In a newly reported development that further complicates the Democrats’ Ukraine corruption investigation, a State Department witness told congressional investigators this week that in early 2015 he warned about the problematic optics of the vice president’s son, Hunter Biden, serving on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was tasked with overseeing Ukraine-U.S. relations. The career State Department official told investigators his warning was rebuffed by Biden’s office. Months later, Biden would pressure the Ukraine — by withholding a billion dollars in aid — to fire the prosecutor who had looked into the company employing Hunter.
Citing sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, The Washington Post reported Friday that George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state and career State Department official, “testified Tuesday that he worried that Hunter Biden’s position at the firm Burisma Holdings would complicate efforts by U.S. diplomats to convey to Ukrainian officials the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest.”
The sources told the Post that Kent “had concerns that Ukrainian officials would view Hunter Biden as a conduit for currying influence with his father, said the people.”
Kent reportedly told congressional investigators that Biden’s office dismissed his warning about the potentially problematic situation by saying the vice president did not have the “bandwidth” to address the Hunter-Burisma question because he was dealing with his other son, Beau, battling cancer.
“Kent, who also testified about how Trump’s associates raised unfounded allegations about the former ambassador to Ukraine, is the first known example of a career diplomat who raised concerns internally in the Obama administration about Hunter Biden’s board position,” the Post reports, noting that the paper “has previously reported that there had been discussions among Biden’s advisers about whether his son’s Ukraine work would be perceived as a conflict of interest, and that one former adviser had been concerned enough to mention it to Biden, though the conversation was brief.”
The Post also stresses that Kent’s testimony demonstrates that the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry has the potential to dig up information related to the Bidens that could undermine the Democratic presidential candidate, who is still the party frontrunner, according to multiple polls.
The Post goes on to acknowledge that Trump is not the only one who has raised allegations about the Bidens and Ukraine, as the Democratic frontrunner has “faced questions about why he didn’t anticipate concerns about potential conflicts of interest as he took a leading role in carrying out U.S. policy toward Ukraine.”
A former senior Biden national security aide told the Post that while the former Vice President was dealing with Beau’s ultimately fatal bout with cancer at the time, it had a “minimal impact on his work,” the Post reports.
Hunter Biden addressed his work in Ukraine in an interview this week with ABC News, and while he insisted that he did nothing “improper,” admitted that, “in retrospect,” some of his business dealings while his father was Vice President were a “mistake.”
“In retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgment on my part,” he told ABC News’ Amy Robach in an interview released Tuesday. “Is that I think that it was poor judgment because I don’t believe now, when I look back on it — I know that there was — did nothing wrong at all. However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is … a swamp in — in — in many ways? Yeah. … I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That’s where I made the mistake. So I take full responsibility for that.”
Hunter also admitted that he “probably” would not have gotten some of the high-paying jobs he enjoyed if his father weren’t the vice president.
The Democrats’ impeachment inquiry was sparked by a whistleblower report on Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to “look into” the alleged Biden-Burisma scandal.
“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,” said Trump. “So whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.”