Joe Biden appears to have made a major tactical error last year when he bragged to an audience of foreign policy experts how he threatened to hurl Ukraine into bankruptcy if their top prosecutor, General Viktor Shokin, wasn't immediately fired, according to The Hill's John Solomon.
In his own words, with video cameras rolling, Biden described how he threatened Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March 2016 that the Obama administration would pull $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, sending the former Soviet republic toward insolvency, if it didn’t immediately fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. -The Hill
"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,’" bragged Biden, recalling the conversation with Poroshenko.
"Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time," Biden said at the Council on Foreign Relations event - while insisting that former president Obama was complicit in the threat.
Interviews with a half-dozen senior Ukrainian officials confirm Biden’s account, though they claim the pressure was applied over several months in late 2015 and early 2016, not just six hours of one dramatic day. Whatever the case, Poroshenko and Ukraine’s parliament obliged by ending Shokin’s tenure as prosecutor. Shokin was facing steep criticism in Ukraine, and among some U.S. officials, for not bringing enough corruption prosecutions when he was fired. -The Hill
And why would Biden want the "son of a bitch" fired?
In what must be an amazing coincidence, the prosecutor was leading a wide-ranging corruption investigation into a natural gas firm - which Biden's son, Hunter, sat on the board of directors.
The prosecutor he got fired was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings that employed Biden’s younger son, Hunter, as a board member.
U.S. banking records show Hunter Biden’s American-based firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, received regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015, during a period when Vice President Biden was the main U.S. official dealing with Ukraine and its tense relations with Russia. -The Hill
The Hill's Solomon reviewed the general prosecutor's file for the Burisma probe - which he reports shows Hunter Biden, his business partner Devon Archer and their firm, Rosemont Seneca, as potential recipients of money.
And before he was fired, Shokin says he had made "specific plans" for the investigation - including "interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden.”
"I would like to emphasize the fact that presumption of innocence is a principle in Ukraine," added Shokin.
Joe Biden "clearly had to know" about the probe before he insisted on Shokin's ouster. Via The Hill:
Although Biden made no mention of his son in his 2018 speech, U.S. and Ukrainian authorities both told me Biden and his office clearly had to know about the general prosecutor's probe of Burisma and his son's role. They noted that:
- Hunter Biden's appointment to the board was widely reported in American media;
- The U.S. Embassy in Kiev that coordinated Biden's work in the country repeatedly and publicly discussed the general prosecutor's case against Burisma;
- Great Britain took very public action against Burisma while Joe Biden was working with that government on Ukraine issues;
- Biden's office was quoted, on the record, acknowledging Hunter Biden's role in Burisma in a New York Times article about the general prosecutor's Burisma case that appeared four months before Biden forced the firing of Shokin. The vice president's office suggested in that article that Hunter Biden was a lawyer free to pursue his own private business deals.
President Obama named Biden the administration’s point man on Ukraine in February 2014, after a popular revolution ousted Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych and as Moscow sent military forces into Ukraine’s Crimea territory.
Key questions for 'ol Joe:
Was it appropriate for your son and his firm to cash in on Ukraine while you served as point man for Ukraine policy? What work was performed for the money Hunter Biden’s firm received? Did you know about the Burisma probe? And when it was publicly announced that your son worked for Burisma, should you have recused yourself from leveraging a U.S. policy to pressure the prosecutor who very publicly pursued Burisma?
Read the rest of Solomon's report here.