The Morning Jolt

White House

The Impeachment Testimony’s Revelations about Biden and Burisma

George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 13, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: What George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch said about Burisma and the Bidens; the DNC fears a widely respected journalist as a debate moderator; and a columnist who never saw partisanship in Eric Holder runs to the fainting couch over a speech from William Barr.

Did Hunter Biden’s Dealings with Bursima Affect Obama’s Ukraine Policy?

George Kent is the career diplomat who has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs since September 2018. In his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last week, he described the president’s actions as “wrong for the rule of law,” and for most news organizations, that was the big, and perhaps the only headline of note.

I’m not interested in defending the president using his personal lawyer to create a back channel to a foreign government about investigating a political rival, because that’s not how we investigate crimes in this country. We have well-trained, well-funded, professional, experienced, nonpartisan, and legitimate law-enforcement agencies to handle those investigations. (Don’t object to the term “nonpartisan” in there. The president nominates the FBI director; if Trump doesn’t trust the Bureau, it’s his own darn fault for not nominating someone he does trust.) I am interested in whether Hunter Biden’s role with Burisma ever influenced Obama administration or U.S. foreign policy, because if it did, 1) Biden shouldn’t be president and his family should be disgraced, and 2) it reveals that foreign interests are attempting to corruptly influence U.S. policy in ways well beyond a bunch of heavy-handed Facebook ads.

A section of the testimony of Kent that has received almost no public scrutiny and discussion:

REPUBLICAN COUNSEL STEVE CASTOR: And the — the company Burisma, its — its leader, [Mykola Vladislavovich] Zlochevsky, he has a — a little bit of a storied history of corruption, doesn’t he?

KENT: Mr. Zlochevsky was minister of energy from 2010 to 2012 under the pro-Russian government, and he used his regulatory authority to award gas exploration licenses to companies that he himself controlled. That would be considered an act of corruption in my view, yes.

CASTOR: Certainly self-dealing.

KENT: Certainly self-dealing and self-enriching.

CASTOR: And — and how did the Ukrainian government ultimately pursue that?

KENT: In the spring of 2014, the Ukrainian government, the new government after the Revolution of Dignity, turned to partners, particularly the U.S. and the U.K., to try to recover tens of billions of dollars of stolen assets. The first case that we tried to recover that money came from Mr. Zlochevsky. Serious Crimes Office in the U.K. had already opened up an investigation. They worked with us and the Ukrainian authorities to develop more information. The — the $23 million was frozen until somebody in the General Prosecutors Office of Ukraine shut the case, issued a letter to his lawyer and that money went ‘poof.’

CASTOR: So essentially paid a bribe to make the case go away.

KENT: That is our strong assumption, yes, sir.

CASTOR: OK. Now, at any point in time has — has any — anyone in the Ukrainian government tried to reinvestigate that, or did that — did those crimes just go unpunished, and was he free to go?

KENT: Mr. Zlochevsky spent time, as far as I understand, in — in Moscow and Monaco after he fled Ukraine. We continue to raise, as a point of order, that because U.S. taxpayer dollars had been used to try to recover frozen assets, that we have a fiduciary responsibility, and we continue to press Ukrainian officials to answer for why alleged corrupt prosecutors had closed a case, and we have ’til now not gotten a satisfactory answer. So to summarize, we thought that Mykola Zlochevsky had stolen money. We thought a prosecutor had taken a bribe to shut the case, and those were our main concerns.

CASTOR: And are you in favor of that matter being fully investigated and prosecuted?

KENT: I think, since U.S. taxpayer dollars were wasted, I would love to see the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office find who the corrupt prosecutor was that took the bribe and how much that was paid, and that’s what I said to the deputy prosecutor general on February 3, 2015.

CASTOR: But over the years it’s been involved in — in a number of questionable dealings, correct?

KENT: I would say that it’s the largest private gas producer in the country, and its business reputation is mixed.

CASTOR: OK. Now, this — the — the bribe was paid in what year?

KENT: To the best of my knowledge, the case against Zlochevsky, the former minister, was shut down December of 2014.

Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma in April 2014. Joe Biden visited Ukraine three times in 2014: April 21-22; June 6; Nov. 20-21. The meeting that Biden famously discussed at the Council on Foreign Relations was actually from December 2015.

Castor asked Kent several questions about Hunter Biden’s qualifications for the board, and Kent answered that he had no idea why Hunter Biden was named to the board of Burisma.

CASTOR: Do you know if he possesses any other elements other than the fact that he is the son of, at the time, the sitting vice president?

KENT: I do not.

Kent testified that he communicated with the vice president’s office about Hunter Biden joining the Burisma board: “My concern was that there was the possibility of a perception of a conflict of interest.”

CASTOR: OK, but you know Hunter Biden’s role in Burisma’s board of directors. At some point you testified in your deposition that you expressed some concern to the Vice President’s Office. Is that correct?

KENT: That is correct.

CASTOR: And what did they do about that concern that you expressed?

KENT: I have no idea. I reported my concern to the Office of the Vice President.

Now let’s move on to a less-discussed section of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony, discussing the May 2016 appointment of Yuriy Vitaliyovych Lutsenko to become the prosecutor general of Ukraine, a position he held until August 2019. Remember, the United States provided money to the Ukranian government to fight corruption, but instead, the Ukrainian government had unfrozen assets of Burisma and the head of Burisma, Zlochevsky, fled the country.

YOVANOVITCH: The U.S. was welcoming of Mr. Lutsenko’s nomination to the position of prosecutor general because we were hoping he would clean that up. That, in fact, is not what happened.

In fact, the new prosecutor that the Obama administration seemed so initially pleased with didn’t do much different: “Lutsenko initially took a hard line against Burisma, within 10 months after he took office, Burisma announced that Mr. Lutsenko and the courts had ‘fully closed all ‘legal proceedings and pending criminal allegations’ against Zlochevsky and his companies.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration knew that it had, at minimum the appearance of a conflict of interest, and their strategy appeared to be to simply hope no one noticed.

STEFANIK: But let’s take a first — a step back. 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. And this was in the form of practiced questions and answers, this was your deposition. And you testified that in 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: Yes, it is.

She later added that she was instructed, if members of Congress asked about Burisma, to refer the question to the vice president’s office — the same office that heard the concerns of Kent and, as far as we can tell, ignored them. (She was not asked about Hunter Biden or Burisma at her confirmation hearing.)

In 2013, Ukraine received a total of $74 million in U.S. foreign aid. By 2014, after the Euromaidan revolution changed control of the government, U.S. aid jumped to $113 million, increased slightly the following year, and by 2016 it was up to $145 million — and this is just in direct aid and grants, separate from the loan guarantees; between May 2014 — the month after Hunter Biden joins the Burisma board — and June 2016 — the U.S. gave Ukraine three separate $1 billion loan guarantees.

Can anyone imagine any reason why a Ukrainian government that had received so much aid from the U.S. government, at the direction of the Obama administration, would be reluctant to complete an investigation into a company that had the U.S vice president’s son on its corporate board?

DNC: We Can’t Have Any Moderators Who May Have Been Exposed to Conservative Cooties

The Democratic National Committee keeps finding new ways to make the presidential primary debates worse; now they’re afraid of Tim Alberta, because he worked at National Review for a year.

Washington Post Columnist Suddenly Discovers Partisanship in the Attorney General’s Office

Ruth Marcus warns us about the “partisan tone” of a recent speech by Attorney General William Barr. She writes:

As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, however, the attorney general also stands separate from and above the ordinary Cabinet secretary, able to impartially administer justice, without regard to political considerations. While other Cabinet secretaries may campaign for political candidates, it has been the practice of attorneys general to refrain from such partisan activity.

Oddly, I can find no indication of her objecting in 2013, then-Attorney General Eric Holder declared, “I’m still the President’s wing-man, so I’m there with my boy.”

No, the only time her column mentions Holder is in reference to the House holding him in contempt for not turning over documents relating to the “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling operation.

ADDENDUM: And you thought you were tough on Elizabeth Warren! Janice Williamson is a 67-year-old voter in Wakefield, Mass., who attended a Pete Buttigieg event in Manchester, N.H. She told BuzzFeed of Warren, “When I hear her talk, I want to slap her, even if I agree with her.”

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