A State Department official focused on Ukraine policy told Congress this week he raised concerns about Hunter Biden’s role on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas firm in 2015, but was rebuffed by former Vice President Joe Biden’s staff which said the office was preoccupied with Beau Biden’s cancer battle, Fox News has confirmed. This article was posted on October 18, 2019.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, who testified behind closed doors before committees spearheading the formal House impeachment inquiry, told congressional investigators that he had qualms about Hunter Biden’s role on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.
The Washington Post first reported details of Kent’s testimony on Friday, which included his concerns that the younger Biden’s role in the company could complicate U.S. diplomatic efforts with Ukrainian officials, and raised the issue of a possible conflict of interest. Kent also testified that he was worried that Hunter Biden’s position would make Ukrainian officials think he was a channel of influence to his father, who was vice president at the time.
A congressional source confirmed to Fox News on Friday that Kent testified that when he brought his concerns to the office of the vice president in 2016, his staff “blew him off” and ignored the issue involving the younger Biden’s role at the firm. The Post first reported that the staff said they did not have the “bandwidth” to deal with the issue, as his other son, Beau Biden, was battling cancer. Beau Biden died in 2015.
Biden’s campaign responded to this story on Friday by ripping into President Trump. “Donald Trump’s unprecedently corrupt administration is melting down because of the scandal he touched-off by trying to get Ukraine to lie about Joe Biden–and as the vice president said yesterday, he should release his tax returns or shut up,” a Biden campaign spokesperson told Fox News. “On Joe Biden’s watch, the U.S. made eradicating corruption a centerpiece of our policies toward Ukraine including achieving the removal of an inept prosecutor who shielded wrongdoers from accountability.”
Meanwhile, during his deposition on Tuesday, sources told Fox News that Kent spoke extensively about accusations of corruption linked to Burisma, noting it was a “big problem” as it relates to Ukraine.
Kent had repeatedly raised concerns with the Obama administration about the company, specifically providing an example in 2016, when he raised concerns with the Obama administration’s USAID about dropping a planned event with Burisma. Kent testified that the event involved children, and he did not feel comfortable with photos of children in conjunction with Burisma.
Sources also told Fox News that Kent told congressional investigators about the Obama administration’s efforts to remove Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin from his post. At the time, Shokin was investigating Mykola Zlochevsky, the former minister of ecology and natural resources of Ukraine — also the founder of Burisma.
Shokin was fired in April 2016, and his case was closed by the prosecutor who replaced him, Yuriy Lutsenko. Biden once famously boasted on camera that when he was vice president and leading the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire Shokin — who was investigating Burisma Holdings while Hunter sat on the board.
Biden allies, though, maintain that his intervention prompting the firing of Shokin had nothing to do with his son, but was rather tied to corruption concerns.
However, Kent testified that while Shokin faced accusations of corruption, his replacement, Lutsenko, did too and that both ex-prosecutors were godfathers to former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s children. However, according to sources, Kent said that while the United States pushed hard for Shokin to be fired, no one ever pushed for Lutsenko to be fired.
Shokin was widely accused of corruption on both sides of the Atlantic. Biden has said that the international community was supportive and pushing for his firing, but sources told Fox News that Kent testified that it was the United States who led that international effort to get him removed. Kent also noted, according to sources, that the international community was deferential to the U.S. on the topic.
Kent’s testimony comes amid the House’s formal impeachment inquiry, launched earlier this month by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., after revelations surrounding Trump’s highly-controversial phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The impeachment inquiry is being led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, and acting Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney–who filled the post after Rep. Elijah Cummings’ death on Thursday.
The Ukraine controversy, which sparked the impeachment inquiry, began when a whistleblower reported that the president had pushed Zelensky to launch an investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings in Ukraine—specifically, why Biden pressured Poroshenko to fire Shokin, who was investigating Burisma Holdings, where Hunter was on the board. The president’s request came after millions in U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, something critics have cited as evidence of a quid pro quo arrangement. The whistleblower’s complaint stated their concerns that Trump was soliciting a foreign power to influence the 2020 presidential election.
The White House and the president’s allies have denied any sort of quid pro quo, and the Biden’s have maintained that they did “nothing wrong.”
During Tuesday night’s Democratic primary debate, Biden was asked about his son’s role at Burisma, to which he stated: “My son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government, which was to root out corruption in Ukraine and that’s what we should be focusing on.”
Earlier that day, Hunter Biden. during an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” likewise defended his role, claiming he did nothing improper, though he did acknowledge it was “poor judgment” to have joined the company’s board.
And yet, as much as the media wants to dig into the palace intrigue of the Trump-Ukraine non-troversy, Joe Biden’s name keeps coming up. Why? Well, there could be something here. why was Hunter on the board of Burisma without having any experience in the energy sector, being paid $50,000/month while his dad was still VP. Sounds like an access point, right? The Biden camp has been abysmal responding to this story, which has only increased scrutiny. Biden’s answer at the most recent debate was garbage as well. Someone on Fox News (it was the radio so I couldn’t get the name) pretty much nailed the campaign’s line: we did nothing wrong, but we’ll never do it again.
Now, we have some diplomat saying he raised concerns about the Biden-Ukraine arrangement but was “rebuffed” back in 2015, according to The Washington Post. The publication also noted the Democrats danger in going hardcore on this impeachment push based on this Ukraine phone call Trump had; it keeps the Biden angle in the news. And it’s not going away anytime soon:
A career State Department official overseeing Ukraine policy told congressional investigators this week that he had raised concerns in early 2015 about then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son serving on the board of a Ukrainian energy company but was turned away by a Biden staffer, according to three people familiar with the testimony.
George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, testified Tuesday that he worried that Hunter Biden’s position at the firm Burisma Holdings would complicate efforts by U.S. diplomats to convey to Ukrainian officials the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality rules surrounding the deposition.
Kent said he had concerns that Ukrainian officials would view Hunter Biden as a conduit for currying influence with his father, said the people. But when Kent raised the issue with Biden’s office…
The testimony by Kent offers a reminder that as Democrats probe President Trump’s alleged actions in pressuring Ukraine to dig up compromising information on Biden, the impeachment inquiry also threatens to keep alive questions about the former vice president’s handling of his son’s foreign work at a precarious moment for his 2020 presidential campaign.
Biden’s defenders said that at the time this issue was brought up, the vice president was dealing with his son’s brain cancer. Still, the whole situation remains shaky for the Biden camp. Over at The Federalist, Sean Davis wrote that it was the Obama administration that facilitated the firing of the prosecutor looking into Burisma on corruption charges:
A top U.S. diplomat and expert on Ukraine testified to Congress yesterday that the Obama administration — with former Vice President Joe Biden as its point man — orchestrated the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating a company connected to the Biden family, sources familiar with the testimony told The Federalist.
The testimony of George Kent, a State Department official who works on the agency’s Ukraine portfolio, directly contradicts claims that the Obama administration was merely following the lead of the so-called international community in demanding the firing of Viktor Shokin, a controversial Ukrainian prosecutor who was reportedly investigating Burisma, a global energy company long suspected of corruption and money laundering. In 2014, Burisma paid Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, tens of thousands of dollars to sit on its board despite the younger Biden’s complete lack of expertise or professional experience running a multi-national oil and gas concern.
Kent told lawmakers on Tuesday that the Obama administration spearheaded the efforts to have Shokin removed from his position as the top federal prosecutor in Ukraine. Kent said the international community — namely the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Western nations within the European Union — were deferential to U.S. directives on the matter. At a 2018 event organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, Joe Biden — who was tasked by then-President Barack Obama to lead the U.S. government’s efforts in Ukraine — bragged about threatening to withhold a billion-dollar loan guarantee if the Ukrainian government refused to fire Shokin.
After Shokin was fired, he was replaced by Yuri Lutsenko, who also has been dogged by allegations of corruption. The Obama administration never demanded Lutsenko’s ouster, despite worries that Lutsenko was similarly corrupt and untrustworthy.
So, while we’re on the subject of quid pro quo, maybe it’s Biden and not Trump that should be worried.
Recommended from Townhall