State Department official Catherine Croft told House impeachment investigators that at least one unnamed official raised concerns and was “annoyed” about former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter doing business with corruption-linked Ukrainian company Burisma Holdings, transcripts released on Monday show.
Croft, a State Department specialist on Ukraine, testified behind closed doors on October 30.
House investigators asked her how she came to learn that Hunter was serving on Burisma’s board of directors.
“I think it just came up, yeah, in conversation somebody was sort of annoyed that that was the case, but I can’t remember specifically who said it, or under what circumstance,” Croft, who appeared under subpoena, responded.
She went on to describe why the unnamed official, presumably from the State Department, was annoyed, saying it stemmed from “just sort of a general concern about the appearance of the vice president’s son doing business in Ukraine.”
Croft said that then-Vice President Joe Biden was heavily involved in Ukraine at the time that the official sounded the alarm on Hunter’s position at Burisma.
“The vice president was very engaged in Ukraine policy,” she declared.
Hunter served on Burisma’s board of directors from 2014 until April of this year. As vice president, Biden was in charge of U.S. policy towards Ukraine while his son was working for Burisma, prompting allegations of corruption. The Bidens deny any wrongdoing.
Croft testified for about five hours. In what appears to be a few hours after she told House lawmakers pursuing the impeachment inquiry that at least one person raised concerns about Hunter’s work in Ukraine, she appeared to walk back her remarks.
House investigators asked Croft, “Do you have any recollection of whether there was a concern that given Hunter Biden’s role with the Burisma company and the Vice President’s engagement that there was a potential conflict of interest?”
“No, not that I was aware of,” Croft declared under oath after telling investigators at least one official had raised concerns about Hunter’s work with Burisma.
Croft’s testimony echoed the deposition given by top State Department official George Kent, who indicated behind closed doors on October 15 that the Obama administration allowed Hunter to continue working for Burisma, even after learning that the firm and its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, were corrupt.
Kent testified that the Obama administration ignored him when he raised concerns in 2015 that Hunter’s work in Ukraine created “the perception of a conflict of interest.”
Croft told House impeachment investigators that the media narrative behind Hunter’s dealings in Ukraine and President Donald Trump’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to push the Eastern European country to investigate the former vice president’s son “made me centainly a lot more trepidatious” about taking her current role at the State Department.
She made those comments before denying that there were concerns about a potential conflict of interest stemming from Hunter serving on Burisma’s board of directors.
When asked why she was apprehensive about taking the position at the State Department, Croft indicated that corruption might be behind Hunter getting a job at Burisma, noting:
I knew from my experience on the Ukraine desk and from working at the NSC [National Security Council] that, like I said before, the nature of the corruption in Ukraine makes it a particularly difficult country to work on, because it is difficult to know at any given time what interests are behind what actions.
But one of the reasons that I ultimately agreed to take the job was because I felt I was probably better positioned than most to help and advise the [State] Department to manage those tricky waters.
Before working at the State Department assisting former Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, Croft previously worked on Ukraine issues for the NSC at the White House.
Despite having no background in energy, Hunter served on the board of Burisma for up to $83,000 per month, prompting allegations of corruption. He admitted to ABC News that his father’s political position helped him secure the lucrative appointment to Burisma’s board of directors.
House Democrats conducting the impeachment probe have accused Trump of pressuring Ukraine to investigate corruption allegations against the Bidens in exchange for aid, as part of an alleged quid pro quo.
Trump, Ukraine, and some impeachment inquiry witnesses have denied the allegation gleaned from a “whistleblower” complaint that triggered the probe.
White House hopeful Joe Biden gloated about pushing Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor who had been investigating Burisma by withholding aid to the Eastern European country.
Some impeachment probe witnesses have presumed that a quid pro quo did take place, citing second-hand information. There are signs Democrats are trying to move the impeachment investigation beyond Ukraine.