Ukraine, facing a possible invasion by Russian military forces, is again in the news here in the United States, and another story involving that country – one which Joe Biden would almost certainly have hoped everyone forgot – has come to light once more. It seems former President Donald Trump may have been right to have been concerned about the firing of Ukraine’s prosecutor general in March 2016. Mr. Biden’s account of why he, as vice president at the time, demanded the Ukrainians dismiss Viktor Shokin is contradicted by a recently uncovered letter to Shokin from the U.S. State Department.
The June 2015 letter, acquired under the Freedom of Information Act by the Southeastern Legal Foundation and reported by Just the News, was written by then-Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland to Shokin himself. In it, the State Department, headed then by John Kerry, praises the anti-corruption efforts of Shokin’s office and the Ukrainian government. Just months later, Joe Biden began pressuring the Ukrainians to fire the prosecutor general and later claimed the Obama administration was concerned he had deliberately failed to pursue corruption in Ukraine – implying that Shokin himself was implicated.
When House Democrats impeached Trump in 2019, the State Department letter might have, in essence, vindicated the 45th president – but it wasn’t provided to either Trump’s defense team or to Senate Republicans investigating the Biden-Burisma scandal.
The Road to a Phony Impeachment
For those who don’t recall the details, the story began in 2014 when then-Vice President Biden paid an official visit to Ukraine. The VP was described as “the public face of the [Obama] administration’s handling of Ukraine,” according to a Senate report into potential corruption involving Hunter Biden and Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
Just about three weeks after Joe Biden’s visit, his son took a $50,000-a-month position on Burisma’s board of directors. This, even though British officials only two weeks earlier had seized $23 million from the U.K. bank account of Burisma’s owner, Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, as part of an ongoing corruption investigation. Zlochevsky and Burisma were also being investigated by Shokin as late as March 2016, until Biden threatened to freeze $1 billion in loan guarantees unless the prosecutor was removed.
A couple of years later, presumably when he thought it no longer mattered, Biden openly bragged about getting Shokin fired. During a 2018 event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, the former VP recounted how he threatened the Ukrainians:
“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. Well, son of a b—ch, he got fired.”
Biden’s efforts to have Shokin removed began well before his 2016 visit. Ukrainian officials have confirmed those efforts began in late 2015 – according to a report from The Hill – just months after Shokin received praise and support from the State Department. “The ongoing reform of your office, law enforcement, and the judiciary will enable you to investigate and prosecute corruption and other crimes in an effective, fair, and transparent manner,” Nuland had written in the letter to Shokin. “The United States fully supports your government’s efforts to fight corruption and other crimes in an effective, fair and transparent manner.”
The claim by Mr. Biden that he demanded Shokin’s dismissal because the latter was neglecting to investigate corruption appears to be false. When Trump, as president, urged the Ukrainians to investigate the matter of Shokin’s removal, he was impeached – and then acquitted. Democrats argued Trump was essentially strong-arming the then-president of Ukraine into providing him with compromising information on Biden, who was at the time a potential 2020 presidential challenger. The official transcript of Trump’s call to Volodymyr Zelensky showed the American president had made no such request, though he had urged the Ukrainian leader to look into the Burisma affair.
A Web of Suspicion and Falsehoods
The United States government under both Democrat and Republican leadership has frequently interfered in the domestic affairs of other countries in the name of fighting corruption or combatting criminal activity. Mr. Biden did just that, or so he claims, when he coerced the Ukrainians to get rid of Shokin. Trump did the same when he suggested – and it was a suggestion, not a direct threat – that Ukraine’s president take a look at the Biden-Burisma-Shokin scandal.
Multiple former government officials testified during Trump’s impeachment proceedings that the State Department was unhappy with Shokin’s work on corruption. Nuland herself described that alleged frustration in Senate testimony but made no mention of the letter she had penned to the Ukraine prosecutor.
Though it should be noted there is no evidence Hunter Biden was knowingly involved in corrupt activities, his lucrative position with Burisma, secured just weeks after his father’s visit to Ukraine, remains the subject of suspicion. That his VP dad would then engineer the removal of the prosecutor investigating Burisma only adds to that suspicion.
The Nuland letter raises numerous questions about the legitimacy of Trump’s impeachment, the possible false testimony provided by several U.S. officials and, not least, about Joe Biden’s motives for pressuring Ukraine over Shokin. Additionally, Just the News reports that another State Department document indicated the U.S. was satisfied with Shokin’s progress as late as October of 2015 – close to the time Biden started pushing for the prosecutor’s dismissal.
Mr. Biden claims he will be running for re-election in 2024, though many doubt he will be either willing or able to do so. If he does seek a second term against the possible backdrop of a GOP-controlled House of Representatives, will Republicans choose to revisit the Burisma saga? That could easily smack of revenge to Biden’s political allies, but the Ukraine affair led to the impeachment of a U.S. president – a president who was eventually succeeded by a man many believe threatened a foreign power to protect his own son from a criminal probe. Little wonder Americans are increasingly tired of the Washington, D.C. swamp if such shady behavior goes unquestioned.
~ Read more from Graham J. Noble.