Obama letter said GOP supports “Russian disinformation campaign”

Former President Barack Obama’s office said in a newly released letter that Senate Republicans were supporting “a Russian disinformation campaign” through their probe into Biden family ties to a Ukrainian energy company. The letter also accused Republicans of abusing the process of obtaining presidential records.

“It arises out of efforts by some, actively supported by Russia, to shift the blame for Russian interference in the 2016 election to Ukraine,” the letter said, referring to the GOP’s focus on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Mr. Obama’s office sent the letter, dated March 13, to the National Archives and Records Administration, which maintains presidential records. It was in response to a request in November 2019 from Republican Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who asked the archive for Obama administration records related to Ukraine.

BuzzFeed News first reported on the letter.

The letter from Mr. Obama’s office calls the investigation part of a plan “to shift the blame for Russian interference in the 2016 election to Ukraine.”

“The request for early release of presidential records in order to give credence to a Russian disinformation campaign — one that has already been thoroughly investigated by a bipartisan congressional committee — is without precedent,” it said.

President Trump last year asked the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens over Hunter’s work at a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, during the Obama administration. Mr. Trump temporarily held up U.S. military aid to Ukraine to push for the investigation, which Ukraine never initiated. A whistleblower complaint about Mr. Trump’s request led to his impeachment in December. The Senate acquitted him in February.

During the impeachment inquiry, Republicans countered by focusing on Joe and Hunter Biden and probing Hunter’s work for the gas company Burisma. Republicans accused Hunter of improperly using his father’s position to obtain a lucrative seat on Burisma’s board, though there has been no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Some Republicans also accused the Ukrainian government of meddling in the 2016 election — a conspiracy theory that has been discredited by U.S. intelligence agencies, which concluded that Russia interfered and later attempted to shift blame to Ukraine

Despite raising these concerns, Mr. Obama’s office said the requested records should still be released “in the interest of countering the misinformation campaign underlying this request.”

“In doing so, we emphasize that abuse of the special access process strikes at the heart of presidential confidentiality interests and undermines the statutory framework and norms that govern access to presidential records,” the letter said.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee, which is chaired by Senator Johnson and led by Republicans, is vowing to press forward with its investigation into Hunter Biden, despite logistical challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and strong objections from Senate Democrats.

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