President Trump and his allies have been trying to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden for his role in what Rudy Giuliani called a “massive bribery scheme.”
Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and Donald Trump’s attorney, appeared on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” in a bizarre interview where he denied asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and then admitted to it seconds later.
During a heated exchange, host Chris Cuomo asked Giuliani diretly “Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?”
“No, actually I didn’t. I asked the Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton, for which there is already a court finding,” Giuliani responded.
Cuomo asked him again “”You never asked anything about Hunter Biden? You never asked anything about Joe Biden and his role with the prosecutor?”
“The only thing I asked about Joe Biden is to get to the bottom of how it was that Lutsenko, who was appointed, dismissed the case,” Giuliani said.
Cuomo pressed the issue, “So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?”
“Of course I did,” Giuliani said.
When asked about his contradicting answer, Giuliani tried to clarify by saying he didn’t ask specifically for Joe Biden to be investigated but asked Ukrainian officials “to look into the allegations that related to my client, which tangentially involved Joe Biden in a massive bribery scheme.”
This new revelation happened amidst a standoff between Congress and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire who has refused to turn over a whistleblower complaint to the House Intelligence Committee. Maguire is scheduled to appear before the committee next week.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hunter Biden Was on the Board of a Ukrainian Natural Gas Company
The “massive bribery scheme” Giuliani is referring to has to do with Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who held a directorship with a Ukrainian natural gas company called Burisma Holdings in 2014. At one point, Hunter was making $50,000 a month from Burisma.
Biden was involved in a number of investing and consulting firms with John Kerry’s stepson Christopher Heinz and Devon Archer. The New York Times reported that the trio “pursued business with international entities that had a stake in American foreign policy decisions, sometimes in countries where connections implied political influence and protection,”
Burisma was owned by Mykola Zlochevsky, a minister who went into exile after a popular revolution removed President Viktor F. Yanukovych. With Yanukovych gone, Zlochevsky faced numerous corruption investigations involving Burisma Holdings.
In 2015, Ukraine appointed Viktor Shokin as their new prosecutor. His removal in 2016 is at the center of the bribery allegations.
2. Biden Admitted that he Threatened to Withhold Loan Guarantees from Ukraine Unless Shokin was Fired
Biden freely admitted to his role in having Shokin removed in during an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations in 2018.
“I remember going over (to Ukraine), convincing our team … that we should be providing for loan guarantees. … And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from (then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko) and from (then-Prime Minister Arseniy) Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor (Shokin). And they didn’t…” he said.
“They were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, … we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, ‘You have no authority. You’re not the president.’ … I said, call him. I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. … I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
In March 2016, the Ukrainian Rada approved the resignation of Viktor Shokin was voted out of his position with an overwhelming majority.
3. The Ukrainian Rada Wanted Shokin Removed
Viktor Shokin had much bigger issues than the corruption case against Mykola Zlochevsky. Almost immediately after he was appointed, he started to cause almost irreparable harm to Ukraine’s legal system.
For starters, he failed to prosecute any prominent members of the Yanukovych regime or anybody in the current government. He constantly blocked reform to Ukraine’s broken legal system. He was in charge of implementing the 2014 law on prosecution which the European Union had asked Ukraine to do for years.
The law aimed to reduce to role of prosecutors who “were absurdly superior to judges in the Soviet legal system that persisted in post-Soviet Ukraine” according to Atlantic Council. It also called for a reevaluation of all prosecutors in order to weed out the more corrupt and incompetent ones. Shokin manipulated the process so that the old system mostly remained the same and minimal, ineffective changes were implemented.
He was the largest obstacle to judicial reform in Ukraine. It wasn’t just Joe Biden calling for his ouster, it was the United States government and the European Union.
Steven Pifer, a career foreign service officer who was ambassador to Ukraine under President Bill Clinton, told Politifact that “”virtually everyone” he knew in the U.S. government and virtually all non-governmental experts on Ukraine “felt that Shokin was not doing his job and should be fired. As far as I can recall, they all concurred with the vice president telling Poroshenko that the U.S. government would not extend the $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine until Shokin was removed from office.””
The European Union also called for him to be fired and celebrated his removal. “This decision creates an opportunity to make a fresh start in the prosecutor general’s office. I hope that the new prosecutor general will ensure that [his] office . . . becomes independent from political influence and pressure and enjoys public trust,” said Jan Tombinski, the EU’s envoy to Ukraine, in a statement at the time.
4. Experts Agree That Hunter Biden’s Position Created a Conflict of Interest for Joe
Despite Shokin’s removal being justified, experts still agree that Hunter’s involvement with Burisma created a conflict of interest.
Yoshiko M. Herrera, an expert on Russia and Eurasian policy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, told the Washington Post that Hunter Biden’s position was “a conflict of interest even if it doesn’t break any laws.”
“Calling Hunter Biden a private citizen ignores the obvious links to the vice president,” Herrera said. “Conflict-of-interest rules should have applied. If Biden is working for the Obama administration on Ukraine, his son should not have been on the board of a company there that could be affected by U.S. policy spearheaded by his father.”
The Post also noted that “for more than two decades, [Hunter Biden’s] professional work often tracked with his father’s life in politics, from Washington to Ukraine to China.”
A 2015 New York Times editorial said that “It should be plain to Hunter Biden that any connection with a Ukrainian oligarch damages his father’s efforts to help Ukraine. This is not a board he should be sitting on.”
Steven Pifer also expressed concern to the New York Times in 2015, “It was a mistake for Hunter Biden to join the Burisma board, particularly given that the vice president was the senior U.S. official engaging Ukraine,” Pifer said. “Hunter Biden should have been more mindful of his father’s position.”
5. Joe Biden Denied Knowing About Hunter’s Role with Burisma Holdings
A spokesperson for the Biden campaign told Politifact that he “learned about his son’s role on the board through media reports and never discussed anything related to this company with his son.”
In 2014, spokesman Jay Carney was asked at a White House press briefing if Hunter’s involvement with Burisma created a conflict of interest.
“I would refer you to the Vice President’s office. I saw those reports. Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens and where they work does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the Vice President or President.” Carney said, “But I would refer you to the Vice President’s office.”
Hunter has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in his role at Burisma and said he has not discussed the business with his father.
“I have had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation of Burisma, or any of its officers,” Hunter Biden told the New York Times in a statement. “I explicitly limited my role to focus on corporate governance best practices to facilitate Burisma’s desire to expand globally.”
He also told the Washington Post that “At no time have I discussed with my father the company’s business or my board service,” and insisted that “the narrative that has been suggested and developed by the right-wing political apparatus [is] demonstrably false.”
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