Former Mitt Romney Adviser Serves as Director for Ukrainian Company at Center of Trump Whistleblower Complaint

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
September 27, 2019 Updated: September 27, 2019

Joseph Cofer Black, the former national security adviser for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, has since 2017 been sitting on the board of directors of Burisma Holdings—one of the largest natural gas companies in Ukraine which is at the center of the Trump whistleblower complaint.

The oil and gas giant has been thrust into the spotlight over its ties to former Vice President Joe Biden’s youngest son, Hunter, who began working for the company in 2014, while Biden was in office. According to media reports, Cyprus-registered Burisma was paying Hunter $50,000 a month in consulting fees.

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden waits for the start of his father’s, Vice President Joe Biden’s, debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky., on Oct. 11, 2012. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

Black, a former CIA official, was appointed director by the oil and gas giant’s president, Nikolay Zlochevskyi, in February 2017, while Biden was also serving on the board.

“Knowing all too well the energy and security challenges Ukraine has had to manage, I am pleased to join the Board of a privately held company that has been continuously working to ensure Ukraine’s energy security,” Cofer told Ukrainian News at the time of his appointment.

“Burisma should be proud of its contributions to Ukraine’s economy through its investments in production, job creation and expansion and its tax payments to the state.”

Mitt Romney Weighs In

U.S. senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah.) has been vocal in expressing concern about President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, over which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi alleged that Trump “seriously violated the Constitution.”

Pelosi Announces Formal Impeachment Inquiry
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks to the media at the Capitol Building in Washington on Sept. 24, 2019. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Pelosi on Sept. 24 announced that a formal inquiry into impeaching Trump was underway after claims published in The Wall Street Journal alleged that Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.

Romney, 72, became one of the first GOP senators to express concern and told reporters he found news of the phone call between the two leaders “deeply troubling.”

“I did read the transcript. It remains troubling in the extreme. It’s deeply troubling,” he said. “Clearly what we’ve seen from the transcript itself is deeply troubling.”

“There’s a process the House is pursuing. The Senate is also looking at the testimony of the whistleblower.”

He wrote in a tweet over the weekend: “If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out.”

Key Allegations Debunked

A transcript of a call between Trump and Zelensky released by the White House on Sept. 25 showed the president didn’t exert pressure or offer anything in exchange when he asked the Ukrainian leader to probe the dealings of Biden and Hunter.

zelensky speaks about phone call
President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hold a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)


During the call, which took place on the morning of July 25, Zelensky was the first to bring up Rudy Giuliani, the Trump attorney who had looked into the Ukrainian business dealings of Hunter Biden. In response, Trump noted that Giuliani is a “respected man” and told Zelensky that he would like to have Giuliani call him.

Rudy Giuliani
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani arrives to campaign for Republican Senate hopeful Mike Braun in Franklin Township, Indiana on Nov. 3, 2018. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Trump then referred to videotaped comments, in which Biden describes how—while serving as vice president—he forced the termination of a top Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, by threatening to withhold U.S. loans. The prosecutor was allegedly investigating Burisma, where Hunter had been serving on the board of directors since 2014.

Joe Biden arrives at a rally
Former vice president Joe Biden arrives at a rally organized by UFCW Union members in Dorchester, Mass., on April 18, 2019. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

“The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump said. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”

Trump asked Zelensky to work with Attorney General William Barr and Giuliani to look into the matter.

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. Attorney General William Barr waits to speak at the International Conference on Cyber Security at Fordham University School of Law in New York City on July 23, 2019. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The key allegations about the call were debunked by the transcript, including the claim that Trump made a promise to Zelensky and the claim that Trump repeatedly pressured the Ukrainian leader to investigate Biden.

Epoch Times reporter Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.