September 14, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

At the heart of Republican impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, Kremlin propaganda

Donald Trump is picking up where he left off.

Screenshot 2023-09-14 1.27.10 PM

Share this article


House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday the opening of an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden. The Republican leader outlined a series of allegations, but one of them stood apart from the others. “Biden used his official office to coordinate with Hunter Biden’s business partners about Hunter’s role in Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company,” he said.

Burisma – that name should sound familiar. Burisma was at the heart of Donald Trump’s first impeachment. In July 2019, during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump demanded from him an investigation into whether then-Vice President Biden had urged, in 2016, the firing of that country’s leading prosecutor for investigating corruption at Burisma. (He wasn’t investigating corruption; more on that in a moment.) In exchange, Trump would release funding that was critical to Ukraine’s military conflict with neighboring Russia. (This happened before the invasion, which elevated military conflict to war.) 

It was transparent quid pro quo. Trump would provide money that Ukraine desperately needed (money that was already allocated by the US Congress). In return, Zelensky would provide dirt on Trump’s most likely challenger in the upcoming 2020 election. For extorting a foreign ally into a conspiracy to defraud the American people, Trump was impeached by the House. (The Senate would later acquit him.)

With it in place, there’s the potential for Trump to complete unfinished business: replacing facts with lies, erasing history and undermining American sovereignty all over again. 

Zelensky refused to cooperate in part due to the truth about Viktor Shokin, who was the leading prosecutor whom Trump was referring to. Shokin was dirty. Biden wanted him fired, but not because he was too hard on the company that his son worked for. (Hunter Biden sat on its board of directors.) He wanted Shokin fired because he was too soft. Biden was speaking for the international community in demanding that Ukraine clean up its act, including apparent corruption at Burisma. 

This lie – that Biden helped his son by abusing the office of the vice presidency – was at the heart of Trump’s first impeachment. It is now, according to the announcement by the House speaker, at the heart of Biden’s impeachment inquiry (which is one of a series of steps taken by House investigators before the chamber votes on impeachment.) It is a lie that won’t die, according to some, because it’s a conspiracy theory. 

But it’s more than a conspiracy theory. 

It’s Kremlin propaganda. 


Donald Trump had more on his mind, during his phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, than quid pro quo. Also on his mind was the FBI investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which had ended only a few months beforehand, into the interference by the Russian government in the 2016 election. That investigation concluded that Russian operatives, under the personal direction of Vladimir Putin, sabotaged Democrat Hillary Clinton, thus enabling Trump’s victory. 

In addition to quid pro quo, Trump wanted to establish as a fact a conspiracy theory with origins in the Kremlin: that Ukraine, not Russia, had attacked US sovereignty in 2016, and that Clinton, not Trump, was the culprit. He didn’t collude with Russia. She colluded with Ukraine. By winning, Trump thwarted America’s enemies and defended democracy.

A GOP-led Senate report released before the 2020 election found no wrongdoing by Biden. A supplemental document, by that panel’s Democrats, said that this conspiracy theory has “roots in Russian disinformation efforts – that Ukraine and not Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election, and that Hunter Biden’s connection with Ukrainian energy company Burisma influenced former Vice President Biden’s actions and US foreign policy. These types of theories were used by Russian intelligence to obscure their interference in the 2016 election, as well as by Republicans to defend President Trump during impeachment proceedings, despite having no basis in fact.”

Trump repeated a variation of the conspiracy theory, echoed by Russian propagandists, because it “works for the Russians, who want their enemies blamed for their crimes, and it works for Trump, who fears deeply being seen as a weak and illegitimate president,” I wrote during Trump’ first impeachment trial. “The conspiracy theory … makes Trump the original victim and the ultimate hero. By extorting Ukraine, he helped himself. By extorting Ukraine, he helped Russia.”

Trump appears to be picking up where he left off. Not only did he call prominent House Republicans, including Elise Stefanik, chair of the Republican conference, in order to urge them to impeach Biden, according to CNN. He has successfully placed a key piece of Kremlin propaganda at the heart of the effort. With it in place, there’s potential for Trump to complete unfinished business: replacing facts with lies, erasing history and undermining American sovereignty all over again. 


John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

Leave a Comment

Want to comment on this post?
Click here to upgrade to a premium membership.