Fact check: False conspiracy theories allege connection between Biden victory and Ukraine

Matthew Brown, USA TODAY
·7 min read

The claim: Joe Biden was involved in corrupt behavior in Ukraine that is related to the November election

Since near the start of his campaign for the presidency, President-elect Joe Biden has been dogged by accusations of corruption relating to his involvement in the ouster of a top corruption prosecutor in Ukraine.

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The conspiracy theories about Biden and his family crested in the weeks before the 2020 presidential election, when major conservative political figures repeated claims of varying truthfulness about Biden and his son Hunter.

One recent Facebook post by Omar Faruque repeats several of these claims, alleging that Biden was involved in corruption and that members of the Obama administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., covered up his criminality. It also begins with the claim that Biden "never won the election."

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USA TODAY reached out to Faruque for comment.

Biden won the 2020 election. Further, there is no evidence that Biden participated in corrupt or otherwise improper behavior in Ukraine. The various conspiracy theories about the Biden family and Ukraine draw on false information and perpetuate inaccurate narratives about Biden’s time as vice president and his victory in the November election.

Biden’s victory in the presidential election

Biden was certified as the winner of the 2020 presidential election by the United States Congress on Jan. 6. That was preceded by a Dec. 14 vote during which states' electors across the country formally cast their votes for the president and vice president, confirming that Biden won 306 Electoral College votes to President Donald Trump’s 232 votes.

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The Trump campaign filed dozens of lawsuits contesting the results of the election, and state legislatures held hearings to scrutinize potential evidence of fraud in the election.

In high-profile battleground states that Biden won, like Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the electoral apparatus was examined by state and federal courts, federal investigators and state audits. Journalists also investigated the election for evidence of fraud and found no evidence of widespread fraud.

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The Supreme Court struck down two lawsuits alleging widespread fraud in the election.

Just after the election, the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency declared that the general election was the most secure in U.S. history.

Conspiracy theories to the contrary have been repeatedly debunked by investigations led by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Joe Biden’s involvement in Ukraine

Accusations that Biden was involved in corruption in Ukraine trace back to his part in Western democracy promotion efforts in Ukraine in 2014. Shortly after Russia invaded the country that same year, Biden helped to spearhead the alliance of countries that sought to bolster Ukrainian democracy against Russian aggression.

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As part of that effort, Western diplomats and Ukraine watchers in 2016 called for the firing of Ukraine’s general prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who officials did not believe was adequately prosecuting corruption in the young democracy.

Conspiracy theories, like the Facebook post, insinuate that Biden sought to withhold money from Ukraine for some reasons of corruption.

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The conspiracy theory has been repeated by the official White House account to draw a false equivalence between Biden’s involvement in Ukraine and Trump’s pressuring of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a call that resulted in his first impeachment.

This narrative is inaccurate; as part of the broader Western effort to strengthen democracy in Ukraine, the Obama administration determined that using $1 billion in aid to Ukraine as leverage was in the interest of the United States, its Western allies and Ukraine itself.

Regardless of the merits of that decision, Biden did not stand to directly benefit financially or politically from the move, nor was he the final decision-maker on the issue.

Both Bidens have denied any wrongdoing.

Comments alleging that Biden said “You son of a bitch” to Ukrainian officials are true, per Biden’s own comments during a panel at the Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington, D.C., think tank. The comment, though, is not indicative of any kind of corruption.

Biden investigations and impeachment

Various other conspiracy theories have alleged that the Obama administration knew about potential corruption in Ukraine involving Biden, but the information was somehow covered up. These conspiracy theories, again included in the Facebook post, also occasionally allege that Pelosi impeached Trump as a political move for Biden.

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There is no evidence that the Obama administration conducted investigations into Biden’s involvement in Ukraine.

A Republican-led Senate investigation into the Biden family’s activities in Ukraine, concluded in September, confirmed that some Obama administration officials expressed concern about Biden’s son, Hunter, being seated on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings after Biden began leading anti-corruption efforts in the country.

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That same Senate investigation, however, found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the senior Biden. The central claim of conspiracy theories about the Biden family and Ukraine, that Biden sought the removal of Shokin to protect Burisma, is false.

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There is also no evidence to suggest that Pelosi sought to impeach Trump to cover up alleged wrongdoing by Biden or anyone else. It is unclear how Trump’s impeachment would eliminate evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either Biden.

Our ruling: False

Various iterations of conspiracy theories alleging wrongdoing on the part of Joe Biden in Ukraine have been investigated and debunked. Claims that the 2020 presidential election was the result of corruption are also false. The merging of the two conspiracy theories creates an equally incorrect narrative. We rate this claim FALSE based on our research.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Conspiracy theories falsely link Biden's victory, Ukraine