Just weeks before then-Vice President Joe Biden took the opposite action in late 2015, a task force of State, Treasury and Justice Department officials declared that Ukraine had made adequate progress on anti-corruption reforms and deserved a new $1 billion U.S. loan guarantee, according to government memos that conflict with the narrative Democrats have sustained since the 2019 impeachment scandal.
“Ukraine has made sufficient progress on its reform agenda to justify a third guarantee,” reads an Oct. 1, 2015, memo summarizing the recommendation of the Interagency Policy Committee (IPC) – a task force created to advise the Obama White House on whether Ukraine was cleaning up its endemic corruption and deserved more Western foreign aid.
The recommendation is one of several U.S. government memos gathered by Just the News over the last 36 months from Freedom of Information Act litigation, congressional inquiries and government agency sources that directly conflict with the long-held narrative that Biden was conducting official U.S. policy when he threatened to withhold a $1 billion U.S. loan guarantee to force Ukraine to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, the country’s equivalent of the American attorney general.
At the time the threat was made in December 2015, Shokin’s office was conducting an increasingly aggressive corruption investigation into Burisma Holdings, an energy firm the State Department deemed to have been engaged in bribery and that employed Hunter Biden and paid him millions while his father was vice president.
New details on the impact of that probe have emerged in recent days.
Shokin’s pursuit was rattling Burisma, and the firm was putting pressure on Hunter Biden to deal with it, according to recent testimony and interviews with Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former business partner and fellow Burisma board member.
The memos obtained by Just the News show:
- Senior State Department officials sent a conflicting message to Shokin before he was fired, inviting his staff to Washington for a January 2016 strategy session and sent him a personal note saying they were “impressed” with his office’s work.
- U.S. officials faced pressure from Burisma emissaries in the United States to make the corruption allegations go away and feared the energy firm had made two bribery payments in Ukraine as part of an effort to get cases settled.
- A top U.S. official in Kyiv blamed Hunter Biden for undercutting U.S. anticorruption policy in Ukraine through his dealings with Burisma.
During Trump’s first impeachment in late 2019, State officials testified that Hunter Biden’s acceptance of a job at Burisma at a time when his father was vice president created the appearance of a conflict of interest but did not materially impact U.S. policy in Ukraine.
But in a private, classified email shared with Just the News, one of the top U.S. officials in the Kyiv embassy told then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch at the end of the Obama administration that Hunter Biden had, in fact, impacted the U.S. anti-corruption agenda in Ukraine.
“The real issue to my mind was that someone in Washington needed to engage VP Biden quietly and say that his son Hunter’s presence on the Burisma board undercut the anti-corruption message the VP and we were advancing in Ukraine b/c Ukrainians heard one message from us and then saw another set of behavior with the family association with a known corrupt figure whose company was known for not playing by the rules,” embassy official George Kent wrote to Yovanovitch in the Nov. 22, 2016, email marked “confidential.”
oe Biden’s role in pressuring then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in December 2015 to fire Shokin has been a searing controversy since April 2019, when the lead author on this story, as a columnist for The Hill, unearthed a 2018 videotape of the former vice president bragging about his role to a foreign policy think tank.
At the time Shokin was investigating Burisma for corruption, the company was paying Hunter Biden and Archer, $83,333 a month as board members.
“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,’” Biden recounted in the speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
The disclosure prompted then-President Donald Trump to ask Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate.
Democrats howled and eventually impeached Trump in late 2019. The Senate acquitted the former president. Today, the original column that prompted the controversy is preserved in the official records of Congress.