Here’s what we know about the Bidens and Ukraine.
Hunter Biden and Ukraine
After Joe Biden became Vice President in 2009, his son Hunter, a lawyer by training, pursued business opportunities with foreign parties, often in ways that intersected with his father’s work. In May 2014, Cyprus-registered Burisma Holdings, one of the largest natural gas companies in Ukraine, announced that Hunter Biden had joined its board.
The company was at a sensitive point. Mykola Zlochevsky, who founded Burisma in 2002, later served as Ukraine’s environment minister under President Viktor Yanukovych. In February 2014, mass protests swept Yanukovych from power. Western governments encouraged Ukraine’s new leaders to investigate corruption. The U.K. froze $23 million in London bank accounts linked to Zlochevsky and sought Ukraine’s help to build a money-laundering case.
After the U.K. request, Ukrainian prosecutors opened their own investigation into Zlochevsky, first looking at whether he embezzled public funds. Burisma and Zlochevsky have denied any wrongdoing. Zlochevsky’s lawyer, Petro Boyko, declined to comment.
That spring, Burisma began adding several prominent foreigners to its board. In a statement announcing Hunter Biden’s role, Burisma said it was part of an effort to introduce “best corporate practices” at the firm. It said he would advise on “transparency, corporate governance and responsibility, international expansion, and other priorities.”
Hunter Biden’s compensation for serving on the board was apparently routed through Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC, a U.S. company set up by one of his business partners, Devon Archer, who also served as a Burisma director. Bank records from 2014 and 2015, disclosed in unrelated litigation, show the company receiving funds from Burisma and paying more than $850,000 to the younger Biden. He remained on the board until earlier this year.
The Zlochevsky Investigations
The U.S. sent a letter to Ukrainian prosecutors in December 2014 complaining that they weren’t assisting the U.K. authorities with their Zlochevsky investigation and warned of negative consequences if the lack of cooperation continued. In January 2015, the U.K. case collapsed and a court released the $23 million in seized funds.
The Ukrainians’ own inquiries into Zlochevsky expanded to include tax evasion and the awarding of gas licenses during his time as minister. Viktor Shokin, who served first as a deputy prosecutor and then as prosecutor general, handled at least some aspects of the investigation.
U.S. officials continued to accuse the prosecutor general’s office of failing to fight corruption. In a September 2015 speech, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine faulted the office for “subverting” the U.K. probe.
Vice President Biden’s Role in Ukraine
Joe Biden played a key role in U.S. diplomacy with Ukraine. He has said he made at least a dozen visits to Kyiv as Vice President. On December 8, 2015, Biden delivered the message directly to Ukrainian officials. According to his account, boasting that if Shokin wasn’t removed in 6 hours he was leaving. “If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,” he told them, according to an account of the conversation he gave at a 2018 conference.
The Vice President of the U.S. had threatened to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee unless Shokin was removed from office and at this point the question remains, but why? Bowing to pressure from international donors, the Ukrainian Parliament voted on March 29, 2016 to remove a prosecutor general who had clung to power for months. Shokin was ousted in March 2016, and the loan guarantee came through.
The International Monetary Fund was also faulting Ukraine for a failure to tackle corruption, and demonstrators on the streets of Kyiv were calling for Shokin’s ouster.
Joe Biden has said that he’s never spoken with his son about his foreign business dealings. Hunter told the New Yorker earlier this year that they once touched on Ukraine obliquely. “Dad said, ‘I hope you know what you are doing,’ and I said, ‘I do.’”
In January 2017, Burisma issued a statement saying that “all legal proceedings and pending criminal allegations” against Zlochevsky and the company were closed and that it had agreed to make up any unpaid taxes if it was found deficient.
Whether Burisma or Hunter Biden had anything to gain from Shokin’s dismissal hinges on whether the prosecutor was a threat to the company. In May, Shokin said in an interview with the Ukrainian website Strana.ua that he had been actively pursuing an investigation into Burisma and believes he was fired because of it.
Trump and Allies Press for Investigation
This is the real Biden crime. Biden never should have been engaged in Ukraine because he had a conflict of interest.
18 U.S.C. § 208: Acts affecting a personal financial interest
18 U.S.C. § 208, the basic criminal conflict of interest statute, prohibits an executive branch employee from participating personally and substantially in a particular Government matter that will affect his own financial interests, as well as the financial interests of:
- His spouse or minor child;
- His general partner;
- An organization in which he serves as an officer, director, trustee, general partner or employee; and
- A person with whom he is negotiating for or has an arrangement concerning prospective employment
Yuriy Lutsenko, who succeeded Shokin as prosecutor general, said in May that he was planning to hand information to U.S. law enforcement officials about payments made by Burisma so they could check whether Hunter Biden paid tax on that income. But that, too, would be a U.S. matter.
On the July call with President Trump, Zelenskiy said he would appoint a new prosecutor general and pledged that “he or she will look into the situation” involving Biden.
1 Here’s the corruption behind the hoax impeachment and what Obama, Hillary and George Soros are trying to hide.
2 History of Burisma Holdings: Britain was investigating Burisma Holdings for money laundering. Britain had frozen $23 million in a London bank account. Britain asked Ukraine to investigate and Ukraine wouldn’t share any information.
3 In 2016, Ukrainian prosecutors were investigating into a nonprofit in their homeland known as the Anti-Corruption Action Centre(AntAC).
4 This was part of a larger probe by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office into whether $4.4 million in US funds to fight corruption inside the former Soviet republic had been improperly diverted.
5 The prosecutors were faced with resistance coming from the US Embassy in Kyiv, where the Obama administration was trying to get the Ukrainian government to back off its investigation of both the U.S. aid and the group.
6 Then-embassy Charge d’ Affaires, number two guy, George Kent wrote the prosecutor’s office in April 2016 in a letter that argued US officials had no concerns about how the US aid had been spent; Really!
7 December 8, 2015, enters Joe Biden threatening Ukraine would not receive a Billion dollars in funding if the Ukrainian prosecutor wasn’t fired who was investigating Hunter Biden with Burisma Holdings.
8 Shokin was fired. Then Yuri Lutsenko was named prosecutor general and invited to meet new US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
9 Lutsenko was stunned when the ambassador “gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute.” The list included a founder of the AntAC group and two members of Parliament who vocally supported the group’s anti-corruption reform agenda.
10 Turns out that the group that Ukrainian law enforcement was probing was co-founded by the Obama administration & liberal megadonor George Soros. And it was collaborating with the FBI agents investigating then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s business activities with pro-Russian figures in Ukraine.
12 Lutsenko said the embassy applied pressure because it did not want Americans to see who was being funded with American taxpayer dollars.
13 In the end, no action was taken against AntAC and it remains thriving today. This conflicts with the State Department’s official statement last week after Lutsenko first mentioned the do-not-prosecute list.
14 The embassy responded that the claim was a fabrication and a sign that corruption is alive and well inside Ukraine. Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko gives a press conference in Kyiv on March 7, 2019. Two weeks later, Lutsenko accused US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch of giving him a list of people who should be exempt from legal prosecution in Ukraine.
Lutsenko made the claim during an interview with the Washington D.C. newspaper, The Hill published on March 20, 2019.
“Unfortunately, at my first meeting with U.S. ambassador (Marie Yovanovitch), she gave me a list of people whom we should not prosecute,” Lutsenko said. He said he had found this unacceptable.
But according to The Hill, the State Department called Lutsenko’s claim that he had been given such a list “an outright fabrication.”
Lutsenko said that he assumed that the Prosecutor General’s Office hasn’t received promised aid from the United States because of his rejection of the list.
“A portion of the funds, namely $4.4 million, were designated and were foreseen for the recipient, the Prosecutor General’s Office. But we never received it,” he said. “Actually, we got a letter from the U.S. embassy, from the Ambassador, that the money that we are speaking about (was) under the full control of the U.S. embassy.”
15 The embassy did press Ukrainian prosecutors to back off what normally would be considered an internal law enforcement matter inside a sovereign country.
17 And more than a half-dozen U.S. and Ukrainian sources confirmed the AntAC case wasn’t the only one in which American officials exerted pressure on Ukrainian investigators in 2016.
18 The AntAC anecdote highlights a little-known fact that the pursuit of foreign corruption has resulted in an unusual alliance between the U.S. government and a political mega-donor; Soros.
In a letter, sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine in April 2016, the embassy expressed concerns about the prosecution of prominent activist Vitaliy Shabunin’s Anti-Corruption Action Center for alleged misappropriation of funds that the organization received as grant support from the U.S. embassy.
19 After the Obama Justice Department launched its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative a decade ago to prosecute corruption in other countries, the State Department, Justice Department and FBI outsourced some of its work in Ukraine to groups funded by Soros; Big Corruption.
20 The Hungarian-American businessman Soros is one of the largest donors to American liberal causes, a champion of the U.S. kleptocracy crackdown and a man with extensive business interests in Ukraine.
21 The U.S.-Soros collaboration was visible in Kyiv. Several senior Department of Justice (DOJ) officials and FBI agents appeared in pictures as participants or attendees at Soros-sponsored events and conferences; Implicating FBI and DOJ.
22 One attendee was Karen Greenaway, then the FBI supervisor in charge of international fraud cases and one of the lead agents in the Manafort investigation in Ukraine. She attended multiple such events and won glowing praise in a social media post from AntAC’s executive director.
23 In one event during 2016, Greenaway and Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch participated alongside AntAC’s executive director, Daria Kaleniuk, and Lutsenko was present. The message was clear: The embassy supported AntAC.
24 Greenaway recently retired, and Soros’s AntAC soon after announced she was joining its supervisory board.
25 Internal memos from Soros’s umbrella charity organization, Open Society Foundations, describe a concerted strategy of creating friendships inside key government agencies such as State, DOJ and the FBI that can be leveraged inside the countries Soros was targeting for anti-corruption activism.
26 A memo shows Soros’s organization wanted to make Ukraine a top priority, starting in 2014, and planned to use the Anti-Corruption Action Centre as its lead.
27 The memo included a chart of Ukrainians the Soros team wanted to have pursued, including ties to Manafort. Senior US law enforcement officials confirmed that the early kleptocracy collaborations inside Ukraine led to highly visible US actions against the oligarch Dmitri Firtash.
28 A major target of the Soros group, and Manafort. Firtash is now represented by former Hillary Clinton lawyer Lanny Davis and former US Attorney Dan Webb.
29 Michael Vachon, a spokesman for Soros, deferred any comment about AntAC to the group. But he did confirm his boss supported the continued investigation of Russia collusion allegations against Trump well past 2016.
30 And the tale of AntAC raises some cogent questions:
Why would the US Embassy intervene on a Ukrainian internal investigation and later deny it exerted such pressure?
Did Soros’s role as a major political funder have any impact?
Do Americans want U.S. tax dollars commingled with activists’ private funds when it comes to anti-corruption probes? Hell No from Millions Americans.
Sequels are rarely better than the original.
If we have learned anything over the last six days, as the feeding frenzy over the whistleblower has overtaken official Washington, it is this: Democrats want to impeach President Trump and they do not care if the facts support their cause.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally got with the program and announced she would support an impeachment inquiry. She has resisted impeachment for months as her caucus has grown restless. She was considering the House Democratic majority. I thought she was disciplined and strategic.
She got ahead of the facts and now she is trapped.
As the transcript of the July phone call between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian president was released Wednesday morning, several key claims made by Democrats and their media allies unraveled.
There was no “quid pro quo.” We were promised that Mr. Trump was explicit. The transcript shows no evidence of that.
The president did not mention defense aid even once. We were promised that Mr. Trump withheld defensive foreign aid as a bribe to secure an investigation of the Bidens. He did not mention the subject of defensive aid once during the call.
The only investigation that Mr. Trumpbrought up himself, unprompted, was an investigation into foreign meddling in the 2016 election, as it related to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee email server. Democrats used to care deeply about this subject.
The Ukrainian president was the first to mention Mr. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and he asked that Mr. Giuliani travel to Ukraine.
Despite news reports that Mr. Trump urged an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter as many as eight times on the call, the transcript shows he mentioned them only once. The Ukrainian president specifically said Wednesday he did not feel pressured by Mr. Trump.
This is far too thin for the extreme constitutional remedy of impeachment.
When the public is against the party pushing impeachment, pushing forward with this drastic step is bad politics. Republicans learned this painful lesson in the 1990s.
Democrats have now committed themselves to this extreme step, and they have set themselves up to fail their rabid base or pursue a path the public opposes.
It appears Democrats learned nothing from the Russia collusion hoax.
After more than two years of Democrats’ hyperventilating, Mr. Trump was cleared of collusion and conspiracy. Democrats and their media allies overhyped their claims and won Pulitzer Prizes along the way. But they failed in their objective, and soon we will learn more about the origins of the Russia collusion hoax and FISA warrant abuses.
I will make a prediction.
In the end, the Ukraine investigation and resulting impeachment inquiry will be far worse for Mr. Biden than it will be for Mr. Trump.
Will the former vice president’s calls to Ukraine be released? How many trips did he make there? With whom did he meet? How did his son, with zero experience in Ukraine or energy, secure a $50,000 a month contract with a Ukrainian natural gas company and a highly lucrative contract for his bank?
These questions deserve answers.
The whistleblower complaint has now been provided to the House and Senate Intelligence committees. The Intelligence Community Inspector General said the whistleblower had “partisan bias” in his or her background. We have also learned that the whistleblower never even heard the phone call directly.
Almost everything Democrats have said about this story is probably false.
Instead of overhyping this story, Democrats should have been more careful and measured. But they could not help themselves.
Instead, their hatred of Mr. Trump led to them getting out on a limb. That limb was just sawed off.
• Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney reelection campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.