The Slatest

Lindsey Graham Is Now Investigating the Bidens Anyway, Cementing Ukraine’s Role as Hapless Fall Guy

Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters while getting on an elevator.
Senator Lindsey Graham at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Sen. Lindsey Graham sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Thursday to request documents on former Vice President Joe Biden and his communications with Ukrainian officials, the Washington Post reports, marking a new phase of the GOP impeachment defense. The effort by the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee comes at the end of two weeks of public impeachment hearings and can’t really be read as anything other than an attempt to bolster President Donald Trump’s self-serving conspiracy theories that led to his demand of a quid pro quo of the new Ukrainian leadership.

It’s notable that Graham wants documents from the State Department, which has belligerently refused to provide any documentation relating to what actually may constitute a crime: the president and State Department employees—like former Ambassador Kurt Volker and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, among others—engineering what amounts to an extortion scheme to get Ukraine to open an investigation into the Biden family to bolster Trump’s reelection bid. The State Department has refused to cooperate in any manner. But an investigation that the president actually might like?

“Graham’s document request suggests he is seeking to legitimize Trump’s accusations that Biden, then vice president, put pressure on Ukraine to fire its lead prosecutor to protect his son, a claim without evidence that has been disputed by officials familiar with the investigation,” the Post reports. “When Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its prosecutor by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, he was leading a charge supported by the Obama administration, many Western leaders and several Republican senators.”

During his testimony this week, Sondland said Trump never cared that much about an actual investigation of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that Hunter Biden sat on the board of—Trump just wanted the announcement of an investigation. That’s all the mud he believed he needed to muddy the water and dirty everyone involved. And now he’s got it. Thanks, Ukraine. There’s no real need for your services anymore. We’ll take it from here.

In a way, Graham’s attempt to find something, anything, that will make it look like Trump was after something legitimate shows how little there is to hold on to in defense of the president’s indefensible conduct. If you’re going to hang your hat on the laughable idea that a historically debased American president was primarily and fundamentally concerned about Ukrainian “corruption,” then one way to make that quid pro quo look less awful would be to cook up some corruption.

Will Graham’s inquiry amount to an actual investigation or just an announced one? Like the Ukrainian quid pro quo, it likely doesn’t matter. The damage is already done.