Buttigieg says he wouldn't have wanted son to serve on Ukrainian board

Presidential candidate Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Airlines suspend US flights in response to 5G deployment AT&T, Verizon to delay 5G rollout near certain airports MORE said in a new interview that he would have opposed his son serving on the board of a Ukrainian company while he engaged in foreign policy matters, a reference to the controversy involving his 2020 rival Joe BidenJoe BidenNew York woman arrested after allegedly spitting on Jewish children Former Sen. Donnelly confirmed as Vatican ambassador Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE and unfounded allegations of corruption leveled against the former vice president. 

"I would not have wanted to see that happen," Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., told The Associated Press when asked about Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden serving on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company, while Joe Biden served as vice president in the Obama administration. 

Buttigieg added that his administration would have "a very high standard around ethics and making sure we do everything we can to prevent even the appearance of a conflict." But he also argued that the issues surrounding Biden are designed to "divert attention from what’s really at stake in the impeachment process," which is centered on President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE's request that Kyiv announce an investigation into the Bidens as well as one into unfounded claims of Ukrainian election interference.

ADVERTISEMENT

There is no evidence that suggests Hunter Biden was involved in any impropriety while working with Burisma. There is also no evidence that Joe Biden worked in his son's interests while pressuring Ukraine to oust a top prosecutor in the country.  

"There’s been no allegation, let alone finding, of wrongdoing [involving Joe Biden]," Buttigieg said. "I think it’s the wrong conversation to be having right now, though, given the spectacular misconduct that we have already seen in facts that are not in dispute, where the only argument to be had is over whether it rises to the level of removal."

The House earlier this month voted to impeach the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of a congressional inquiry over his dealings with Ukraine. 

Joe Biden's campaign declined to comment to the AP and The Hill. 

The criticism is a shift for Buttigieg, who in the past has refused to criticize Biden for his son’s role at the Ukrainian energy company.

ADVERTISEMENT

In an interview with the Associated Press from September, Buttigieg called questions about Hunter Biden’s role “what-about-ism” and insisted that the focus should be on Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine.

Buttigieg has also defended Hunter Biden and argued that Democrats should not allow Trump and the Republicans to muddy the waters.

"Here you have Hunter Biden stepping down from a position in order to make sure even though there's been no accusation of wrongdoing, doing something just to make sure there's not even the appearance of conflict of interest," Buttigieg told CNN.

"While in the White House, the president of the United States is a walking conflict of interest," he added.

The new criticism underscores the high stakes the candidates face with the Iowa caucuses only 34 days away. Biden and Buttigieg are fighting for the centrist mantle among Democrats, while Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFilibuster becomes new litmus test for Democrats Gallego says he's been approached about challenging Sinema Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service Trump by the numbers: 2024 isn't simple MORE (D-Mass.) battle for the progressive vote.

ADVERTISEMENT

Polls find Buttigieg with only a narrow lead over Biden, Sanders and Warren in the Hawkeye State.

Buttigieg is working to separate himself from Biden, the Democratic national polling front-runner. Buttigieg has offered more forceful criticism in recent weeks, including over his positions on the Iraq War. 

The South Bend mayor, 37, said on Sunday that Biden's support for the war was an "example of why years in Washington is not always the same thing as judgment."

"He supported the worst foreign policy decision made by the United States in my lifetime, which was the decision to invade Iraq," he said in response to a question about how his foreign policy experience measured up to his Democratic primary opponents during an appearance on “Iowa Press." 

—Updated Tuesday at 11:08 a.m.