FILE – In this Jan. 30, 2010, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden, left, with his son Hunter, right, at the Duke Georgetown NCAA college basketball game in Washington. Hunter Biden is expressing regret for being discharged from the Navy Reserve amid published reports that he tested positive for cocaine. The Wall Street Journal reports that Hunter Biden failed the drug test last year and was discharged in February. In a statement issued Thursday, Oct. 16, Biden doesn’t say why he was discharged. He says he’s embarrassed that his actions led to his discharge and that he respects the Navy’s decision. The vice president’s office declined to comment.(AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
Earlier this week, the Biden campaign released a memo intended to address and hopefully to debunk, Team Trump’s “dishonest” Ukraine conspiracy theory. It was a valiant effort, however, as investigative journalist John Solomon reports, “it doesn’t match the facts.”
The memo, which can be viewed here, was written by Biden’s Deputy Campaign Manager and Communications Director, Kate Bedingfield, and Senior Advisor Tony Blinken. It is titled, “The Imperative for Honest Coverage for Trump’s Ukraine conspiracy theory.”
The memo begins by telling the press that, “Donald Trump is the only American President to have weaponized foreign and national security policy in an attempt to coerce a foreign country into lying about a rival presidential candidate.” (Actually Kate and Tony, you’re getting your presidents mixed up.) They caution editors and reporters against “spreading a malicious and conclusively debunked conspiracy theory.”
The campaign warns the media that if they repeat the allegation that Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid if the Ukrainian President did not fire the Prosecutor General who was investigating Burisma Holdings and who was about to question his son, Hunter Biden (in the next six hours), about his lucrative position on the company’s board of directors, they would be “enablers of misinformation.”
They blame this “conspiracy” on “disgraced” journalist John Solomon and Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer. Solomon is one of the finest journalists in Washington and his reporting has revealed much of what we know today about the Russian collusion hoax.
Solomon has followed this story closely from the beginning and he completely deconstructs the campaign’s talking points and includes supporting evidence.
Fact: Joe Biden admitted to forcing Shokin’s firing in March 2016.
Biden himself is recorded boasting about this very thing at a Council on Foreign Relations event. We’ve all seen it 100 times.
I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion.’ I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’
Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.
Fact: Shokin’s prosecutors were actively investigating Burisma when he was fired.
Solomon reports that “official files released by the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office, in fact, show there was substantial investigative activity in the weeks just before Joe Biden forced Shokin’s firing.”
The prosecutor general began their “corruption” investigation into Burisma and its founder, Mykola Zlochevsky, in 2014. Solomon explains that it was briefly put on hold in 2015 because the government had been focusing on establishing a new government agency, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau ((NABU) to fight the ever present problem of corruption in Ukraine. Solomon writes:
There was friction between NABU and the prosecutor general’s office for a while. And then in September 2015, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt demanded more action in the Burisma investigation. You can read his speech here. Activity ramped up extensively soon after.
In December 2015, the prosecutor’s files show, Shokin’s office transferred the evidence it had gathered against Burisma to NABU for investigation.
In early February 2016, Shokin’s office secured a court order allowing prosecutors to re-seize some of the Burisma founder’s property, including his home and luxury car, as part of the ongoing probe.
Two weeks later, in mid-February 2016, Latvian law enforcement sent this alert to Ukrainian prosecutors flagging several payments from Burisma to American accounts as “suspicious.” The payments included some monies to Hunter Biden’s and Devon Archer’s firm. Latvian authorities recently confirmed it sent the alert.
Shokin told both me and ABC News that just before he was fired under pressure from Joe Biden he also was making plans to interview Hunter Biden.
Rudy Giuliani returned from an evidence gathering trip to Kiev, Budapest and Vienna last month and confirmed this information in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham. I posted about that here and here.
Fact: Burisma’s lawyers in 2016 were pressing U.S. and Ukrainian authorities to end the corruption investigations.
It is documented that Burisma’s attorneys were lobbying the State Department in February 2016 to help persuade Ukraine to dismiss their case against the company. Those documents can be viewed here. Some of them specifically reminded State Department officials that the Vice President’s son worked for the company. Sounds like a diplomatic shakedown to me. Solomon reports:
Burisma’s main U.S. lawyer John Buretta acknowledged in this February 2017 interview with a Ukraine newspaper that the company remained under investigation in 2016, until he negotiated for one case to be dismissed and the other to be settled by payment of a large tax penalty.
In addition, immediately after Joe Biden succeeded in getting Shokin ousted, Burisma’s lawyers sought to meet with his successor as chief prosecutor to settle the case. Here is the Ukrainian prosecutors’ summary memo of one of their meetings with the firm’s lawyers.
Fact: There is substantial evidence Joe Biden and his office knew about the Burisma probe and his son’s role as a board member.
In December 2015, the New York Times published an article which reported that Burisma was under investigation. 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.
The title of the article is, “Joe Biden, His Son and the Case Against a Ukrainian Oligarch.” The cover photo shows Hunter Biden at a 2008 campaign event, waiting in the wings, shadows on the curtain behind him, alone, arms crossed, furtive expression.
In addition, Hunter Biden acknowledged in this interview he had discussed his Burisma job with his father on one occasion and that his father responded by saying he hoped the younger Biden knew what he was doing.
And when America’s new ambassador to Ukraine was being confirmed in 2016 before the Senate she was specifically advised to refer questions about Hunter Biden, Burisma and the probe to Joe Biden’s VP office, according to these State Department documents.
Fact: Federal Ethics rules requires government officials to avoid taking policy actions affecting close relatives.
Solomon cites Office of Government Ethics rules which require all government officials to recuse themselves from any policy actions that could impact a close relative or cause a reasonable person to see the appearance of a conflict of interest or question their impartiality.
The rules state that, “The impartiality rule requires an employee to consider appearance concerns before participating in a particular matter if someone close to the employee is involved as a party to the matter. This requirement to refrain from participating (or recuse) is designed to avoid the appearance of favoritism in government decision-making.”
Fact: Multiple State Department officials testified the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine created the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Although Team Biden wants to deny it, many government officials were concerned about the Vice President’s conflict of interest. He was Obama’s designated “point man” for Ukraine tasked with fighting the country’s notorious corruption while his son held a lucrative position with a company the Ukrainian government was currently investigating for corruption. Several impeachment inquiry admitted so under oath.
Solomon cites two examples:
In fact, deputy assistant secretary George Kent said he was so concerned by Burisma’s corrupt reputation that he blocked a project the State Department had with Burisma and tried to warn Joe Biden’s office about the concerns about an apparent conflict of interest.
Likewise, the House Democrats’ star impeachment witness, former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovich, agreed the Bidens’ role in Ukraine created an ethic issue. “I think that it could raise the appearance of a conflict of interest,” she testified. You can read her testimony here.
Fact: Hunter Biden acknowleged he may have gotten his Burisma job solely because of his last name.
Hunter Biden was interviewed in October and was asked, “If your last name wasn’t Biden, do you think you would’ve been asked to be on the board of Burisma?
He replied, “I don’t know. I don’t know. Probably not, in retrospect. But that’s — you know — I don’t think that there’s a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden.”
Fact: Ukraine law enforcement reopened the Burisma investigation in early 2019, well before President Trump mentioned the matter to Ukraine’s new president Vlodymyr Zelensky.
I recall reading this story last March, but that was only because John Solomon had reported it. Solomon points out that this was four months before the fateful July 25 Trump/Zelensky phone call. And he provides plenty of evidence to back it up.
The effort began independent of Trump or his lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s legal work. In fact, it was NABU – the very agency Joe Biden and the Obama administration helped start – that recommended in February 2019 to reopen the probe.
NABU director Artem Sytnyk made this announcement that he was recommending a new notice of suspicion be opened to launch the case against Burisma and its founder because of new evidence uncovered by detectives.
Ukrainian officials said that new evidence included records suggesting a possible money laundering scheme dating to 2010 and continuing until 2015.
A month later in March 2019, Deputy Prosecutor General Konstantin Kulyk officially filed this notice of suspicion re-opening the case.
And Reuters recently quoted Ukrainian officials as saying the ongoing probe was expanded to allegations of theft of public funds.
The implications of this timetable are significant to the Trump impeachment trial because the president couldn’t have pressured Ukraine to re-open the investigation in July 2019 when Kiev had already done so on its own, months earlier.
Given all of these inconvenient facts, this “conspiracy” isn’t going away anytime soon. It was a concern then and an even bigger concern now that Biden is seeking the presidency. It’s real and it’s well-documented and of course, we even have a recorded confession from the former Vice President himself.
Note to the Biden campaign: You have to do better than this.
Solomon has prepared a complete timeline of the key events in the Ukraine scandal here