by WorldTribune Staff, November 10, 2019
A State Department official said he raised concerns over then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter working for corruption-plagued Burisma Holdings of Ukraine but was brushed off by Biden’s staff.
According to newly released transcripts of closed-door testimony on Oct. 15, George Kent said that he raised potential conflict of interest concerns about Hunter Biden’s lucrative position at Burisma in 2015.
Kent testified that Joe Biden’s staff dismissed his concerns about Hunter Biden’s work with the Ukrainian company that was being investigated for corruption.
“The message that I recall hearing back was that the vice president’s son Beau Biden was dying of cancer and that there was no further bandwidth to deal with family related issues at that time,” Kent testified. “That was the end of that conversation” about Hunter Biden’s conflict of interest in Ukraine, Kent added.
Hunter Biden served on Burisma’s board of directors from 2014 until April of this year. In 2014, the U.S. spent hundreds of thousands in American taxpayer funds on assisting an investigation into corrupt activities linked to Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky, Kent revealed.
Kent said he first visited the U.S. embassy in Ukraine in mid-January 2015 and soon learned Burisma was corrupt.
“Burisma had a reputation for being, first of all, one of the largest private producers of natural gas in Ukraine but also had a reputation for not being the sort of corporate, cleanest member of the business community,” Kent testified.
Kent said that he was so concerned about Burisma’s reputation that he halted coordinated activity between the company and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state charged with overseeing U.S. policy towards Ukraine, testified:
The first time I was in Ukraine as acting deputy chief of mission in the period of mid-January to mid-February 2015, subsequent to me going into the deputy prosecutor general on February 3rd and demanding who took the bribe and how much was it to shut the case against Zlochevsky I became aware that Hunter Biden was on the board. I did not know that at the time.
And when I was on a call with somebody on the vice president’s staff and I cannot recall who it was, just briefing on what was happening into Ukraine I raised my concerns that I had heard that Hunter Biden was on the board of a company owned by somebody that the U.S. Government had spent money trying to get tens of millions of dollars back and that could create the perception of a conflict of interest.
Kent said the U.S. spent “roughly half a million dollars” in support of a Zlochevsky-linked investigation in 2014.
House Democrats pursuing the impeachment of Trump have accused the president of abusing his power by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a July 25 call to investigate corruption allegations against the Bidens, allegedly in exchange for U.S. aid.
Trump, Zelensky, and some impeachment probe witnesses, including Kent, have denied the claim.
Kent testified that he had no “direct knowledge” of the alleged link between America’s aid to Ukraine and the Eastern European country opening new investigations.
Kent also told investigators that it is appropriate for the Trump administration to “look at the level of corruption” in foreign countries like Ukraine when determining whether to provide or withhold aid.
Meanwhile, former Special Ukraine diplomat Kurt Volker directly rebutted the whistleblower’s allegation that he pressed the president’s supposed “quid pro quo” in Kiev, The Washington Times reported on Nov. 6.
The whistleblower’s complaint states that Volker traveled to Kiev the day after Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Zelensky. The complaint says the mission was specifically to reinforce the president’s “demands” which the complaint said included a desire for Zelensky to cooperate in an investigation of the Bidens.
Volker testified to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and two other committees, that the whistleblower’s account is “not accurate.”
Volker, according to a transcript released on Nov. 5, said his trip was previously scheduled as a post-election meet-and-greet. He said he had no idea the Biden issue had come up in the president ’s call. His read-out said Trump congratulated Zelensky and that they talked of a possible visit to Washington.
“The whistleblower report says that I was dispatched to Ukraine after the President’s phone call to meet with President Zelensky to talk about it,” Volker testified on Oct. 3. “That’s not accurate. I was planning on a visit to Ukraine to fall after the 21st of July, which is when the parliamentary election was. I did not want to show up in Ukraine during an election campaign.”
His answer is in sharp contrast to the whistleblower’s report, which is based on second-hand sources.
The whistleblower said: “On 26 July, a day after the call, U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker visited Kiev and met with President Zelensky and a variety of Ukrainian political figures. Based on multiple readouts of these meetings recounted to me by various U.S. officials, Ambassadors Volker …. reportedly provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to ‘navigate’ the demands that the President had made of Zelensky.”
Volker said he did give advice on how to “navigate” a campaign to fight corruption and how to stay out of the U.S. 2020 election.
Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, was on the Kiev trip and backed up Volker’s version.
“I was not on that July 25th, 2019, call and I did not see a transcript of that call until September 25th, 2019, when the White House publicly released it. None of the brief and general call summaries I received contained any mention of Burisma or former Vice President Biden, nor even suggested that President Trump had made any kind of request of President Zelensky.”
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