The findings of a Senate GOP investigation confirmed Wednesday that Eric Ciaramella, believed to be the “whistleblower” who sparked the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, participated in an Obama White House meeting with Ukrainian prosecutors in January 2016.
Although the Republican report did not reveal what was discussed during the gathering, at least one participant has reportedly said it was focused, in part, on a corruption probe linked to Hunter Biden’s employer at the time: Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
The findings of the months-long probe into Hunter’s dealings with Burisma carried out by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) were revealed Wednesday:
According to a document with a DOJ [Department of Justice] logo, a Ukrainian delegation that included senior-level Ukrainian prosecutors arrived in Washington on Jan. 18, 2016. The agenda shows that their first official meeting was confirmed for Jan. 19, 2016, at the White House, from 11 a.m. to noon with “Eric Ciaramella, [Elisabeth] Zentos and others TBD, National Security Council [NSC].”
Zentos and Ciaramella served on then-President Barack Obama’s NSC. Hunter’s lucrative role on the board of Burisma, between 2014 and 2019, was at the center of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. He worked at the company while his father Joe Biden, now the Democrat presidential nominee, was in charge of U.S. policy toward Ukraine as vice-president, including anti-corruption efforts.
At the time of the January 2016 gathering, Ukrainian prosecutors were investigating Burisma for corruption. However, Ukrainian officials dropped the probe soon after Hunter’s VP father pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire Ukraine’s chief prosecutor in March 2016.
During the Senate impeachment trial, White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin told lawmakers in January 2019 that the alleged “whistleblower,” believed to be CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella, may have had a “conflict of interest” in filing his second-hand complaint because he was likely involved in Obama administration decisions about the Bidens and Burisma.
BREAKING: Deputy Trump counsel Philbin just told the Senate the "whistleblower" may have had a "conflict of interest" in filing his complaint, because he may have been involved in decisions on Biden & Burisma & may have had a "reason to deep-six" a rekindled Ukraine investigation
— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) January 30, 2020
Citing Andrii Telizhenko — who the GOP report acknowledged participated in the January 2016 meeting as an official at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington — John Solomon wrote in an April 2019 editorial for the Hill that officials discussed the corruption investigation involving Burisma during the gathering.
During the meeting, “U.S. officials told the Ukrainians they would prefer that Kyiv drop the Burisma probe and allow the FBI to take it over. The Ukrainians did not agree,” Telizhenko reportedly indicated. Ukraine ultimately dropped the investigation.
Solomon also described the meeting as “one of the earliest documented efforts to build the now-debunked Trump-Russia collusion narrative and one of the first to involve the Obama administration’s intervention.”
Although Zentos refused to confirm, the GOP report suggested Ciaramella may have participated in a subsequent meeting in March 2016 with Telizhenko. The meeting came days before the late March 2016 ouster of Ukraine’s top prosecutor who wanted to investigate Burisma for corruption.
Sens. Johnson and Grassley wrote:
On March 1, 2016, Zentos and Telizhenko agreed over email to meet on March 3, 2016, at a Washington bar called The Exchange. Before the planned meeting, Zentos told Telizhenko, “I’ll see if my colleague Eric is up for joining.” When asked whether “Eric” was Ciaramella, Zentos declined to answer. This meeting ultimately occurred on March 4, 2016, but it is unclear what was discussed.
Days before former VP Biden announced his candidacy for president, the New York Times reportedly buried a story about the January 2016 meeting.