democrats want to overturn the election."

The ad distorts the known facts about Ukraine prosecutor general Viktor Shokin and Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, where Biden’s son Hunter Biden served on the board.

The Trump campaign announced the TV ad on Oct. 9. It has also been visible on social media.

Key takeaways:

• Biden did want Shokin fired, but western leaders had widely criticized the prosecutor general as corrupt and ineffective. Biden was leading a widespread consensus in asking for removal.

• A former Ukrainian official said the investigation into Burisma was dormant under Shokin.

• Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry for Trump’s statements suggesting he wanted Ukraine to investigate a political rival in exchange for political favors.

"Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its prosecutor."

Biden did call for Ukraine to fire Shokin, but the ad fails to note that there were widespread calls for his ouster.

Biden assumed a lead role in U.S. diplomacy toward Ukraine after a popular revolution in early 2014 that led to pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country. Shokin became top prosecutor in 2015, after Yanukovych went into exile. A frustrated Biden in Dec. 2015 threatened to withhold $1 billion unless Shokin was fired, in hopes that a new prosecutor would do more to enforce the law. According to Biden, it worked.

The Trump campaign ad includes a clip of Biden’s partial reports at a Jan. 23, 2018, event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. Biden spoke about getting a commitment from then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and from then-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

"I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours," Biden recounted. "If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a b----. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time."

"Fact: the prosecutor said he was forced out for leading a corruption probe into Hunter Biden's company."

There is evidence that many Western leaders and institutions, as well as Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, viewed Shokin as corrupt and ineffective for failing to prosecute anybody of significance, and for protecting members of Yanukovych’s and Poroshenko’s circles.

When Shokin was fired in the spring of 2016, press reports explicitly linked his ouster to corruption.

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