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For readers who believed that former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch did more to deserve being fired by President Donald Trump than met the eye, your instincts were correct.
During Yovanovitch’s testimony before House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s sham impeachment inquiry, the Obama-era diplomat claimed that she didn’t know much beyond a briefing and “press reports” about Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy firm at the center of a controversy involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
The firm, you may recall, had hired the inexperienced younger Biden as a board member, paying him around $50,000 per month.
“It just wasn’t a big deal,” she told lawmakers under oath during her Oct. 11, 2019 testimony.
…[N]ewly unearthed State Department memos obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Yovanovitch’s embassy in Kiev, including the ambassador herself, was engaged in several discussions and meetings about Burisma as the gas firm scrambled during the 2016 election and transition to settle a long-running corruption investigation and polish its image before President Trump took office.
The former ambassador, for example, was warned specifically via email from her deputy in September 2016, a full three years before she testified, that Burisma had hired a U.S. company with deep connections to Democrats called “Blue Star Strategies” in order to “rehabilitate the reputation” of the natural gas firm and that it put “Hunter Biden on its board,” according to memos.
In addition, the documents show that Yovanovitch met with a Burisma representative in her office at the U.S. embassy less than 45 days before President Trump took office, which she didn’t mention during her testimony.
“The discussions about Burisma inside Yovanovitch’s embassy were so extensive, in fact, that they filled more than 160 pages of emails, memos and correspondence in fall 2016 alone, according to the State Department records obtained under FOIA by the conservative group Citizens United,” Just The News reported.
David Bossie, founder of Citizens United and a current outside adviser to the president, said the documents his organization has managed to obtain raise lots of doubts and new questions regarding Yovanovitch’s impeachment testimony, as well as what else lawmakers may still not know about the U.S. embassy’s involvement with a firm that employed the former VP’s son.
“These new records clearly don’t support Ambassador Yovanovitch’s testimony under oath during [Rep. Adam] Schiff’s sham impeachment. Her sworn testimony must be investigated and scrutinized just like in the case of General [Michael] Flynn,” Bossie said. “You can’t have two sets of rules.”
The documents show that additional contacts between the embassy and Burisma include a private letter that was hand-delivered to the former ambassador by a Burisma attorney in Sept. 2016, a briefing later the same month from her staff on issues related to the firm, and a scheduled meeting with a Burisma official right before Christmas 2016, as the Obama administration was getting ready to leave office.
During Yovanovitch’s deposition to the House, she never mentioned having any direct contact with Burisma company officials and instead portrayed her knowledge of the firm as little more than scant briefings she got as she prepared for her Senate confirmation hearing in the summer of 2016.
“What do you know about the investigation of Burisma?” Yovanovitch was asked at one point during her October testimony.
“Not very much. And, again, that happened before I arrived,” she testified. “… Burisma wasn’t a big issue in the fall of 2018 — 2016 when I arrived.”
“Were you aware at that time of Hunter Biden’s role with Burisma?” she was asked later.
“Yes. As I mentioned, I became aware during the Q&A in the prep for my testimony,” she answered.
Hunter Biden’s association with Burisma was profitable. His firm received more than $3 million in payments over two years.
Joe Biden has denied that he interfered as vice president in a corruption probe into Ukraine while his son was a board member. But he is on video at a Council on Foreign Relations event in 2018 admitting he threatened to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees from Ukraine if the government there didn’t fire the prosecutor conducting the investigation.
Around the same time Yovanovitch was testifying before the House, a senior State Department official, George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary for Eurasian and European Affairs, told lawmakers he expressed concerns in 2016 with corruption involving Burisma.
A month later during nationally televised hearings, Yovanovitch doubled down on her previous testimony.
“It was not a focus of what I was doing in that six-month period,” she told lawmakers regarding Burisma and Hunter Biden.
However, documents show she was told about criminal cases actively being settled in the fall of 2016 and that the company and its founder, Mykola Zlochevsky, were attempting to repair the firm’s reputation with the American embassy.
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