In 2016, while he was still vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko into replacing the country’s top prosecutor by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees.
Biden was ostensibly working to get Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin removed because he wasn’t tough enough on corruption within the country, but the Ukrainian prosecutor was also, at the time, investigating a company on whose board Biden’s son Hunter sat. Last year, Biden bragged at a foreign policy event about his threats to the Ukrainian president but left out the part about his son’s company being investigated.
John Solomon, an opinion contributor to The Hill, reported the story after speaking with Shokin, the new prosecutor, and a half-dozen senior Ukrainian officials. Solomon explained that Biden made his boast during a filmed speech, leaving no questions as to what the context was around his words. As Solomon wrote of Biden’s speech:
“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 recalled telling Poroshenko.
“Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time,” Biden told the Council on Foreign Relations event, insisting that President Obama was in on the threat.
Several Ukrainian officials told Solomon that the threat and pressure occurred over several months, not in a single day, as Biden suggested. In the end, however, Shokin was fired, and his investigation into Burisma Holdings, which employed Hunter Biden, ended.
Hunter was also part of an American-based firm called Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, which received monthly money transfers of more than $166,000 a month from Burisma between 2014 and 2015. Shokin was looking into the payments.
As Solomon reports, there is no way Biden couldn’t have known that his son was being investigated by Ukraine, given that Hunter’s appointment to the board was widely reported at a time when Biden was working on Ukraine issues, and the vice president’s own office was quoted in The New York Times’ article about Hunter and Burisma.
After Biden made his boast in 2018, the current General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko – who replaced Shokin after Biden got his way – went back over the Burisma files and the case has since been reopened. Those investigating the case, however, have been slow to gather evidence.
Shutting down the case allowed the situation to not hurt the Bidens – and by extension, Hillary Clinton – during the 2016 election. As Biden prepares to announce whether he will run for president in 2020, the situation could become a campaign issue along with allegations that Biden inappropriately touches women.
If Democrats are concerned about nepotism in the Trump administration, they’ll have to be tough on a candidate who used his power in office to pressure a foreign government into backing off an investigation into his son’s company.