As House Democrats wrapped up the public impeachment hearings on Nov. 21, Senate Republicans sent the latest round of records requests as part of a growing inquiry into the Obama administration’s actions related to Burisma, the Ukrainian gas firm that hired Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wrote to the National Archives requesting records of January 2016 White House meetings with senior Ukrainian officials. The senators reference events detailed in an April 25 article by investigative reporter John Solomon, who quoted firsthand witnesses to report that Ukrainian officials who attended the White House meeting were encouraged to reopen an investigation involving the chairman of the Trump campaign and stand down from an investigation into Burisma.
On the same day, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) requested records from the State Department regarding the communications in 2016 between Biden, then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and their respective offices.
Graham also requested information about a March 2, 2016, meeting between Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s business partner, and then-Secretary of State John Kerry. The meeting took place weeks after Ukrainian authorities seized the assets of Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma. Archer and Hunter Biden were on the board of directors of Burisma at the time of the seizure.
The Nov. 21 letters are the latest request by the Senate Republicans, all three of whom have described the requests as an investigation. On Nov. 6, Grassley and Johnson sent a request for an extensive list of documents and information pertaining to the Bidens and Burisma to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. On Nov. 15, they asked for Suspicious Activity Reports from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on a list of key players in the Burisma matter, including Hunter Biden, Archer, and their firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners. The Nov. 15 letter specifically referred to the Burisma inquiry as an active investigation.
“I love Joe Biden as a person but we are not going to give a pass to what is obviously a conflict of interest,” Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote on Twitter on Nov. 25. “I believe Hunter Biden’s association on the Burisma board doesn’t pass the smell test. If a Republican was in the same position, they’d certainly be investigated!”
I love Joe Biden as a person but we are not going to give a pass to what is obviously a conflict of interest.
I believe Hunter Biden’s association on the Burisma board doesn’t pass the smell test.
If a Republican was in the same position, they’d certainly be investigated!
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) November 25, 2019
The Republican inquiry is closely related to and may have an impact on the Democrat-run impeachment probe, which centers on a July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Grassley is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Johnson is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Graham is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
During the call, Trump asked if Zelensky would “look into” the firing of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Joe Biden has publicly bragged about forcing Shokin’s ouster by withholding $1 billion in loan guarantees from Ukraine.
Weeks before submitting his resignation, Shokin’s office had ordered and executed the seizure of assets of Zlochevsky. While Biden withheld the loan guarantees, Ukraine faced a fiscal default and was fighting a war with Russia. At the same time, Biden’s son served a paid position on Burisma’s board.
The Epoch Times didn’t receive a response to a request for comment from the State Department, the White House, the attorneys for Hunter Biden and Archer, Burisma Holdings, the National Archives, or Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign.
The offices of Grassley and Johnson declined to comment. A spokesman for FinCEN said the agency “does not comment on particular Suspicious Activity Reports, including whether or not they exist.”
The records from FinCEN could be particularly illuminating because it’s still unclear how much Biden and Archer were paid for their positions on the board of Burisma. According to bank records obtained in an unrelated federal lawsuit, the gas firm sent more than $160,000 every month to Rosemont Seneca Bohai from April 2014 through the end of 2016.
The events relating to Burisma in 2015 and 2016 weren’t limited to Ukraine. A U.S. representative for Burisma, Karen Tramontano, reached out to the State Department in February 2016 and leveraged Biden’s position on the board in a request for a meeting with Deputy Secretary Catherine Novelli, according to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
In the email, a State Department official states that Tramontano asked the State Department to end its allegations of corruption against Burisma. Grassley and Johnson are working to ascertain if Novelli and Tramontano met.
Tramontano didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Biden and Archer made overtures of their own to the State Department. On Feb. 4, 2016, Shokin’s office announced the seizure of Zlochevsky’s assets, including several homes and a Rolls Royce Phantom luxury car. On the same day, Hunter Biden followed Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Twitter. According to Graham, the signal suggests “that the two may have initiated conversations regarding Prosecutor General Shokin’s investigation into Burisma.” Emails suggest that Biden and Blinken also met in May 2015 and July 2015. The senators are looking to learn whether the meetings occurred, what was discussed, and who attended.
In March 2016, Archer appears to have met with Secretary of State John Kerry, according to another email obtained through a FOIA lawsuit.
“Devon Archer coming to see S today at 3:00pm — need someone to meet/greet him at C street,” the email states.
Kerry’s stepson, Christopher Heinz, roomed with Archer in college. The two went on to become business partners, but Heinz distanced himself from Archer and Biden over their decision to accept paid positions on the Burisma board.
Democrats running the impeachment inquiry allege that Trump sought to boost his reelection chances by asking Zelensky to look into what happened to the prosecutor who was investigating Burisma. The Democrats further allege that Trump delayed aid to Ukraine and leveraged the prospect of a White House meeting as part of the effort to pressure Zelensky. Zelensky has said he didn’t feel pressured and wasn’t aware of a connection between the hold on aid and Trump’s request for an investigation.
After weeks of hearings, the evidence House Democrats gathered to substantiate their allegations consists of hearsay, presumptions, personal opinion, and policy positions. No witness offered direct evidence of Trump’s intent to benefit himself politically or of a connection between the hold on aid and Trump’s request for a potential investigation.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The chairman is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).