- On Sunday, Rudy Giuliani appeared on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos and continued to push a debunked theory by Viktor Shokin
- Shokin was Ukraine’s highest level prosecutor and was handling an investigation into Burisma Holdings which Hunter Biden was on the board for
- Giuliani and others claim Joe Biden used his power as vice president to have Shokin removed from office to protect Hunter
- In March 2016, Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in financial aid would be held if Shokin was not fired
- Ukrainian officials and anti-corruption activists say Shokin never pursued the case against Burisma or the company’s owner Mykola Zlochevsky
- In 2015, the British court unfroze $23 million in accounts under Zlochevsky’s name after Shokin’s office failed to produce any evidence
As the biggest scandal of the Trump administration continues to unfold, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani continues to push a debunked narrative surrounding former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin.
Rudy Giuliani Continues To Reference Viktor Shokin
On Sunday Giuliani appeared on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” Giuliani produced a sworn witness statement from Shokin claiming he was forced out of Ukraine’s top prosecutor position because he was leading a “wide-ranging corruption probe” into Burisma Holdings. Burisma is a Ukrainian energy company who had Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, on its board of directors.
The document Giuliani produced was released six months ago by The Hill columnist John Solomon. The document was produced as part of an ongoing criminal case in Austria. According to Shokin, he was “staunchly politically unaffiliated” and ordered to resign by then-President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko due to pressure from Biden who was threatening to withhold $1 billion in subsidies to Ukraine until he was removed from office.
Biden Campaign Asks To Keep Giuliani Off Air
Following Giuliani’s Sunday rant, two of Biden’s top campaign advisers, Anita Dunn and Kate Bedingfield, demanded Trump’s personal attorney be kept off the air for his misleading comments in a letter obtained by The New York Times. The letter was reportedly sent to top political anchors at ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News and NBC. The letter refers to Giuliani’s narrative as “increasingly unhinged, unfounded and despicable lies.”
We are writing with grieve concern that you continue to book rudy giuliani on your air to spread false, debunked conspiracy theories on behalf of donald trump. while you often fact check his statements in real time during your discussions, that is no longer enough. By giving him your air time, you are allowing him to introduce increasingly unhinged, unfounded and despicable lies into this national conversation.Anita Dunn and Kate Bedingfield Via The New York Times
Joe Biden Threatens To Pull $1 Billion In Funding
So what did happen in Ukraine? There is evidence to fuel both sides of the argument. For example, Biden himself admitted in 2018 that he got Shokin fired in March 2016. Biden said he had “gotten a commitment” from Poroshenko and former Ukranian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk that they would “take action” against Shokin. After they failed to take action, Biden threatened to pull $1 billion in funding.
I’ll give you one concrete example. I was—not i, but it just happened to be that was the assignment i got. i got all the good ones. and so i got ukraine. and i remember going over, convincing our team, our leaders to—convincing that we should be providing for loan guarantees. and i went over, i guess, the 12th, 13th time to kyiv. and i was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. and i had gotten a commitment from poroshenko and from yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. and they didn’t.
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. (Laughter.) i said, i’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. i said you’re not getting 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. well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.Joe Biden Via Council On Foreign Relations
Shokin Failed To Provide Evidence To The British Courts
Hunter joined the Burisma board in April 2014. During that same month, British officials froze London bank accounts containing $23 million that allegedly belonged to Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky. The accounts were froze during an investigation into Zlochevsky embezzling public funds. Britain’s Serious Fraud Office — an independent government agency — did not allow Zlochevksy or Burisma, the company’s chief legal officer and another company owned by Zlochevsky to have access to the accounts.
After Shokin refused to provide documents needed to continue the investigation, a British court ordered the Serious Fraud Office to unfreeze the assets. After the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office refused to cooperate the American ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, called Zlochevsky out by name. “In the case of former Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky, the U.K. authorities had seized $23 million in illicit assets that belonged to the Ukrainian people,” Pyatt said.
According to Pyatt, instead of officials from the prosecutor general’s office sending documents supporting the seizure they “sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that there was no case against him.” The money was freed up and shortly after moved to Cyprus. Pyatt called for an investigation into the prosecutors who wrote the letters but did not mention Hunter’s connection to Burisma. Edward C. Chow, who follows Ukrainian policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has said Hunter’s involvement with Zlochevshy’s firm made America’s anti-corruption message “hypocritical.”
Now you look at the hunter biden situation, and on one hand you can credit the father for sending the anricorruption message. but i think unfortunately it sends the message that a lot of foreign countries want to believe about america, that we are hypocritical about these issues.Edward C. Chow Center For Strategic And International Studies Via The New York Times
Hunter Biden And Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC
Before Biden was vice president Hunter served as president of the hedge fund group, Paradigm Companies, with one of his uncles, James Biden. The group fell apart in 2007 and 2008 during lawsuits involving the Bidens. Hunter graduated from Georgetown University and Yale Law School and also worked as a lobbyist before Biden became vice president. In 2014, Hunter was discharged from the Navy Reserve after he tested positive for cocaine. In 2013, Hunter received a commission as an ensign and served as a public affairs officer.
While around a half-dozen Ukrainian officials confirmed Biden’s account of applying pressure to fire Shokin, they claim that pressure came over several months in late 2015 and early 2016, not just in six hours on one day. These Ukrainian officials claim Shokin was in the middle of leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma.
According to The Hill, U.S. banking records show Hunter’s American-based firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, received regular transfers into one of its accounts from Burisma. These transfers were reported to usually be more than $166,000 a month from spring 2014 to fall 2015. During this period Biden’s office was the main U.S. official handling Ukraine’s strained relations with Russia. Ukrainian prosecutors identified Hunter, his business partner Devon Archer, and Rosemont as potential recipients of payments from Burisma.
Blue Star Strategies
When all was said and done, Biden claimed he pressured for Shokin’s termination because he believed he was corrupt, not because he was investigating Burisma. People still have their doubts due to some of the paper trail surrounding the situation. Such as a memo summarizing a meeting between Burisma’s American legal representatives and Ukrainian officials obtained by Soloman. The meeting occurred just days before Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in funding if Shokin was not removed from power.
According to the memo, in March 2016, Karen Tramontano, Sally Painter, and John Buretta requested to meet with the Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office’s temporary replacement for Shokin, Yuriy Sevruk, on behalf of Blue Star Strategies. According to a statement on Blue Star Strategies website, the company works with “public and private sector leaders to solve their policy and investment challenges—in the United States, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and markets around the world. Based in Washington, DC—with global reach.”
During the meeting, the three individuals allegedly stated the Prosecutor’s General Office had “implemented all required steps for prosecution of Zlochevsky” and blamed his release on the British court due to an “underperformance” from British law enforcement agencies. The three individuals allegedly said there was incorrect information being disseminated in the U.S. in regards to failed reforms at the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office. They then promised a meeting between Yuriy Lutsenko and State Department management to deliver true information. The visit was canceled after Lutsenko was nominated for the position of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine following Shokin’s removal.
An interesting note, it was reported that Burisma’s accounting records showed the company paid tens of thousands of dollars while Hunter served on the board of Blue Star Strategies ran by Painter and Tramontano. Both Painter and Tramontano served in Bill Clinton’s administration. Days before Shokin’s termination, Painter met with a high up official at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington. Painter requested to meet officials in Kyiv around the same time Biden visited the same area. In an email response to Painter from Ukrainian embassy employee Oksana Shulyar, it was suggested to “wait until the next week when there is an expected vote of the government’s reshuffle.”
Ukrainian prosecutors claim they have tried to get this information to the Department of Justice since 2018 due to concerns regarding possible violations of U.S. ethics laws. After trying to hire a former federal prosecutor to bring the information to America, the Ukrainians claim to have reached out to Giuliani, which led to the conversation between Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Trump that has become the center focus of the current impeachment inquiry.
John Buretta Clears Zlochevsky Of Criminal Wrongdoing
Blue Star also worked with American criminal defense lawyer Buretta. Buretta was hired by Burisma to help with the situation in Ukraine. In January 2017, Burisma announced the criminal proceedings against Zlochevsky were dismissed. According to Buretta, the U.K. Central Criminal Court held a formal hearing in December 2014 and considered “voluminous evidence” presented by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office and Zlochevsky. In January 2015, the U.K. Criminal Court concluded there was no reasonable cause to believe that “Zlochevsky’s assets were unlawfully acquired as a result of misconduct while he served in public office.”
In August 2014, the Office of the Prosecutor General opened a criminal proceeding related to the same matters adjudicated by the U.K. Central Criminal Court. Buretta says that in the two years the case was open there was no evidence presented supporting any claim that Zlochevsky abused his position. In September 2016, the Pechersk District Court of the City of Kyiv concluded no criminal procedures should be taken against Zlochevsky. Meaning the Pechersk District Court reached the same decision as the U.K. Central Criminal Court months after Lutsenko replaced Shokin. According to Buretta, he took the Burisma case on the “recommendation of other highly-regarded U.S. advisers,” which it can only be assumed he is referring to Blue Star. Being a former U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Buretta claims to have extensive experience with assessing corruption allegations on both the government side and the private side.
Yuriy Lutsenko Says There Was No Evidence Against Hunter Biden
After replacing Shokin in 2016, Lutsenko was fired from the position of Ukraine’s prosecutor general last month. According to Lutsenko, while in office, Giuliani repeatedly demanded that he look into Hunter. Lutsenko has insisted there is no evidence that Hunter broke any Ukrainian laws and has urged Giuliani to launch a U.S. inquiry. Giuliani was also requested to not use Ukraine in a political vendetta that could affect the U.S. election. According to the Los Angeles Times, Lutsenko believes Giuliani is obsessed with the idea of possible misconduct by Biden or Hunter. Lutsenko has stated that Hunter being on the board for Burisma while Biden was steering the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy may be a conflict of interest, it is not illegal. Lutsenko did not say he and Giuliani were in “regular contact.” In total he guessed he had spoke with Giuliani “maybe 10 times” in regards to the Bidens and “other political issues.”
There are many that question Lutsenko’s account of the possible corruption and allegations against Hunter. Lutsenko was known for speaking out against former U.S. ambassador to Kyiv Marie Yovanovitch. Yovanovitch was recalled in May just weeks before her tenure was finished. The White House claimed Yovanovitch was not loyal to Trump after she resisted pressuring Ukraine with his policies. Yovanovitch was pulled into the impeachment inquiry along with four other senior State Department officials.
The Timeline Does Not Match Up
There are issues with Giuliani and Shokin’s accounts of what happened. According to former Ukrainian official Vitalu Kasko, the case against Zlochevsky had been “shelved” by Ukranian prosecutors in 2014. “There was no pressure from anyone from the U.S. to close cases against Zlochevsky. It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015,” Kasko said during an interview in September. Evidence backing Kasko’s claim comes from the British court who unfroze Zlochevsky’s accounts in 2015 after Ukrainian prosecutors failed to provide needed information. Kasko claims that after Shokin took office in February 2015 he took no action to pursue the Zlochevsky case throughout 2015. Kasko resigned in February 2016 citing corruption and lawlessness inside the prosecutor general’s office.
Biden did not begin the U.S. plan for Shokin’s termination. Bloomberg reported talks first began between officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Embassy personnel had called for financial aid to Ukraine be tied to anti-corruption efforts, which included Shokin’s removal. At the Odesa Financial Forum on September 24, 2015, Pyatt accused those working under Shokin of “subverting” the U.K. investigation into Zlochevsky.
For example, in the case of former Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky, the U.K. authorities had seized 23 million dollars in illicit assets that belonged to the Ukrainian people. Officials at the PGO’s office were asked by the U.K to send documents supporting the seizure.
Instead they sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that there was no case against him. As a result the money was freed by the U.K. court and shortly thereafter the money was moved to Cyprus.
The misconduct by the PGO officials who wrote those letters should be investigated, and those responsible for subverting the case by authorizing those letters should – at a minimum – be summarily terminated.U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt Via U.S. Embassy Kyiv Ukraine
Biden Was Not The Only One Who Wanted Shokin Out
American officials were not the only ones who wanted Shokin out. It was reported the same month Shokin was terminated hundreds of Ukrainians had been demonstrating outside Poroshenko’s office demanding his resignation. An Article from the Irish Times states the European Union welcomed the dismissal of Shokin and called for a crackdown on corruption. Ukraine’s parliament overwhelmingly voted to fire Shokin who was accused of blocking major cases, including the Burisma investigation, against allies and influential figures. The EU’s envoy to Ukraine, Jan Tombinski, hoped after Shokin’s firing the prosecutor general’s office would become “independent from political influence and pressure.” Tombinski said the EU was concerned over reports that Shokin’s office was investigating Kyiv’s “highly respected” anti-corruption group, the “Anti-Corruption Action Centre.” The group had been one of Shokin’s biggest critics. Another critic of Shokin was his deputy Davit Sakvarelidze who repeatedly called for his boss to be fired. As one of his last acts before leaving office, Shokin fired Sakvarelidze.
Along with former officials, anti-corruption activists also claim the Burisma investigation was dropped by Shokin long before Biden’s threat was made. Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Kyiv-based Anti-Corruption Action Center told RFE/RL that Shokin “dumped important criminal investigations on corruption associated with Yanukovych, including the Burisma case.” Activists say the case against Zlochevsky was sabotaged by Shokin. “Ironically, Joe Biden asked Shokin to leave because the prosecutor failed [to pursue] the Burisma investigation, not because Shokin was tough and active with this case,” Kaleniuk told RFE/RL. Days after Shokin was fired, Anders Aslund published a column at the Atlantic Council that said, “The amazing thing is not that he was sacked but that it has taken so long.” Foreign accounts show there was a long list of people, governments and organizations who wanted Shokin out of power aside from Biden. It also shows no evidence Shokin was conducting a hard investigation that involved Hunter, Burisma or Zlochevsky, which hurts both Giuliani and Trump’s argument.