Impeachment witness George Kent said Hunter Biden’s position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings created “perception of a conflict of interest.”
“The pervasive and longstanding problem of corruption in Ukraine included exposure to a situation involving the energy company Burisma,” said Kent. “The primary concern of the U.S. government since 2014 was Burisma’s owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, whose frozen assets abroad we had attempted to recover on Ukraine’s behalf.”
Kent, a diplomat in the State Department, noted that in 2015, he raised concerns to then-Vice President Joe Biden when Hunter, his son, was named to a position on the board of the natural gas firm. The elder Biden was acting as the chief diplomat to Ukraine at the time.
“In February 2015, I raised my concern that Hunter Biden’s status as a board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest,” said Kent.
In the hearing, he said the United States has long been concerned about corruption, including graft inside Burisma.
But he added: “Let me be clear, I did not witness any effort by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny. In fact, I and other U.S. officials consistently advocated reinstituting a scuttled investigation of Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, as well as holding the corrupt prosecutors who closed the case to account.”
President Donald Trump, in a July 25 phone, call asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to look into the business dealings of the Bidens. Democrats have said that Trump withheld aid to the Eastern European country in exchange for investigations, which Trump has denied.
Kent also blasted Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in the hearing.
“In mid-August, it became clear to me that [Rudy] Giuliani’s efforts to gin up politically-motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelenskyy’s desire for a White House meeting,” Kent said.
He explained: “There are and always have been conditionality placed on our sovereign loan guarantees for Ukraine. Conditions include anti-corruption reforms, as well as meeting larger stability goals and social safety nets. The International Monetary Fund does the same thing. Congress and the executive branch work together to put conditionality on some security assistance in the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.”
Diplomat Bill Taylor also testified in the hearing, saying that the White House cared more about investigations than Ukraine itself.
“There are two Ukraine stories today. The first is the one we are discussing this morning and that you have been hearing for the past two weeks. It is a rancorous story about whistleblowers, Mr.Giuliani, side channels, quid pro quos, corruption, and interference in elections. In this story Ukraine is merely an object,” he said.