State Dept. memos undermine Biden’s Ukraine narrative, Trump impeachment charge

by WorldTribune Staff, February 1, 2022

Newly released memos call into question Joe Biden’s Ukraine narrative which Democrats and the establishment media pressed in the first impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump.

According to that story line, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin was fired in March 2016 because U.S. State Department officials were widely displeased with his anti-corruption efforts and not because Shokin’s office was investigating Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas firm that had given then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter a lucrative job.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, applauds to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden after he addressed the Ukraine Parliament in Kiev on Dec. 8, 2015. / Mikhail Palinchak / AP

In a video from a Council on Foreign Relations event in 2018, Biden was heard boasting about using his influence to get Shokin fired, including threatening to hold back a $1 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. government to Ukraine if the firing didn’t happen.

“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,’ ” Biden says in the video, referring to a conversation with then-Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko.

“Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” Biden adds. “And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”

The memos obtained by Just the News and the Southeastern Legal Foundation via a Freedom of Information Act request, however, show senior State Department officials — including then-Secretary of State John Kerry — were sending the opposite message to Shokin the summer before his firing, Just the News reported on Jan. 31.

“We have been impressed with the ambitious reform and anti-corruption agenda of your government,” then-Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland personally wrote Shokin in an official letter dated June 9, 2015 that was delivered to the prosecutor two days later by then-U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt.

Nuland, now Biden’s undersecretary of state, wrote: “Secretary Kerry asked me to reply on his behalf” to let Shokin know he enjoyed the full support of the United States as he set out to fight endemic corruption in Ukraine.

“The ongoing reform of your office, law enforcement, and the judiciary will enable you to investigate and prosecute corruption and other crimes in an effective, fair, and transparent manner,” Nuland added. “The United States fully supports your government’s efforts to fight corruption and other crimes in an effective, fair and transparent manner.”

The June 9, 2015 memo was sent just six months before Joe Biden began his effort to oust Shokin and appears to conflict with testimony given to Congress, Republican congressional investigators and Trump’s former impeachment defense lawyers said.

There is no record the memo was produced to Trump’s impeachment defense team or to a Senate investigation that concluded the Bidens’ business dealings in Ukraine created a conflict of interest that undercut U.S. anti-corruption efforts, Just the News reported.

“We did not receive this. We should have received it. President Trump’s defense attorneys also should have received it,” Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson told the Just the News television show on Real America’s Voice on Monday.

“This just underscores how congressional oversight has really diminished over the years mainly because we don’t have enforcement powers,” Johnson added. “Administration officials realize this bureaucrats realize this so they just thumbed their nose at congressional investigators that they run off the clock.”

In the summer of 2019, Trump asked Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate whether anything untoward occurred in Shokin’s firing.

Soon after, Democrats launched impeachment proceedings against Trump, arguing his request to Zelensky was an abuse of power because it targeted Biden, a potential 2020 election opponent. Trump defended the request as perfectly normal.

“During the House impeachment proceedings in fall 2019 and the Senate trial in January 2020 that led to Trump’s acquittal, House Democrats repeatedly argued Trump had no basis to request an investigation and that Biden’s effort to fire Shokin was legitimate because U.S. officials and the whole of U.S. government believed Shokin was either corrupt or ineffective fighting corruption,” John Solomon wrote for Just the News.

In 2020 testimony to the Senate, Nuland claimed she and other Obama State Department officials were frustrated by summer 2015 that Shokin wasn’t doing enough to fight corruption, making no mention of her June 2015 memo that actually praised Shokin.

“So the initial expectation, when we began talking about the third loan guarantee, which I believe was in the summer of 2015, was that Prosecutor General Shokin make more progress than we had seen to clean up corruption inside the Prosecutor General’s Office itself,” Nuland testified.

“So by the time we get to December 2015, we’ve concluded that the PGO is not going to get cleaned up under Shokin and that there needs to be — and to encourage Poroshenko to demonstrate his commitment by replacing Shokin,” Nuland testified.

That testimony is undercut by another State Department document obtained by Just the News which shows that, in October 2015, a U.S. multi-agency task force had concluded that Ukraine had made good progress in fighting corruption and deserved a loan guarantee.

“The IPC concluded that (1) Ukraine has made sufficient progress on its reform agenda to justify a third guarantee and (2) Ukraine has an economic need for the guarantee and it is in our strategic interest to provide one. As such, the IPC recommends moving forward with a third loan guarantee for Ukraine in the near‐term,” an Oct. 1, 2015 email from the task force stated.

Solomon noted: “Whatever the case, the compact story of Shokin’s firing that House Democrats offered at Trump’s impeachment trial has gotten more complicated with the belated revelation that U.S. officials were sending praise to Shokin and offering their assistance shortly before Joe Biden intervened.”

Nuland wrote in her June 2015 letter: “The challenges you face are difficult but not insurmountable. You have an historic opportunity to address the injustices of the past by vigorously investigating and prosecuting corruption cases and recovering assets stolen from the Ukrainian people.”

Solomon concluded: “Just a few months later that historic opportunity — which included an ongoing probe of Burisma, where Hunter Biden was working — was stripped from Shokin’s hands under pressure from Joe Biden.”

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