Senator to Introduce Bill That Would Ban Family Members of US Officials From Profiting in Ukraine

October 1, 2019 Updated: October 1, 2019

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) says he plans to introduce a new law to ban the immediate family members of senior U.S. officials from “profiting in Ukraine.”

In a statement on Oct. 1, Kennedy said that his bill will prohibit immediate family members of Senate and House members, the president’s Cabinet, the vice president, and the president from serving as a consultant, employee, contractor, or board member of a company that does business in Ukraine.

“The Ukraine government is historically corrupt, which is one way Russia exerts influence there,” Kennedy said. “It is hard to know who to believe or trust, though I hope President [Volodymyr] Zelensky will chart a new, more ethical course. Senior members of our government should not be a part of, or seen to be a part of, this conduct.

“That hurts America, and it hurts the good people of Ukraine, with whom the American people stand. My bill will remove any appearance of impropriety or potential conflict of interest for any immediate family member of a senior United States official. The best way to resist temptation is a proper upbringing, a strong set of values and tough laws.”

This comes as former Vice President Joe Biden has become a focus of attention for comments he made in 2018 during a Council of Foreign Relations Discussion, where he said he successfully forced the termination of top Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin by withholding $1 billion in U.S. aid to the country.

The prosecutor was allegedly investigating the private Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings, while Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, served on the board of directors—a fact that Biden failed to tell the audience.

“I had gotten a commitment from [former Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko and from [former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy] Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t,” Biden told the audience.

“So they said they had—they were walking out to a press conference. I said, ‘Nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars.’ They said, “You have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said’— I said, ‘Call him.’ I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours.’ I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’

“[The prosecutor] got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”

Biden has denied that he used his influence to get the top prosecutor fired and also said he and his son have done nothing wrong.

The former vice president’s comments have raised concerns and have prompted Congress members, President Donald Trump, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and former Ukraine Prime Minister Mykola Azarov to call for an investigation into Biden for any potential wrongdoing.

A phone call between Trump and Zelensky in July prompted a whistleblower complaint, based on secondhand information, alleging the president had misconducted himself during the call by “pressuring” Zelensky to look into Biden and his son and threatened to withdraw foreign aid if he didn’t do so. The transcript, which was released last week, shows that although Trump had asked Zelensky to look into Biden, the president hadn’t pressured Zelensky and that there was no quid pro quo.

Reports about the call and the complaint also prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to launch an impeachment inquiry into the president, in which she accused Trump of seriously violating the Constitution.

Trump, who has denied the accusations, has called the inquiry another “witch hunt.”

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan
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