Reported by Jerry Dunleavy | Washington Examiner | September 23, 2020
The Senate Republicans’ controversial report on Joe and Hunter Biden was released on Wednesday, detailing allegations of problematic foreign business dealings by Biden’s son as the former vice president helped lead the Obama administration’s foreign policy. The report also pushes back on Democratic claims of Russian disinformation.
The 87-page joint report by the Republican-led Homeland Security and Finance Committees, titled Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Corruption: The Impact on U.S. Government Policy and Related Concerns, is the product of an investigation by Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Even before its release 41 days before the presidential election, Democrats claimed the GOP chairmen were working to harm the elder Biden, who is the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, while using Russian disinformation.
Much of the report’s focus is on Joe Biden’s role helping guide the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy while Hunter Biden received a lucrative position in 2014 on the board of an allegedly corrupt Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings, run by Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, which the Republicans said “created an immediate potential conflict of interest that would prove to be problematic for both U.S. and Ukrainian officials and would affect the implementation of Ukraine policy.” This was an issue that President Trump raised during his July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which sparked a whistleblower complaint and led to impeachment in the Democratic majority House and acquittal in the GOP-led Senate. Johnson and Grassley also delve into other business dealings by Hunter Biden, his business partner Devon Archer, and others in the Biden family, including business dealings tied to Russia and China.
“This is a good-government oversight investigation that relies on documents and testimony from U.S. agencies and officials, not a Russian disinformation campaign, as our Democratic colleagues have falsely stated,” the report says. “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. Moreover, this investigation has illustrated the extent to which officials within the Obama administration ignored the glaring warning signs when the vice president’s son joined the board of a company owned by a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch.”
The report says George Kent, former acting deputy chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, “raised concerns to officials in Vice President Joe Biden’s office about the perception of a conflict of interest with respect to Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board” in early 2015. The report alleges that “Kent’s concerns went unaddressed” and that he wrote an email to his colleagues stating that “the presence of Hunter Biden on the Burisma board was very awkward for all U.S. officials pushing an anticorruption agenda in Ukraine” in September 2016. The report also contends that senior State Department official Amos Hochstein “raised concerns with Vice President Biden, as well as with Hunter Biden, that Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board enabled Russian disinformation efforts and risked undermining U.S. policy in Ukraine” in October 2015.
During a phone call last summer, Zelensky expressed interest in purchasing anti-tank weaponry, and Trump asked Zelensky “to do us a favor though” by looking into a CrowdStrike conspiracy theory and possible Ukrainian meddling in 2016. Trump also urged Zelensky to investigate “the other thing,” referring to allegations of corruption involving Joe and Hunter Biden.
Trump and Republican allies have questioned why Burisma gave Hunter a high-paying position despite him having little experience in the energy sector and a well-documented problem with drug use. Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and other allies claim Biden improperly used his position as vice president to pressure Ukraine to fire Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin to protect his son from an investigation into Burisma. Democrats deny there was any wrongdoing, arguing that the claims of corruption are political smears. Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukraine did not fire Shokin, who was criticized by many in the West for not doing enough to crack down on corruption.
The new Senate report says that “the awkwardness for Obama administration officials continued well past his presidency” because former Secretary of State John Kerry “had knowledge of Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board” but “falsely” said he did not when asked about it in December 2019. “I had no knowledge about any of that. None. No,” Kerry is quoted as saying. But Kerry’s stepson, Christopher Heinz, who was also Hunter Biden’s business partner, emailed Kerry’s chief of staff on May 13, 2014, the day after Hunter Biden joined Burisma’s board, “to distance himself from that decision” and Kerry’s chief of staff, David Wade, “briefed him about press inquiries specifically relating to Heinz, Hunter Biden, and Burisma” in May 2014. The report also notes that State Department officials “sent the secretary articles” about the controversy, and “these records suggest that Kerry did, in fact, know about Hunter Biden and Burisma.”
“In addition to the over $4 million paid by Burisma for Hunter Biden’s and Archer’s board memberships, Hunter Biden, his family, and Archer received millions of dollars from foreign nationals with questionable backgrounds,” the report alleges, claiming that “Hunter Biden received a $3.5 million wire transfer from Elena Baturina, the wife of the former mayor of Moscow” and that Hunter Biden “opened a bank account with” Chinese businessman Gongwen Dong “to fund a $100,000 global spending spree” with Joe Biden’s younger brother, James Biden, and James’s wife, Sara.
“Hunter Biden had business associations with Ye Jianming, Gongwen Dong, and other Chinese nationals linked to the Communist government and the People’s Liberation Army,” the report also notes. “Those associations resulted in millions of dollars in cash flow.”
The report further claims that Hunter Biden “paid nonresident women who were nationals of Russia or other Eastern European countries and who appear to be linked to an Eastern European prostitution or human trafficking ring.”
Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, the ranking member on the homeland security panel, said last week that Johnson’s “own public comments … demonstrates the alarming partisan nature of this investigation.” Peters also wrote a letter to Johnson claiming that “you persist in this course of action despite the fact you are knowingly advancing discredited claims that our own Intelligence Community has warned are part of a Russian attack on our democracy.”
Democrats wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray in July, saying, “We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation.”
The Democrats accused top GOP investigators of making use of information from Russian-intelligence connected Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, a claim Republican senators have rejected. The Treasury Department announced sanctions against Derkach this month. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah also said last week that “the Biden-Burisma investigation … I think, from the outset, had the earmarks of a political exercise.”
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in August that the intelligence community played no role in the creation of a classified appendix compiled by Democrats containing allegations of Russian interference efforts that were used to accuse Senate Republicans of entangling themselves in a foreign disinformation scheme.
Johnson and Grassley’s report argues that Democratic leaders on their committees “have attempted to mischaracterize its scope in an effort to cast doubt on its eventual findings,” and “in the process, Democrats relied upon and disseminated disinformation from foreign sources” such as Derkach, “whom the IC has publicly warned are actively seeking to influence U.S. politics.” The GOP duo said, “thus the Democrats … have engaged in a disinformation campaign, not Chairmen Grassley or Johnson.”
The Republicans seek to further stave off the accusations by pointing out that “the Democrats’ personification of Russian disinformation,” Andrii Telizhenko — a former Ukrainian diplomat who accompanied Giuliani to Ukraine last year — also “met with Obama administration officials, including Elisabeth Zentos, a member of Obama’s National Security Council, at least 10 times” and that “a Democrat lobbying firm, Blue Star Strategies, contracted with Telizhenko from 2016 to 2017 and continued to request his assistance as recent as the summer of 2019.”
Bill Evanina, who leads the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, released an intelligence assessment in early August warning that Russia is “using a range of measures to primarily denigrate” Biden, and that Derkach “is spreading claims about corruption — including through publicizing leaked phone calls — to undermine” Biden. The same statement also said China “prefers” that Trump not win reelection and is “expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020.” The counterintelligence official also said Iran “seeks to undermine” Trump’s presidency.