The Senate Homeland Security Committee has secured an interview with a high-ranking State Department official who during the Obama administration raised concerns about Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine.
Politico reported on Wednesday that George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, is expected to appear before the committee as soon as Friday. The interview is part of an ongoing probe the homeland security committee has open into Biden and Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian natural gas conglomerate upon whose board he served. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), the committee’s chairman, is investigating, in particular, whether Burisma sought to leverage its ties with Biden for beneficial treatment from the Obama-era State Department.
It is unclear exactly how wide-ranging Kent’s interview will be with the committee. Last year, Kent told the House impeachment inquiry that in 2015, he raised concerns about Biden’s work with Burisma to then-Vice President Joe Biden’s office. Kent, who was then the United States deputy chief of mission in Ukraine, told the inquiry he was troubled by the younger Biden’s association with Burisma, whose founder many believe to be guilty of public corruption.
“In a briefing call with…the office of the Vice President…I raised my concern that Hunter Biden’s status as a [Burisma] board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest,” Kent testified last November.
The younger Biden joined Burisma’s board in April 2014, around the same time his father was tapped to be the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine. Despite having no background in either eastern Europe or the energy industry, Biden was paid as much $83,000-per-month for his services.
Adding to concerns was that he joined the natural gas company at a time when it was actively courting western leaders to prevent scrutiny of its business practices. The same month as the appointment, Mykola Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, had his assets frozen in the United Kingdom on suspicion of money laundering.
A Ukrainian official with ties to Zlochevsky admitted in October 2019 the only reason Biden was tapped to join Burisma’s board was to “protect” the company from foreign scrutiny.
It is in the context of Burisma and Zlochevsky’s legal troubles that Joe Biden’s influence has raised red flags. The former vice president has particularly drawn questions over his conduct in demanding the Ukrainian government fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in 2016. The demand for Shokin’s ouster was tied to more than $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees.
The former vice president, who has publicly bragged about the firing, has claimed the demand came from then-President Barack Obama, who had allegedly lost faith in the prosecutor’s ability to tackle corruption. Unofficially, though, it was known that Shokin was investigating both Burisma and Zlochevsky for public corruption.
It is uncertain if that probe extended to Biden, although Shokin has claimed that prior to his ouster, he was warned to back off the matter. Regardless of what occurred, Shokin’s successor, who is now himself being investigated for public corruption, dropped the investigation into Burisma.
Biden remained on the company’s board until his term expired in April 2019. During his tenure, Burisma wired millions of dollars to a Morgan Stanley bank account controlled by the younger Biden and his business associates. Between November 2014 and November 2015 alone, Burisma transferred more than $3.5 million to the account.