National Security

Top GOP senators say Hunter Biden’s work ‘cast a shadow’ over Obama Ukraine policy

Two Senate Republican chairmen on Wednesday released findings from their months-long investigation into the Bidens, arguing that Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukraine gas company “cast a shadow” over Obama-era policy.

The controversial report, from Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), comes only weeks before the November presidential election and days before the first debate between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden — raising concerns among Democrats that the two are trying to interfere in the presidential election and could spread Russian disinformation.  

The GOP senators acknowledge in their report it is “not clear” how much U.S. policy was impacted because of Hunter Biden’s work for Ukraine gas company Burisma Holdings, but they argue that it created an “awkwardness” for the Obama-era State Department. The report does not appear to include an example of a decision in which U.S. foreign policy was changed due to Hunter Biden’s work on Burisma.

“What the Chairmen discovered during the course of this investigation is that the Obama administration knew that Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine,” the GOP chairmen wrote in their report. 

Two officials — George Kent, who is currently serving as deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, and Amos Hochstein, a senior Obama-era State Department official — both told the committee that they raised concerns about Hunter Biden’s work and the potential conflict of interest with U.S.-Ukraine policy, according to the GOP report.

“Kent’s concerns went unaddressed, and in September 2016, he emphasized in an email to his colleagues, ‘Furthermore, the presence of Hunter Biden on the Burisma board was very awkward for all U.S. officials pushing an anticorruption agenda in Ukraine,'” the report says.

But Kent’s concerns were previously made public last year, when The Washington Post reported that he raised concerns that Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma Holdings could undercut U.S. policy in Ukraine. 

Hochstein previously told associates that Burisma never factored into a change in U.S. policy, and he was expected to tell committee staff working on the GOP probe that the Obama administration sought to punish Burisma rather than protect it. 

Kent also told the Senate committee staffs, according to the GOP report, that “there was no time, as I’ve testified, that the U.S. government, the U.S. embassy ever made a decision about Zlochevsky or Burisma where we took the presence of a private citizen on the board into account,” referring to Burisma co-founder Mykola Zlochevsky.

In addition to Obama-era State Department policy, the GOP probe also dug into financial transactions and travel that Hunter Biden took with a Secret Service detail while his father was vice president.

The report sparked fierce backlash from both Democrats and the Biden campaign, who have been deeply skeptical of the investigation and warn it could spread Russian misinformation. Johnson has also faced public scrutiny from GOP members of his committee, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), in particular, has warned the probe looks like a political exercise.

“The Chairman has diverted our Committee’s time and taxpayer resources away from our mission to protect the health and security of Americans – and instead has generated a partisan, political report that is rooted in Russian disinformation and intended to influence the presidential election,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, added that Republicans “ tried—and failed—to manufacture dirt on Vice President Biden.”

Peters and Wyden released their own report on Wednesday, countering the GOP investigation, stating that “every witness interviewed for this investigation testified that Vice President Biden did not alter United States foreign policy to benefit his son Hunter Biden, and that Hunter Biden’s presence on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma had no affect on U.S. foreign policy.”

The Biden campaign also immediately panned Johnson on Wednesday.

“As the coronavirus death toll climbs and Wisconsinites struggle with joblessness, Ron Johnson has wasted months diverting the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee away from any oversight of the catastrophically botched federal response to the pandemic, a threat Sen. Johnson has dismissed by saying that ‘death is an unavoidable part of life.’ Why? To subsidize a foreign attack against the sovereignty of our elections with taxpayer dollars,” Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said.

Johnson has denied for months that his investigation was being driven by Joe Biden’s presidential run, but he has spoken of the report as something that would raise questions about the former vice president’s fitness for office.

“What our investigations are uncovering, I think, will reveal this is not somebody we should be electing president of the United States,” Johnson said in an interview with local Wisconsin radio station WCLO earlier this month.

No evidence has indicated criminal wrongdoing by the Bidens. A narrative, seized on by Trump, that Joe Biden worked to oust Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin to protect his son has been widely discredited, though Hunter Biden has said joining the board was “poor judgment.” 

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, as part of a vote earlier this month, agreed to release transcripts from the closed-door depositions simultaneously with the GOP report.

Part of the depositions were released on Wednesday. But a Democratic aide noted that transcripts from key officials, including two current ambassadors, had not yet been released.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the committee, warned that releasing the GOP report without the transcripts violated the agreement to release the transcripts, which passed the committee on a voice vote. 

“Your release of a report without the simultaneous release of all witness interview transcripts, in direct violation of this committee’s rules, would further weaken the committee’s ability to effectively carry out its responsibilities on behalf of the public in the future,” he said.

Updated at 11:14 a.m.

Tags Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Gary Peters Joe Biden Mitt Romney Ron Johnson Ron Wyden

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