Ted Cruz’s False Ukraine Narrative

There are so many lies and half-truths floating around the trial of Donald Trump that it is hard to know where to start. People who do fact checking for a living are working round the clock to try to keep up. I picked this one mainly because I am interested in it and because I see it as a deliberate, clever and sadly effective attempt to deceive masses of people. I have seen this approach used often by David Barton in his historical misadventures. Often, Barton takes a little truth, a little error and puts them together for a false story that seems plausible to the listener who wants to believe it.

In this case, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has accelerated his promotion of the Russian narrative that Joe Biden’s opposition to Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin in 2015 was motivated by a desire to bring financial gain to his son Hunter. Watch:

The main point is summarized by Cruz at the end:

If you have a sitting Vice President making public policy decisions to benefit his family to the tune of $1-million a year, that raises a serious question of corruption and a president is not only justified in asking for that to be investigated but has a responsibility to see that that’s investigated.

I suppose Cruz could defend himself by saying that he qualified his statement by saying, “if.” However, the video presents a narrative that has Joe Biden withholding over a billion in funds from Ukraine until the Ukrainian leadership fired Viktor Shokin, their prosecutor at the time. That part is true but incomplete. Cruz goes on to suggest Biden did that in order to protect his son’s company from scrutiny from investigation by that same prosecutor. That is false.

At the end of this post I provide annotated links to articles which describe the bipartisan and widespread support for the ouster of Shokin. Shokin was not investigating corruption in Ukraine which is why the U.S. wanted him removed. Biden acted on directives from the Obama administration. If anything, Shokin’s removal made an investigation of Hunter Biden’s company more likely because it increased the chances that a prosecutor with integrity would be appointed. If Biden wanted to help his son, he would have supported Shokin and wanted him to stay in office because Shokin was leaving Burisma (Hunter Biden’s company) alone.

This is fairly easy to learn by reading reports filed at the time in the international, U.S. and Ukrainian press. The Congressional Research Service also provided a similar perspective on this situation and was not controversial at all until Trump needed a defense of his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Burisma. I have no doubt that Ted Cruz has been briefed on this and is aware that Shokin was not a reformer and that Biden did not act alone or in his son’s interest to get Shokin fired. He knows that U.S. and EU policy at the time favored the removal of Shokin and that Biden was just the person on the scene to carry it out. As Vice President, Biden’s presence in Ukraine signaled how serious the donor nations were, but he wasn’t acting on his own.

I realize I am speaking to readers who know this. Most, if not all, regular readers here know this. I am revisiting this because I want to document this shady use of events to craft a false narrative for myself and my teaching. I also want to provide the links below as a resource for those who want evidence to provide skeptical friends who have been bamboozled by Trump’s defenders.

Annotated timeline of Viktor Shokin’s tenure as Prosecutor General:

February 10, 2015Shokin replaces Yarema as top prosecutor – Viktor Shokin was a deputy under former prosecutor Vitaliy Yarema. Yarema failed to prosecute officials in former President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration and generally showed no results in fighting corruption. Shokin’s nomination was opposed by corruption fighters in Ukraine since he came from the same office as Yarema. The Ukrainian Weekly reported:

Fiery debate preceded the vote in which critics warned he’d perform just as badly as Mr. Yarema, having served at the heart of Ukraine’s corrupt law enforcement system for more than a decade, including under the Yanukovych administration.

Shokin did not have a reputation as a corruption fighter when he entered the job.

July 24, 2015Shokin and Guzir were “burned” under the GPU – After just five months on the job, the Center for Combating Corruption in Ukraine grew impatient with Shokin’s lack of action and burned him and others in effigy. This is a Google translation of the Ukrainian statement underneath the video.

Avtomaydan, together with the Center for Combating Corruption and activists from Kharkiv, Poltava, under the GPU, hold an action for the resignation of sabotage reformers of Prosecutor General Shokin and his deputies Huzyr and Stoliarchuk.

September 24, 2015Remarks by US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at the Odesa Financial Forum – In his remarks, Pyatt specifically scolded the Prosecutor General’s office for interfering with a UK investigation of Burisma. Shokin’s predecessor had failed to cooperate. Then Shokin failed to hold anyone accountable for the neglect of a thorough investigation of charges against Burisma. If Biden wanted to encourage corruption and take heat from Burisma, he would have left Shokin alone. Instead, Biden carried out U.S. policy and insisted he be relieved of his position.

October 8, 2015Testimony of Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – Viktor Shokin was still Prosecutor General when Nuland said the following to the Senate committee:

Like Ukraine’s police force, the Prosecutor General’s Office has to be reinvented as an institution that serves the citizens of Ukraine, rather than ripping them off. That means it must investigate and successfully prosecute corruption and asset recovery cases – including locking up dirty personnel in the PGO itself;

October 12, 2015Sobolev’s case for firing Shokin steadily gains momentum – Ukrainian legislator Yegor Sobolev’s effort to get Shokin fired was featured in this Kyiv Post article. Biden was just one of many people inside and outside of Ukraine who wanted Shokin replaced. What did Sobolev have to gain from Shokin’s removal from office? According to Sobolev, legislators were fearful of speaking out because Shokin used the power of his office to target his political enemies.

Sobolev has so far collected 114 signatures in parliament for dismissing Shokin, still well short of the 150 signatures needed to put the issue on the agenda.

He said in an interview with the Kyiv Post that not a single signature has been collected since the Sept. 17 arrest of Radical Party lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk on suspicion of bribery. Critics see the arrest as political revenge by Shokin for Mosiychuk’s support for his firing.

“After Ihor’s arrest everyone started thinking ‘what if this happens to me tomorrow’?” Sobolev said. “One of Shokin’s goals is to show to lawmakers what consequences could happen to those who submit signatures for his dismissal.”

October 31, 2015Protesters drive to Poroshenko’s mansion to demand dismissal of Shokin – About 200 protests drove to the Ukraine president’s house to call for Shokin’s removal. Were they working for the Bidens?

February 16, 2015; March 29, 2015 – It seems clear from a review of sources during the term of Shokin that he was not popular with reformers and corruption fighters. The U.S., EU, and Ukrainian politicians and civilians wanted him removed. Joe Biden delivered the message which was consistent with U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Shokin resigned initially on February 16, 2015. He didn’t leave office right away though and had to be voted out by the legislature which occurred on March 29, 2015.

 

Ted Cruz May Face Senate Challenge from Gateway Church Wing of TX GOP

Robert Morris and Ted Cruz Wilks BrosAccording to this column from Bud Kennedy, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) may face a challenge from the religious right. Bruce Jacobson, the VP of Media and Executive Producer of James Robison’s “Life Today” television show, is considering a primary run against Cruz.
James Robison is an apostolic elder at Gateway Church. Although I haven’t seen it, I have also heard that Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris made a video in support of Jacobson. Apparently Morris stopped short of an endorsement but was viewed as giving Jacobson a boost.
Given Gateway’s financial problems, I wonder who paid for the video.
According to a Facebook thread describing Jacobson’s possible run, the opposition to Cruz comes from Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
If this potential revolt materializes, it would be a turn around for Robison and Morris who previously supported Cruz. Robison is on President Trump’s evangelical advisory committee and is said to have regular access to the President.
Cruz is already facing two primary challengers, Stefano de Stefano and Dan McQueen. Several Dem candidates are lined up in the primary to challenge him in the 2018 election but in Texas, the GOP primary winner will most likely keep the seat for the Republicans.
Jacobson’s challenge is reminiscent of David Barton’s flirtation with a 2013 primary challenge to Sen. John Cornyn. Barton’s Wallbuilders colleague Rick Green said Barton might run if he got enough Facebook likes.
In reading for this post, I was reminded of this line from Michael Gerson’s fine column in today’s WaPo.  Gerson said:

There is no group in the United States less attached to its own ideals or more eager for its own exploitation than religious conservatives.

Gerson then asks:

Do religious right leaders have any clue how foolish they appear?

I doubt they do, but they do. Jockeying for political power and influence is antithetical to the Gospel.
 

TX Source: Ted Cruz Considered for SCOTUS, Attorney General

Ted Cruz’s support for Donald Trump may pay off according to a source in the TX GOP.
According to the source, Cruz’s name has been dropped for the Supreme Court but the most likely job is Attorney General. This is consistent with a report from Jim Acosta and Bloomberg News.


Cruz has had on the job training since he once served as Associate Deputy Attorney General at DOJ under George Bush II.

Thomas Kidd: Ted Cruz's Traveling Companions Make Him a Non-Option

Today Baylor University historian Thomas Kidd opines on the plight of Republicans as the November election approaches. After reviewing the options on the GOP side (Trump, Cruz, Kasich), Kidd comes down about where I do: Kasich is (for him reluctantly, for me enthusiastically) the best choice. However, he echoes the worry of many Kasich supporters that a contested convention might not go to the Ohio governor.
Faced with a Cruz-Clinton match up, Kidd also shares my conviction on Cruz.

Sorry, folks. If it is Cruz vs. Clinton, I’m afraid that I’ll have to vote for a third party candidate, or not vote for president. In a way, it doesn’t matter what I do – Cruz would win Texas, for sure, with or without my vote. And I “get it” if many of my evangelical friends do support Cruz, and don’t share my alarm about the Barton-Beck connection. But for me, those traveling companions make Cruz a non-option.

Kidd didn’t mention Cruz’s father Rafael. Recently, Rafael Cruz told a Grove City College audience that the USA was the only nation on earth founded on the Word of God. Cruz has also said that the Constitution was divinely inspired.
Cruz and his supporters like to say that Cruz is a constitutional conservative. Given what Cruz’s advisors say about the Constitution (e.g., Barton says that the Constitution contains Bible verses quote verbatim), I have to ask what does it mean to be a constitutional conservative in the Cruzian sense. Given his advisors, I am not inspired to think he has a view which supports true freedom of conscience for all.
On the matter of religious liberty, Kidd has some reservations about Kasich. The answers I have heard from Kasich lead me to believe he has a balanced and reasonable view. Kasich has urged various groups to work together and has said that legislation may be needed to protect religious liberty. However, he is also sensitive to minority groups who understandably fear a loss of their rights in public accommodations.

Rafael Cruz: America Was Founded on the Word of God

Cruz Cruz BartonRafael Cruz came to Grove City College earlier this evening for a Q&A hosted by the college Republican club. He represented the Cruz campaign but I should hasten to add that the event was not a campaign rally and the college is not endorsing Cruz or any candidate.
Political Science professor Paul Kengor moderated the event and most of the initial hour centered around Rafael Cruz’s background in Cuba and then his assimilation to life in America. I tweeted some of the things Cruz said which can be viewed here: #rcruzgcc.
At one point, Cruz came close to sounding the seven mountains dominionism themes and said America was founded on the Word of God.
After the event, I had a moment with Rev. Cruz and asked him if his son believes the seven mountain dominionism teaching that Christians should take dominion over the mountain of government. He said that you have to be careful with the terms because people don’t understand. He said people, especially in the media, think you mean theocracy. He said it doesn’t mean a theocracy. He added that Christians should be salt and light in the government and use their influence to be salt and light.
The time was short so I was unable to follow up but I still believe Ted Cruz needs to clarify what taking dominion as president would look like.

Does Ted Cruz Agree With His Foreign Policy Council Members That White Privilege is Nonsense?

Cruz Cruz BartonTwo of Ted Cruz’s national security advisors, Jerry Boykin and Frank Gaffney were discussing President Obama’s handling of the military. Right Wing Watch pointed out an amazing exchange between the two. In particular one that stood out to me was the characterization of white privilege as “nonsense.”
Go to RWW to listen to the exchange. After complaining about the training offered in the military, Gaffney and Boykin ridiculed “white privilege” as a proper subject of training.

“Diversity, sensitivity, and white privilege,” Gaffney said derisively.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Boykin said, “on white privilege and nonsense like that. That’s where they spend their training time.”

Now I don’t know what other subjects are covered in military training. I suspect many more than these. However, it is shocking to hear advisors to a presidential candidate ridicule sensitivity training that includes the subject of white privilege. Does Ted Cruz agree with his advisors here?
Is this the kind of military climate Cruz wants to create?
In my opinion, both Boykin and Gaffney should be relieved of advising duty, and if Cruz doesn’t deal with this now and he becomes the nominee, Hillary Clinton will deal with it in November.