Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch confirmed in congressional testimony on Friday that she was prepped by the Obama administration about how to answer questions concerning Hunter Biden following her 2016 nomination to the post.
Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York pressed Yovanovitch on the subject of then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son’s lucrative position as a member of the board of the Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings during the impeachment inquiry hearing before the House Intelligence Committee.
Joe Biden was the Obama administration’s point man on Ukrainian policy.
“You testified that in this particular practice Q&A with the Obama State Department, it wasn’t just generally about Burisma and corruption, it was specifically about Hunter Biden and Burisma. Is that correct?” Stefanik asked.
“Yes, it is,” Yovanovitch replied.
In March 2016, two months before Yovanovitch was nominated to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine, Vice President Biden demanded during a visit to Kiev that a Ukrainian prosecutor overseeing an investigation of Burisma for corruption be fired.
By his own account, Biden made the deadline for the firing to be when he left the country in six hours, or Ukraine would lose $1 billion in U.S. aid.
“For the millions of Americans watching, President Obama’s own State Department was so concerned about potential conflicts of interest from Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma that they raised it themselves while prepping this wonderful ambassador nominee before her confirmation,” Stefanik said.
“And yet, our Democratic colleagues and the chairman of this committee cry foul when we dare ask that same question that the Obama State Department was so concerned about,” the congresswoman added.
“But we will continue asking it.”
Stefanik closed her questioning by contrasting the type of aid provided by the Trump and Obama administrations.
“I just want to get it on record. In terms of defensive lethal aid, which you were an advocate for, that was not provided by President Obama. It was provided by President Trump,” she said.
“That’s correct,” Yovanovitch replied.
Later in the hearing, Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas further questioned the former ambassador about the preparation she received regarding answering questions about Hunter Biden and Burisma.
“You specifically recall Burisma. Out of thousands of companies in the Ukraine, the only one that you recall the Obama-Biden State Department preparing you to answer questions about was the one where the vice president’s son was on the board. Is that fair?”
“Yes,” Yovanovitch replied.
Why won’t Schiff allow Hunter Biden to testify before his Committee, even after Yovanovitch confirmed under oath today that his involvement with Burisma posed a legitimate concern? pic.twitter.com/XqEUhz6iLh
— John Ratcliffe (@RepRatcliffe) November 15, 2019
Ratcliffe then referenced Wednesday testimony from State Department official George Kent, who confirmed that in February 2015 he raised his concerns during a briefing call about Hunter Biden’s position on the Burisma board, saying it created a perception of a conflict of interest.
“Do you agree with that?” Ratcliffe asked Yovanovitch, who answered that she did.
“I think it could raise the appearance of a conflict of interest,” she said.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has denied Republicans’ request for Hunter Biden to testify in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump’s mention of him and Joe Biden during his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is central to the Democrats’ claim of wrongdoing by the commander in chief.
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