By Robert Romano
Former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Ambassador Kurt Volker testified to the House Armed Services, Intelligence and Oversight committees on Oct. 3 that there was not one, but two former Ukrainian Prosecutors General that have been sounding the alarm on Joe Biden-Hunter Biden-Burisma Holdings corruption.
The first was Viktor Shokin, who in April told The Hill’s John Solomon, prior to the election of the new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, that he was removed in 2016 because of his investigation of Burisma, which Biden’s son, Hunter, served on the Board of Directors of.
Biden told the Council on Foreign Relations in Jan. 2018 at an event he threatened $1.2 billion of loan guarantees to get Shokin fired: “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.”
That was in March 2016. Shokin was then replaced by Yuriy Lutsenko, who, according to Volker did not ultimately let the Burisma matter go, either.
Volker said, “There was a second narrative, also fueled by the then-Prosecutor General, that the company, Burisma, had sought to garner influence with then-Vice President Biden, by paying high fees to his son Hunter Biden. Mr. Lutsenko made these allegations in conversations with U.S. media, which gave them wide circulation, particularly among conservative media viewers.”
Here, Volker appears to be referring to Solomon’s reporting, who also interviewed Lutsenko in April while he was still serving in his official capacity — Lutsenko served from May 12, 2016 to Aug. 29, 2019 — and said he was specifically looking at Burisma and at Shokin’s removal.
Volker says he met Lutsenko in 2018, but that he disbelieved the allegations: “Ukraine has a well-deserved reputation for rampant corruption. Nonetheless, I believed that these accusations by Mr. Lutsenko were themselves self-serving, intended to make himself appear valuable to the United States, so that the United States might weigh in against his being removed from office by the new government.”
But the probe into Burisma was reopened in 2018, not 2019 when Zelensky was elected. In April, Solomon quoted Nazar Kholodnytskyi, the top anti-corruption prosecutor in Prosecutor General Lutsenko’s office, who said that the Burisma matter had been reopened in 2018 following Biden’s Jan. 2018 comments to the Council on Foreign Relations about having the former Prosecutor General fired.
Per Solomon, “Kholodnytskyi, the lead anti-corruption prosecutor in Lutsenko’s office, confirmed to me in an interview that part of the Burisma investigation was reopened in 2018, after Joe Biden made his remarks.”
Kholodnytskyi said, “We were able to start this case again… [But] we don’t see any result from this case one year after the reopening because of some external influence,” citing problems with a separate Ukrainian agency that he said was dragging its feet in gathering evidence.
From Jan. 2018, when Biden made his remarks and the probe was reopened, to April 2019, when the Ukrainian election occurred, Lutsenko appears to have been in no danger of losing his job, because he didn’t. That would not occur until Aug. 2019, and then only because his former boss, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, had lost the election to Zelensky in April 2019.
In April 2019, shortly before the election, Lutsenko told Solomon he wanted to present what his office had found to Attorney General William Barr including the intervention by Biden to get Shokin fired. Per Solomon, “Lutsenko said some of the evidence he knows about in the Burisma case may interest U.S. authorities and he’d like to present that information to new U.S. Attorney General William Barr, particularly the vice president’s intervention.”
“Unfortunately, Mr. Biden had correlated and connected this aid with some of the HR (personnel) issues and changes in the prosecutor’s office,” Lutsenko said.
This is a critical element: The serving Prosecutor General at the time, Lutsenko, on behalf of Ukraine was initially seeking mutual legal assistance from Barr to look at Burisma and Biden in a probe that was already open from a year earlier, not the other way around.
The U.S. and Ukraine have a mutual legal assistance treaty, signed in 1998, and it is legitimate and appropriate — not to mention perfectly legal — for a sitting Ukrainian Prosecutor General to seek U.S. assistance on legal matters of joint concern.
By the time President Donald Trump had his conversation with the newly elected Zelensky on July 25 — where he said, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me…” — the Ukrainians had already reopened the Burisma-Biden probe 18 months earlier.
Which Zelensky confirms in his conversation with Trump, saying, “I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation,” adding, “Since we have won the absolute majority in the our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% 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.”
Zelensky stated that this case is essential to Ukrainian efforts to root out corruption: “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.”
And, to top it all off, Zelensky doubled down on requesting mutual legal assistance from the U.S. and confirms the active investigation: “On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country…”
This destroys the narrative that it was Trump who was seeking out Burisma and Biden. It was the other way around. Shokin, then Lutsenko and then Zelensky himself are all on the record requesting U.S. assistance with the investigation, which was active and had been reopened over a year before Zelensky was elected.
President Trump is not out to get Biden, per se. Ukraine is. You can’t make this stuff up.
But that is not all. Volker also testified to Congress on the other matter Trump was seeking assistance with, that is, potential Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign.
“In the early months of 2019, I was aware of an emerging, negative narrative about Ukraine in the United States, fueled by accusations made by the then-Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko, that some Ukrainian citizens may have sought to influence the U.S. 2016 Presidential election, including by passing information they hoped would reach the Hillary Clinton campaign that was detrimental to the Donald Trump campaign,” Volker stated.
Lutsenko appears to have been the basis, at least in part, of a Jan. 2017 report from Politico’s Kenneth Vogel and David Stern that alleged there was a Ukrainian effort on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
At the time, Vogel and Stern reported, “Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found. Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.”
The Justice Department has confirmed this investigation in the U.S., into the origins of the false allegations that President Trump and his campaign were Russian agents that was ultimately debunked by none other than Special Counsel Robert Mueller and what role foreign intelligence agencies including Ukraine may have played in making them. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said on Sept. 25, “A Department of Justice team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham is separately exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election… While the Attorney General has yet to contact Ukraine in connection with this investigation, certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham, which he is evaluating.”
Volker in his testimony also stated he had weighed in on all of the allegations both into Ukrainian election interference and into potential corruption by Burisma Holdings to the President’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, saying that the allegations into potential corruption Biden were “not credible” but the that potential
“I also said at that July 19 meeting that it is not credible to me that former Vice President Biden would have been influenced in anyway by financial or personal motives in carrying out his duties as Vice President. A different issue is whether some individual Ukrainians may have attempted to influence the 2016 election or thought they could buy influence: that is at least plausible, given Ukraine’s reputation for corruption. But the accusation that Vice President Biden acted inappropriately did not seem at all credible to me,” Volker said in his testimony.
In both of these instances, however, Volker, who restarted his career at the State Department in 2017, was neither present for potential Ukrainian election interference nor during Biden’s entire tenure as Vice President from 2009 to 2016. He is not a witness to what might have happened before 2017. Law enforcement investigations are not based on maybes.
Besides, is it the State Department’s job to tell Ukraine not to enforce its rights under the 1998 U.S.-Ukraine Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty? If Ukraine has a concern, the State Department is supposed to relay it to Washington, D.C., not run interference on it.
It is Ukraine, not the U.S., that initiated the investigation into Burisma and Biden and then reopened it in 2018, and then sought U.S. assistance since it concerned the former vice president. President Trump was simply responding to it, even if it appears in the phone call with Zelensky he’s the one who brought it up, the fact is that it was already an ongoing investigation that Trump had heard about and raised. As it turns out, Zelensky was already on top of it and then renewed the request for assistance.
Perhaps the examination of Biden may have made Volker feel uncomfortable, but Biden was Obama’s top official in Ukraine at least since 2014, when he led efforts to push former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych out of office. If Ukraine had a role in interfering in the election in 2016 on behalf of the Obama administration, Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign, it may not be possible to separate out Biden’s role there. To examine one, it appears to be necessary to examine the other.
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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.
Image “Joe Biden at the Council og Foreign Relations” by CFR.