The Obama administration allowed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter to continue working for Ukrainian company Burisma, even after learning that the firm and its owner were corrupt, top U.S. State Department official George Kent testified, according to transcripts released Thursday.
Hunter 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.
During his closed-door deposition on October 15, Kent told House impeachment investigators that he raised concerns about Biden’s lucrative position in 2015.
According to the transcripts, Kent, a deputy assistant secretary 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.
The United States spent “roughly half a million dollars” in support of a Zlochevsky-linked investigation in 2014 — the year Burisma hired Hunter, Kent revealed.
Kent indicated that then-VP Biden’s staff dismissed his concerns about Hunter’s work in Ukraine.
“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,” he testified.
“That was the end of that conversation” about Hunter Biden’s conflict of interest in Ukraine, Kent later added.
Kent said he first visited the U.S. embassy in Ukraine in mid-January 2015. He indicated that he 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,” the top State official said.
He testified that he was so concerned about Burisma’s reputation that he put the breaks on coordinated activity between the company and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
House Democrats pursuing the impeachment probe have accused Trump of abusing his power by pressuring his Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a July 25 call to investigate corruption allegations against the Bidens, allegedly in exchange for aid.
Trump, Zelensky, and some impeachment probe witnesses, including Kent, have denied the claim. Other witnesses, however, have presumed that a quid pro quo took place in which Trump leveraged U.S. aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Kent testified that he had no “direct knowledge” of the alleged link between America’s security assistance to Ukraine and the Eastern European country opening of new investigations.
He 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.
The former vice president threatened to withhold aid himself to Ukraine to force the Eastern European country to fire its top prosecutor in 2016, who had investigated the owner of Burisma for possible corruption.
Until recently, Hunter served on the board of Burisma for up to $83,000 per month despite having no background in energy. His position prompted allegations of corruption.
Hunter admitted to ABC News last weekend that his father’s political position helped him secure the lucrative appointment to Burisma’s board of directors.
Based on Kent’s testimony, Trump had reason to be concerned about corruption linked to Hunter Biden’s position.