Chuck Ross, DCNF
A senior State Department official told Congress on Tuesday that he had concerns in 2016 with corruption involving Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy firm linked to Hunter Biden, two sources familiar with his testimony told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
George Kent, who serves as deputy assistant secretary of state for Eurasian and European affairs, spoke at length Tuesday about Burisma’s problems with corruption, the two sources told the DCNF. They shared details of the deposition on condition of anonymity.
The career diplomat also said that he raised concerns with USAID in 2016 regarding an event that the agency was to have with Burisma, which is owned by Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky.
Kent was worried because the event involved children, and he did not feel comfortable with them being photographed in conjunction with the company, the two sources said. The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Kent, who handles a six-country portfolio that includes Ukraine, was deposed under subpoena as part of a Democrat-led impeachment inquiry that is focusing on President Trump’s actions towards Ukraine.
In a July 25 phone call, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to consider investigating whether Joe Biden in 2016 forced the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor who claims he was fired because he was investigating Burisma. Hunter Biden joined the Burisma board in 2014, and was paid $50,000 a month in that role.
Trump has embraced allegations pushed by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that Biden forced Petro Poroshenko, the former Ukrainian president, to fire Viktor Shokin as prosecutor in order to protect Burisma and his son.
Much of Giuliani’s case rests on a January 2018 video in which Joe Biden is seen bragging about forcing Poroshenko to remove Shokin from office in order to secure $1 billion in loan assistance from the U.S.
Biden has denied both intervening on his son’s behalf, and of knowing of any Shokin investigation of Burisma.
Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine who worked closely with Giuliani, told lawmakers on Oct. 3 that he did not believe that Biden intervened to help Burisma or his son.
“I have known former Vice President Biden for 24 years, and the suggestion that he would be influenced in his duties as Vice President by money for his son simply has no credibility to me,” Volker told lawmakers.
On Tuesday, Hunter Biden said in an interview with ABC News that he doubts he would have been invited on the board if his father wasn’t vice president.
Democrats have accused Trump of abusing his office by asking Zelensky to conduct a politically-charged investigation into the Bidens. Trump has said that he raised the Biden issue out of concern with corruption in Ukraine.
While Kent spoke about corruption at Burisma during his deposition, he was also critical of Giuliani and his work with State Department officials regarding Ukraine issues.
Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat, told reporters Tuesday that Kent testified he was told by superiors to lie low after raising concerns over Giuliani’s work undermined U.S. policy towards Ukraine.
Emails obtained by the DCNF show that Kent voiced concerns in March over what he said was a “classic disinformation campaign” aimed at Yovanovitch.
Kent expressed concerns in his deposition that Ukraine issues were outsourced to who he called the “three amigos”: Giuliani, Kurt Volker, who served as special envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the EU.
Text messages that Volker gave to Congress before his own congressional deposition on Oct. 3 indicate that Trump wanted Zelensky to commit to the investigations before having a face-to-face meeting with him at the White House.
Giuliani is reportedly under investigation over his Ukraine-related work. Two associates in that endeavor, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were indicted last Thursday on campaign finance charges. Federal prosecutors alleged that Parnas and Fruman made illegal campaign contributions, in part to force the removal of Marie Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine.
The Trump administration recalled Yovanovitch from her post in May, two months ahead of schedule, after allegations surfaced that she had spoken badly about Trump.
Yovanovitch testified Friday that she was unfairly smeared as part of a “concerted effort” by Giuliani and his associates.
Connolly told reporters that Kent testified that Giuliani spread disinformation about Yovanovitch that he received from Yuriy Lutsenko, who was Shokin’s predecessor.
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