FILE – In this Oct. 11, 2012, file photo, Hunter Biden waits for the start of the his father’s, Vice President Joe Biden’s, debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. In 2014, then-Vice President Joe Biden was at the forefront of American diplomatic efforts to support Ukraine’s fragile democratic government as it sought to fend off Russian aggression and root out corruption. So it raised eyebrows when Biden’s son Hunter was hired by a Ukrainian gas company. President Donald Trump prodded Ukraine’s president to help him investigate any corruption related to Joe Biden, now one of the top Democrats seeking to defeat Trump in 2020. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
According to Reuters, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka announced on Wednesday that his office was expanding an investigation into Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma Holdings. Zlochevsky is now “under suspicion” of embezzling $33 million in state funds.
Prior to this announcement, Zlochevsky was under investigation for tax violations, money laundering and for issuing “licenses” to Burisma while serving as Ukraine’s Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources. Currently, Zlochevsky’s whereabouts are unknown.
As we all know, former Vice President Joe Biden became the Obama administration’s “point man” on Ukraine in February 2014. Ukraine was in crisis after the revolution had overthrown President Viktor Yanukovych. He was tasked with tackling the country’s rampant corruption problem.
Within two months, his son, Hunter, was appointed to the board of Burisma where he was paid anywhere from $50,000 to $83,000 per month. He held this position from April 2014 through April 2019. By most accounts, Hunter did nothing to earn such a large income from Burisma. But the name “Biden” worked like a charm to gain the cooperation of the Obama State Department in February 2016 when Burisma sought their assistance to end the investigation of their company.
On Wednesday night, Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that in September 2015, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt delivered a speech calling for Zlochevsky to be investigated. Upset that the Prosecutor General’s office was doing so little to combat corruption, Pyatt said:
Rather than supporting Ukraine’s reforms and working to root out corruption, corrupt actors within the Prosecutor-General’s Office are making things worse by openly and aggressively undermining reform.
They intimidate and obstruct the efforts of those working honestly on reform initiatives within that same office. The United States stands behind those who challenge these bad actors.
Following Pyatt’s speech, the Prosecutor General, Viktor Shokin, opened an investigation into Burisma.
Investigative journalist John Solomon published a comprehensive timeline of key events in Ukraine starting from February 2014 when Biden became the “point man.” It can be viewed here.
(Note: Graham also uses Solomon’s timeline in his description of events.)
Throughout 2015, Biden remained in steady contact with new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko through a series of phone calls and several meetings.
On December 8, 2015, the New York Times published an article which said that Prosecutor General Shokin’s office was investigating Burisma Holdings and its founder Zlochevsky. It said that Hunter Biden’s participation on Burisma’s board is undercutting Joe Biden’s anticorruption message in Ukraine.”
Joe Biden then learned that his son was about to be questioned by the prosecutor general’s office and the pressure from Biden (and the Obama administration) to prevent this from happening began.
In January 2016, the White House invited Ukrainian prosecutors to Washington to meet their US counterparts to discuss ways to fight corruption.
Solomon described this meeting in a recent article:
The meeting, promised as training, turned out to be more of a pretext for the Obama administration to pressure Ukraine’s prosecutors to drop an investigation into the Burisma Holdings gas company that employed Hunter Biden and to look for new evidence in a then-dormant criminal case against eventual Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a GOP lobbyist.
U.S. officials “kept talking about how important it was that all of our anti-corruption efforts be united,” said Andrii Telizhenko, the former political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington who organized and attended the meetings.
Solomon spoke to Nazar Kholodnytsky, Ukraine’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor, who had attended the meeting, shortly afterward. Kholodnytsky told him he saw evidence in Ukraine of political meddling in the U.S. election.
Still, the investigation into Burisma continued.
On February 2, 2016, the Prosecutor General ordered a raid on Zlochevsky’s home. On February 4, the Prosecutor General announced the raid. That same day, Hunter Biden called the State Department.
On the 11th, the 18th and the 19th of February, Joe Biden called President Poroshenko. Graham sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday seeking transcripts or readouts of those calls. I’m sure Pompeo would be happy to assist. But it’s likely this request will get stonewalled by long-time State Department insiders.
I’ve included Solomon’s timeline below from February 24 through March 31st to give you an idea of the communications. Throughout this period, there is a flurry of activity involving Joe Biden, representatives of Burisma and the State Department, and Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s business partner.
The timeline shows Joe Biden traveling to Ukraine on March 31st. There’s no indication he has made an earlier trip to Ukraine in March, which is when he allegedly made his threat. (I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you don’t get the billion.) Possibly, it didn’t happen quite the way Biden said. He is prone to exaggeration.
The most amazing thing to me is that Joe Biden remains the frontrunner, at least nationally.
Feb. 24-March 1, 2016
An American representative for Burisma Holdings, Karen Tramontano of Blue Star Strategies, seeks meeting with Undersecretary of State Catherine A. Novelli to discuss ending the corruption allegations against the Ukrainian gas firm. Hunter Biden’s name was specifically invoked by the Burisma representative as a reason the State Department should help. “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.”
March 2, 2016
Devon Archer, a business partner of Hunter Biden and fellow American board member on Burisma Holdings, secures meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, State Department memos say.
March 15, 2016
Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland demands Ukraine “appoint and confirm a new, clean Prosecutor General, who is committed to rebuilding the integrity of the PGO, and investigate, indict and successfully prosecute corruption and asset recovery cases – including locking up dirty personnel in the PGO itself.”
March 22, 2016
VP Joe Biden engages in phone call from Washington DC with Ukrainian president Poroshenko about U.S. loan guarantees. It is believed in this call that Biden renews his demands that the president fire Prosecutor General Shokin, who is overseeing the Burisma prosecution, or risk losing the next $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees.
March 29, 2016
Ukraine parliament fires Prosecutor General Shokin at urging of President Poroshenko.
March 29, 2016
John Buretta, an American lawyer hired by Burisma Holdings, seeks to contact the Acting Prosecutor General Sevruk seeking a meeting about the Burisma investigation just hours after his boss, Prosecutor General Shokin, was fired under pressure from VP Joe Biden, according to email Buretta’s legal team sent the Ukraine embassy in Washington.
March 30, 2016
Burisma Holdings’ U.S. legal team seeks help of Ukrainian embassy official Andrii Telizhenko in Washington seeking urgent meeting with new Acting Prosecutor General of Ukraine, according to legal team’s email to embassy.
March 31, 2016
VP Joe Biden arrives in Ukraine and announces $1 billion in loan guarantees, ending threat to withhold aid and force Ukraine into debt default, and also delivers $239 million more in promised aid.