Ukraine Gas Firm Tied to Biden Lobbied State Department to End Corruption Allegations, Emails Show

November 5, 2019 Updated: November 5, 2019

The Ukrainian gas firm that hired Hunter Biden lobbied the Department of State in early 2016, just one month before then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden forced the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating the same company, according to documents obtained as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

On Feb. 24, 2016, a State Department official sent an email discussing an overture from a representative for Burisma, the Ukrainian gas firm, to Undersecretary of State Catherine Novelli. The Burisma representative argued that the allegations against the company were baseless, according to an email chain released as part of a lawsuit filed by investigative journalist John Solomon. The Burisma representative specifically cited Hunter Biden’s name as the reason for why the allegations should stop.

Earlier that month in 2016, Ukrainian authorities seized the property of Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma, according to Interfax Ukraine. The seizure included several of Zlochevsky’s homes and a Rolls-Royce Phantom car.

“Per our conversation, Karen Tramontano of Blue Star Strategies requested a meeting to discuss with U/S Novelli USG remarks alleging Burisma (Ukrainian energy company) of corruption,” the email between State Department officials, whose names are blacked out, stated. “She noted that two high profile U.S. citizens are affiliated with the company (including Hunter Biden as a board member).

“Tramontano would like to talk with U/S Novelli about getting a better understanding of how the U.S. came to the determination that the company is corrupt. According to Tramontano, there is no evidence of corruption, has been no hearing or process, and evidence to the contrary has not been considered.”

At the time the email was sent, Novelli was the third-highest-ranking official at the State Department. Karen Tramontano was the CEO of Bluestar Strategies, a consulting firm retained by Burisma to address the corruption charges against it in Ukraine.

The email chain shows that Tramontano was scheduled to meet Novelli on March 1, 2016. While it’s unclear if that meeting took place, on the following day, March 2, 2016, Hunter Biden’s business partner, Devon Archer, met with Secretary of State John Kerry, another email obtained by Solomon shows.

“Devon Archer coming to see S today at 3pm—need someone to meet/greet him at C Street,” an email from Kerry’s office manager states.

Archer’s meeting with Kerry is notable because Kerry’s stepson, Chris Heinz, recently told The Washington Post that he advised Archer and Biden “that working with Burisma was unacceptable.”

“The lack of judgment in this matter was a major catalyst for Mr. Heinz ending his business relationships with Mr. Archer and Mr. Biden,” Heinz spokesman Chris Bastardi told the newspaper.

Hunter Biden and Archer joined the board of Burisma in 2014. Bank records released as part of an unrelated lawsuit show that Rosemont Seneca Bohai, a firm operated by Archer, received more than $160,000 per month from Burisma starting in May 2016. Rosemont Seneca Bohai regularly sent funds to Hunter Biden, the records show.

The seizure of Zlochevsky’s assets took place on Feb. 2, 2014. At the time, top Ukrainian corruption prosecutor Viktor Shokin led the probe.

On the day of the seizure, Hunter Biden followed Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken on his Twitter account, another email obtained by Solomon shows.

Oleksandr Onyshchenko, a businessman and former member of the Ukrainian Parliament, told Reuters that Zlochevsky came up with the idea to appoint Hunter Biden to the board “to protect [the company].”

Weeks after Burisma lobbied the State Department and Archer met with Kerry, Joe Biden forced the firing of Shokin by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees; Biden bragged about the move during a videotaped speech on a panel last year.

In a sworn statement, Shokin said that he was fired under pressure from Biden because he, Shokin, refused to drop the Burisma investigation.

The allegations about Joe and Hunter Biden are in the public spotlight because of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. An anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that triggered the inquiry alleged that Trump may have pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

According to a transcript of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump referenced Shokin’s firing when asking the Ukrainian leader to investigate the younger Biden.

The whistleblower alleged that Trump’s request to Zelensky may have amounted to a campaign finance violation. The Department of Justice reviewed the complaint and determined that no further action was necessary.

In an interview with ABC News, Hunter Biden admitted that joining Burisma was a political error, but defended his work. Biden stepped down from the board of Burisma in April, according to a statement from his lawyer.

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov
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