Does the appearance of Hunter Biden’s name in State Department e-mail traffic show corrupt influence on US policy? E-mails dug up by John Solomon in his reporting on influence-peddling, then and now, suggest that the timing of Joe Biden’s infamous intervention in Ukraine might be even more suspect than it has looked before. Biden insists — nay, bragged — that he threatened to withhold a billion dollars in aid in March 2016 unless Petro Poroshenko fired prosecutor general Viktor Shokin.
Biden claims he did that because Shokin had not aggressively prosecuted corruption, including that at Burisma, where his son Hunter sat on the board. However, the new e-mails show that Hunter’s name was being tossed around the State Department a month earlier as the firm pleaded that Shokin was being too tough:
During that February 2016 contact, a U.S. representative for Burisma Holdings sought a meeting with Undersecretary of State Catherine A. Novelli to discuss ending the corruption allegations against the Ukrainian firm where Hunter Biden worked as a board member, according to memos obtained under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. (I filed that suit this summer with the help of the public interest law firm the Southeastern Legal Foundation.)
Just three weeks before Burisma’s overture to State, Ukrainian authorities raided the home of the oligarch who owned the gas firm and employed Hunter Biden, a signal the long-running corruption probe was escalating in the middle of the U.S. presidential election.
Hunter Biden’s name, in fact, was specifically invoked by the Burisma representative as a reason the State Department should help, according to a series of email exchanges among U.S. officials trying to arrange the meeting. The subject line for the email exchanges read simply “Burisma.”
The e-mail shows that the meeting was for the purpose of getting Ukraine to back off of its corruption probe of Burisma. The e-mail, shown below, argued that Burisma had been unfairly targeted by Shokin without evidence and outside of due process. It also noted very pointedly that two “high profile US citizens” worked with Burisma, and named Hunter Biden explicitly:
That last sentence sounds like the meeting was a fait accompli … as well it might, since it concerned the VP’s son. However, whether and when this meeting took place has not been established, but clearly State was informed that Hunter’s name was in play and Burisma was unhappy with Shokin. This was no low-level contact either, as Solomon explains the players involved in this meeting:
At the time, Novelli was the most senior official overseeing international energy issues for State. The undersecretary position, of which there are several, is the third-highest-ranking job at State, behind the secretary and deputy secretary. And Tramontano was a lawyer working for Blue Star Strategies, a Washington firm that was hired by Burisma to help end a long-running corruption investigation against the gas firm in Ukraine.
That discussion took place on February 24th, 2016. Exactly one week later, Hunter’s business partner and fellow Burisma board member Devon Archer dropped by to see Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department’s C Street offices. Archer had been a college roommate of Kerry’s stepson Christopher Heinz, so this could have just been a coincidence — but it’s one that has never yet been explained or explored.
Less than a month later, Joe Biden went to Ukraine to demand Shokin’s firing. We’ll let Biden tell that story:
JB: Well, I was, not I, but it just happened to be that was the assignment I got. I got all the good ones. And so I got Ukraine. And I remember going over convincing our team, our, others to convincing that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, try to guess the 12th, 13th time to Kiev, and I was going to, supposed to announce that there was another billion dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor, and they didn’t. So they said they had, they were walking out to a press conference, and I said no, I said I’m not going to, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said. I said call him. I said I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said you’re not getting the billion, and I’m going to be leaving here, and I think it was what, six hours. I looked. I 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.
Biden insists that he used this quid pro quo on behalf of the US and our allies, not to benefit his son, and that the intent was to intensify a crackdown on corruption. These e-mails show that at least part of this story looks false. Burisma was unhappy enough with Shokin’s focus on them to push the State Department to back him off and tossed Hunter’s name around to do it. The other American on the Burisma board met with his friend’s father, the US Secretary of State immediately afterward, at which point Biden demanded a quid pro quo to fire Shokin.
That certainly looks like the kind of corruption of which House Democrats are accusing Donald Trump, does it not? At the very least, these e-mails undermine the idea that Shokin wasn’t being tough enough on Burisma and that no one in the Obama administration connected the dots between Hunter Biden, his dad, and Burisma. It stinks of corruption and interference for personal (or familial) gain, although one didn’t need to go to Ukraine to find the evidence for it. That raises the question of why Trump and Rudy Giuliani didn’t just comb through State Department e-mails in the first place. It would have been one heck of a lot easier and less risky to do so.