A State Department official focused on Ukraine policy told Congress this week he raised concerns about Hunter Biden’s role on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas firm in 2015, but was rebuffed by former Vice President Joe Biden’s staff, Fox News has confirmed.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, who testified behind closed doors before committees spearheading the formal House impeachment inquiry, told congressional investigators that he had qualms about Hunter Biden’s role on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.
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The Washington Post first reported details of Kent’s testimony on Friday, which included his concerns that the younger Biden’s role in the company could complicate U.S. diplomatic efforts with Ukrainian officials, and raised the issue of a possible conflict of interest. Kent also testified that he was worried that Hunter Biden’s position would make Ukrainian officials think he was a channel of influence to his father, who was vice president at the time.
A congressional source confirmed to Fox News on Friday that Kent testified that when he brought his concerns to the office of the vice president in 2016, his staff “blew him off” and ignored the issue involving the younger Biden’s role at the firm.
Meanwhile, during his deposition on Tuesday, sources told Fox News that Kent spoke extensively about accusations of corruption linked to Burisma, noting it was a “big problem” as it relates to Ukraine.
Kent had repeatedly raised concerns with the Obama administration about the company, specifically providing an example in 2016, when he raised concerns with the Obama administration’s USAID about dropping a planned event with Burisma. Kent testified that the event involved children, and he did not feel comfortable with photos of children in conjunction with Burisma.
Sources also told Fox News that Kent told congressional investigators about the Obama administration’s efforts to remove Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin from his post. At the time, Shokin was investigating Mykola Zlochevsky, the former minister of ecology and natural resources of Ukraine — also the founder of Burisma.
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Shokin was fired in April 2016, and his case was closed by the prosecutor who replaced him, Yuriy Lutsenko. Biden once famously boasted on camera that when he was vice president and leading the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire Shokin — who was investigating Burisma Holdings while Hunter sat on the board.
Biden allies, though, maintain that his intervention prompting the firing of Shokin had nothing to do with his son, but was rather tied to corruption concerns.
However, Kent testified that while Shokin faced accusations of corruption, his replacement, Lutsenko, did too, and that both ex-prosecutors were godfathers to former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s children. However, according to sources Kent said that while the United States pushed hard for Shokin to be fired, no one ever pushed for Lutsenko to be fired.
Shokin was widely accused of corruption on both sides of the Atlantic. Biden has said that the international community was supportive and pushing for his firing, but sources told Fox News that Kent testified that it was the United States who led that international effort to get him removed. Kent also noted, according to sources, that the international community was deferential to the U.S. on the topic.