Joe Biden's presidential campaign released a video Tuesday evening that features a Ukrainian anti-corruption activist who previously called Hunter Biden's actions in the country -- including obtaining a lucrative board role while his father oversaw Ukraine policy as vice president -- a "very bad thing."
In its video, Biden's team used archival news footage of Daria Kaleniuk, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre, slamming Ukraine's former top prosecutor Viktor Shokin as a corrupt official who "intimidates people" with a "Soviet-system of prosecution."
Biden rapid response director Andrew Bates then used Kaleniuk's remarks to argue that Biden was justified when, by his own admission, he threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine unless Shokin was fired.
Shokin was "the embodiment of the corruption that has been hurting Ukraine's government for a very long time," Bates said in the video, asserting that Republicans and Democrats, as well as other international entities, wanted him gone. "He was being protested in the streets, and Joe Biden is the person who got him out of office."
But, the Biden campaign video didn't mention that Kaleniuk also told ABC News in a televised interview that Hunter Biden had his own apparent corruption problems.
"I think Hunter Biden did a very bad thing and he was very wrong," Kaleniuk said. "He allowed his name to be abused."
In the ABC News report which also delved into the Bidens' China dealings, journalist Tom Llamas called it "strange" that Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings, widely accused of corruption, had appointed Hunter Biden to its board of directors -- and agreed to pay Hunter Biden's company "more than a million dollars a year."
"Hunter -- a lawyer, who had just been discharged from the Navy Reserves for testing positive for cocaine," Llamas says incredulously. "He had served on other boards, but had no known experience in Ukraine or natural gas."
At the same time, Kaleniuk -- introduced in the ABC News report as a staunch Biden supporter -- separately has dismissed unsupported suggestions that Biden wanted Shokin fired because he was investigating Burisma.
"Shokin was not investigating; He didn’t want to investigate Burisma," Kaleniuk told The Washington Post this past July. "Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation, but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation."
Bates told Fox News in response: "Donald Trump is so terrified of running against Joe Biden that he engulfed himself in a constitutional crisis. He's been impeached because he was caught red-handed trying to coerce a foreign country into lying about the vice president and bailing out his flailing re-election campaign. The fact that the Trump campaign just admitted their best move is to cite one of the most authoritative figures who has conclusively debunked their own candidate's conspiracy theory says everything about how bankrupt their position is. I would like to thank them for accidentally making our case for us."
The apparent slip-up by the Biden campaign came as the first day of the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump was underway -- proceedings that began after Trump suggested Ukraine investigate the Bidens' business dealings there.
"'Our impeachment contains in its underlying facts that Biden's son made $600k/yr at a no-show Ukrainian gas company board job, so everyone needs to keep the lips zipped on Biden corruption for the moment.' --> This is the amusing corner the Dems have walked themselves into," Matt Bruenig, the founder of the left-wing think tank People's Policy Project, tweeted earlier Tuesday.
Government officials have raised similar concerns. During the House impeachment proceedings, a career State Department employee testified that he had flagged Hunter Biden's apparent conflict of interest, but was told essentially not to bother the vice president's office.
Democrats have said Republicans were expressing interest in Hunter Biden's role with Burisma only because it could benefit them politically, given that they were aware of it for several years. But, commentators on both sides of the aisle have said, finger-pointing wouldn't excuse the Bidens' conduct.
"Impossible to justify $50k/month for Hunter Biden serving on a Ukrainian energy board w zero expertise unless he promised to sell access," political scientist Ian Bremmer previously tweeted.