Hundreds of pages of never-released memos and documents conflict with a story that former Vice President Joe Biden has been telling about him pressuring Ukraine to fire its chief prosecutor because he was corrupt, and not because the prosecutor was investigating a company that hired his son, according to a report.
The Hill‘s John Solomon is reporting that the documents — many from the American legal team that helped the company, Burisma Holdings, try to stave off its legal troubles — raise the “troubling prospect” that U.S. officials may have “painted a false picture in Ukraine that helped “ease Burisma’s legal troubles and stop prosecutors’ plans to interview” Biden’s son Hunter during the 2016 presidential elections.
Solomon reported that, for instance, an official Ukrainian government memo shows that Burisma’s American legal representatives met with Ukrainian officials just days after Biden forced the firing of the chief prosecutor and offered “an apology for dissemination of false information by U.S. representatives and public figures” about Ukrainian prosecutors.
In other words — the company that employed Biden’s son apologized to the Ukrainian government after the firing of the chief prosecutor for the “U.S. representatives and public figures” actions or remarks.
Solomon also reported that Burisma’s American team offered to introduce Ukrainian prosecutors to Obama administration officials to make amends, according to the Ukrainian government memo and Burisma’s American legal team’s internal memos.
According to Solomon, the memos raise the following “troubling questions”:
1) If the Ukraine prosecutor’s firing involved only his alleged corruption and ineptitude, why did Burisma’s American legal team refer to those allegations as “false information?”
2) If the firing had nothing to do with the Burisma case, as Biden has adamantly claimed, why would Burisma’s American lawyers contact the replacement prosecutor within hours of the termination and urgently seek a meeting in Ukraine to discuss the case?
Solomon reported that in a “newly sworn affidavit prepared for a European court,” Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin testified that when he was fired in March 2016, he was told the reason was that Biden was unhappy about the Burisma investigation.
“The truth is that I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings, a natural gas firm active in Ukraine and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a member of the Board of Directors,” Shokin testified, according to Solomon.
“On several occasions President Poroshenko asked me to have a look at the case against Burisma and consider the possibility of winding down the investigative actions in respect of this company but I refused to close this investigation,” Shokin reportedly said.
Solomon said other documents show that as Biden’s efforts to fire Shokin picked up steam, Burisma’s American legal team “appeared to be moving into Ukraine with intensity.”
Burisma’s accounting records “show that it paid tens of thousands of dollars while Hunter Biden served on the board of an American lobbying and public relations firm, Blue Star Strategies, run by Sally Painter and Karen Tramontano, who both served in President Bill Clinton’s administration.”
According to Solomon, just days before Shokin’s firing, Painter met with the second highest official at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington and asked to meet officials in Kiev around the same time that Joe Biden visited there.
Ukrainian embassy employee Oksana Shulyar reportedly emailed Painter afterward: “With regards to the meetings in Kiev, I suggest that you wait until the next week when there is an expected vote of the government’s reshuffle.”
Ukraine’s Washington embassy confirmed the conversations between Shulyar and Painter but said the reference to a shakeup in Ukrainian government was not specifically referring to Shokin’s firing or anything to do with Burisma, according to Solomon.
Painter reportedly asked one of the Ukraine embassy’s workers to “open the door for meetings with Ukraine’s prosecutors about the Burisma investigation.” Blue Star would eventually pay that Ukrainian official money for his help with the prosecutor’s office, according to Solomon.
At the same time, Blue Star worked in concert with an American criminal defense lawyer, John Buretta, who was hired by Burisma to help address the case in Ukraine, according to Solomon. That case was settled in January 2017 for a few million dollars in fines for alleged tax issues, he reported.
Solomon reported that Buretta, Painter, Tramontano, Hunter Biden, and Joe Biden’s campaign have not responded to “numerous calls and emails seeking comment.”
On March 29, 2016, the day Shokin’s firing was announced, Buretta reportedly asked to speak with Yuriy Sevruk, the prosecutor named to temporarily replace Shokin, but was turned down.
However, Blue Star, using the Ukrainian embassy worker it had hired, eventually scored a meeting with Sevruk on April 6, 2016, a week after Shokin’s firing. Buretta, Tramontano, and Painter attended that meeting in Kiev, according to Blue Star’s memos, Solomon reported.
Sevruk memorialized the meeting in a government memo that the general prosecutor’s office provided to Solomon, stating that the three Americans offered an apology for the “false” narrative that had been provided by U.S. officials about Shokin being corrupt and inept.
“They realized that the information disseminated in the U.S. was incorrect and that they would facilitate my visit to the U.S. for the purpose of delivering the true information to the State Department management,” the memo reportedly stated.
The memo also reportedly quoted the Americans as saying they knew Shokin pursued an aggressive corruption investigation against Burisma’s owner, only to be thwarted by British allies:
These individuals noted that they had been aware that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine had implemented all required steps for prosecution … and that he was released by the British court due to the underperformance of the British law enforcement agencies.
This memo provides a “vastly different portrayal” of Shokin than Biden’s account, Solomon reported.
Solomon said the contents of the memo are partially backed by subsequent emails from Blue Star and Buretta that confirm the offer to bring Ukrainian authorities to meet the Obama administration in Washington:
For instance, Tramontano wrote the Ukrainian prosecution team on April 16, 2016, saying U.S. Justice Department officials, including top international prosecutor Bruce Swartz, might be willing to meet. ‘The reforms are not known to the US Justice Department and it would be useful for the Prosecutor General to meet officials in the US and share this information directly,’ she wrote.
Buretta sent a similar email to the Ukrainians, writing that ‘I think you would find it productive to meet with DOJ officials in Washington’ and providing contact information for Swartz. ‘I would be happy to help,’ added Buretta, a former senior DOJ official.
Burisma, Buretta and Blue Star continued throughout 2016 to try to resolve the open issues in Ukraine, and memos recount various contacts with the State Department and the U.S. embassy in Kiev seeking help in getting the Burisma case resolved.
Just days before Trump took office, Burisma announced it had resolved all of its legal issues. And Buretta gave an interview in Ukraine about how he helped navigate the issues.
Solomon reported that Ukrainian prosecutors say they have tried to get this information to the Justice Department since the summer of 2018, fearing it is evidence of possible violations of U.S. ethics laws, and they hired a former federal prosecutor to bring the information to the U.S. Attorney in New York, who reportedly “showed no interest.” The Ukrainians then reached out to Tump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
As Solomon noted, the New York Times first published a story in December 2015 about Burisma hiring Hunter Biden just weeks after the vice president was asked by President Obama to oversee U.S.-Ukraine relations. That story also alerted Biden’s office that Shokin had an active investigation of Burisma and its founder, he noted.
Solomon detailed his previous reporting on “an effort to change the narrative” after the Times story about Hunter Biden ran, “with the help of the Obama State Department”:
Hunter Biden’s American business partner in Burisma, Devon Archer, texted a colleague two days after the Times story about a strategy to counter the ‘new wave of scrutiny’ and stated that he and Hunter Biden had just met at the State Department. The text suggested there was about to be a new “USAID project the embassy is announcing with us” and that it was “perfect for us to move forward now with momentum.”
I have sued the State Department for any records related to that meeting. The reason is simple: There is both a public interest and an ethics question to knowing if Hunter Biden and his team sought State’s assistance while his father was vice president.
The controversy ignited anew earlier this year when I disclosed that Joe Biden admitted during a 2018 videotaped speech that, as vice president in March 2016, he threatened to cancel $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, to pressure Ukraine’s then-President Petro Poroshenko to fire Shokin.
At the time, Shokin’s office was investigating Burisma. Shokin told me he was making plans to question Hunter Biden about $3 million in fees that Biden and his partner, Archer, collected from Burisma through their American firm. Documents seized by the FBI in an unrelated case confirm the payments, which in many months totaled more than $166,000.
Some media outlets have reported that, at the time Joe Biden forced the firing in March 2016, there were no open investigations. Those reports are wrong. A British-based investigation of Burisma’s owner was closed down in early 2015 on a technicality when a deadline for documents was not met. But the Ukraine Prosecutor General’s office still had two open inquiries in March 2016, according to the official case file provided me. One of those cases involved taxes; the other, allegations of corruption. Burisma announced the cases against it were not closed and settled until January 2017.
After I first reported it in a column, the New York Times and ABC News published similar stories confirming my reporting.
Joe Biden has since responded that he forced Shokin’s firing over concerns about corruption and ineptitude, which he claims were widely shared by Western allies, and that it had nothing to do with the Burisma investigation.
Solomon wrote, “Today, two questions remain:”
One is whether it was ethically improper or even illegal for Biden to intervene to fire the prosecutor handling Burisma’s case, given his son’s interests. That is one that requires more investigation and the expertise of lawyers.
“The second is whether Biden has given the American people an honest accounting of what happened. The new documents I obtained raise serious doubts about his story’s credibility. And that’s an issue that needs to be resolved by voter,” Solomon wrote.