Even former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was concerned about Hunter Biden’s appointment to Burisma Holdings’ board of directors in 2014, and the potential for a conflict of interest with having the son of the Vice President serving in a company under active investigation by Ukrainian prosecutors for corruption.
That’s one of the biggest takeaways from Yovanovitch’s public testimony before Congress. An interesting exchange occurred between U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Yovanovitch, where Stefanik asked about a prospective Q&A that was provided to Yovanovitch to address the conflict of interests the Bidens were creating.
Stefanik asked, “The first time you personally became aware of Burisma was actually when you were being prepared by the Obama State Department for your Senate confirmation hearings [in 2016], and this was in the form of practice questions and answers. This was your deposition and you testified that on this particular practice Q&A with the Obama State Department, it wasn’t just generally about Burisma and corruption, it was specifically about Hunter Biden and Burisma, is that correct?
Yovanovitch replied, “Yes, it is.”
The prospective question, posted on Scribd by reporter John Solomon, stated, “Do you have any comment on Hunter Biden, the Vice President’s son, serving on the board of Burisma, a major Ukrainian gas company?”
The recommended answer for Yovanovitch was “For questions on Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma, I would refer you to Vice President Biden’s office.”
Stefanik then quoted Yovanovitch’s testimony in 2016, when she said, “The way the question was phrased in this model Q&A was what can you tell us about Hunter Biden’s, you know, being named to the Board of Directors?”
Stefanik continued, explaining the significance of State’s CYA on Hunter Biden, “So, for the millions of Americans watching, President Obama’s own State Department was so concerned about potential conflicts of interest from Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma that they raised it themselves while prepping this wonderful Ambassador nominee before her confirmation. And yet our own Democratic colleagues and Chairman of this committee cry foul when we dare ask that same question that the Obama State Department was so concerned about.”
Here, Stefanik hits a home run. In fact, the entire basis for the Democrats’ impeachment of President Donald Trump is because Trump raised Hunter Biden’s role on the Burisma board, and Vice President Joe Biden’s admitted role in firing the prosecutor who says he was investigating Burisma for corruption, in his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy when he asked Ukraine to “look into” Burisma once again.
Joe Biden bragged he had the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Viktor Shokin, who says he was investigating Burisma and wanted Hunter Biden questioned, fired by threatening $1.2 billion of loan guarantees to Ukraine. In the phone call with Zelensky, Trump said, “It sounds horrible to me.”
Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, served on the Board of Directors from 2014 to 2019.
After Trump brought up Burisma and Biden’s role in getting Ukraine’s own prosecutor fired, Zelensky replied confirming the investigation, “I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation… Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100 percent my person, my candidate, who will be approved by the parliament and will start as new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and work on the investigation of the case.”
Also worth noting is that the case against Burisma went back years. Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of Burisma, had his home raided by Ukrainian law enforcement officials in 2016 investigating corruption, and so Burisma reached out via a lobbyist to the State Department to help improve Burisma’s public image with U.S. officials. The contact wanted to know why the Obama administration thought Burisma was corrupt and used Hunter Biden’s role on the board, according to a response to a Freedom of Information Act request made by John Solomon.
“Per our conversation, Karen Tramontano of Blue Star Strategies requested a meeting to discuss with U/S Novelli USG remarks alleging Burisma (Ukrainian energy company) of corruption,” a Feb. 24, 2016, email states. “She noted that two high profile U.S. citizens are affiliated with the company (including Hunter Biden as a board member).” That was just weeks before Shokin was removed from power.
In an affidavit in a European court, Shokin testified, “The truth is that I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings, a natural gas firm active in Ukraine and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a member of the Board of Directors… On several occasions President Poroshenko asked me to have a look at the case against Burisma and consider the possibility of winding down the investigative actions in respect of this company but I refused to close this investigation.”
Shokin’s application for a travel visa to the U.S. was denied by the State Department after Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani pushed to get it approved in January so Shokin could share his story about being fired by Biden.
So, everyone agreed Burisma had a corruption problem and that the Bidens created conflicts of interest: the State Department, Yovanovitch, Ukrainian prosecutors, the current Ukrainian President Zelensky and yes, President Trump. But if everyone was concerned about Hunter Biden at Burisma, then why aren’t Trump and Zelensky allowed to be concerned, too?
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.