Amid the current ruckus regarding Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Ukraine, two things have been taken for granted.
The first is that when then-Vice President Biden threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine unless they fired prosecutor Viktor Shokin, it’s because Shokin was deeply and irredeemably corrupt. No matter who Shokin was investigating, nobody in the West would miss him.
Second, even if Shokin had investigated Burisma — the Ukrainian energy company which had given Biden’s son Hunter a $50,000-a-month sinecure on its board — that investigation had ended by the time he was fired. Thus, there’s no potential for either corruption or a conflict of interest on the former vice president’s part.
However, new documents uncovered by investigative reporter John Solomon cast doubt on both of those bedrock assumptions.
Solomon, in a story published in The Hill on Thursday, claims files show Shokin had two open investigations on Burisma when he was fired and that Burisma’s American legal team said the assessment of Shokin as incompetent and unscrupulous may not have necessarily been accurate.
In the piece, Solomon states that the documents “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 Hunter Biden during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
“For instance, Burisma’s American legal representatives met with Ukrainian officials just days after Biden forced the firing of the country’s chief prosecutor and offered ‘an apology for dissemination of false information by U.S. representatives and public figures’ about the Ukrainian prosecutors, according to the Ukrainian government’s official memo of the meeting,” Solomon wrote.
“The effort to secure that meeting began the same day the prosecutor’s firing was announced.”
If this is accurate — and keep in mind this is the Ukrainian government’s assessment of the situation — it would cast doubt upon the explanation that Shokin was fired because of corruption and performance issues.
The memo was written by Yuriy Sevruk, Shokin’s temporary replacement. According to Solomon, Sevruk had met with John Buretta, a defense attorney with lobbying and public relations firm Blue Star Strategies, which was helping Burisma handle the case.
“Sevruk memorialized the meeting in a government memo that the general prosecutor’s office provided to me, 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,” he reported.
“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,” his memo said.
They also acknowledged that the British had stymied Shokin’s aggressive investigation into Burisma, according to Sevruk’s account.
“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,” he wrote.
Furthermore, Solomon says the documents show that Burisma was still being investigated when Biden pressured the Ukrainians to fire Shokin, then the country’s prosecutor general.
“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,” he wrote.
“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.”
Shokin also claims that he was fired due to Burisma, and while Solomon notes this may not be the most authoritative source on the matter, he says the account is backed up by Burisma’s legal team in America.
“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 said in a sworn affidavit for a European court.
“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.”
Solomon wrote that the prosecutor “certainly would have reason to hold a grudge over his firing. But his account is supported by documents from Burisma’s legal team in America, which appeared to be moving into Ukraine with intensity as Biden’s effort to fire Shokin picked up steam.”
It’s worth noting that most of these documents are Ukrainian in origin, meaning they might not be the most objective account of things. Then again, Biden’s account of how he handled Burisma probably isn’t, either — especially given the potential conflict of interest.
“Today, two questions remain,” Solomon concluded. “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 voters.”
It’s difficult to say whether this is going to affect Biden’s polling numbers. Certainly, in the short run, this is going to affect Donald Trump the most.
The real winner, however, could end up being Biden’s opponents, however — especially if it becomes clear that he wasn’t telling the whole truth when it came to the firing of Viktor Shokin.
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