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Grassley’s report calls Hunter Biden’s board post with Ukraine firm ‘problematic’
Karoun Demirjian, Tom Hamburger and Paul Sonne, The Washington Post
Sep. 23, 2020 9:16 am, Updated: Sep. 23, 2020 9:48 am
WASHINGTON - A pair of Senate Republican committee chairmen released a report Wednesday arguing that Hunter Biden's board position with a Ukrainian energy company was 'awkward,” 'problematic” and interfered with 'efficient execution of policy” for the Obama administration, but offered few specific examples that it impacted Vice President Joe Biden's actions and failed to demonstrate that it changed the administration's policy toward Ukraine.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, co-authored the report, which comes just weeks before the Nov. 3 election between President Trump and Joe Biden.
The GOP report concludes that 'Hunter Biden's position on Burisma's board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine,” while charging that he and other Biden relatives 'cashed in on Joe Biden's vice presidency.”
But at the same time, the report states that 'the extent to which Hunter Biden's role on Burisma's board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear.”
Hunter Biden held a lucrative job on the board of the company Burisma while Joe Biden was vice president. At the time, Joe Biden and the Obama administration was seeking to root out corruption in Ukraine.
In a statement issued before the report's release, Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates accused Johnson of trying 'to subsidize a foreign attack against the sovereignty of our elections with taxpayer dollars - an attack founded on a long-disproven, hardcore right-wing conspiracy theory that hinges on Sen. Johnson himself being corrupt and that the senator has now explicitly stated he is attempting to exploit to bail out Donald Trump's reelection campaign.”
The release of the report comes less than a week before Trump faces Joe Biden in the first of three presidential debates, a forum in which Trump is expected to invoke allegations against his rival's son.
The investigation, which was launched last year, has been mired in controversy since the start, as Democrats accused Johnson and Grassley of running the probe to tried to counter the House's impeachment of Trump, who pressured Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens.
Johnson and Grassley have defended the investigation as a legitimate probe into potential abuses of access to power. But the standoff took a darker turn this summer, when Democrats accused Johnson of laundering Russian disinformation through his probe - a charge Johnson and Grassley have vehemently rejected.
The accusation stems in part from public statements made by Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker who previously belonged to a pro-Russian party, claiming to have sent documents to Johnson and Grassley to aid in their probe. Johnson and Grassley have stated repeatedly that they have had no contact with Derkach, who was sanctioned by the Treasury Department earlier this month as an 'active Russian agent.”
But Johnson has had contact with another Ukrainian national, former diplomat Andriy Telizhenko, who once worked as a consultant for Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying firm that worked on behalf of Burisma. Telizhenko has advanced the theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to boost Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump. Recently, he also has been publishing unverified transcripts of tapes reflecting conversations between Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko - tapes that Derkach has been publicizing as well.
Democrats have suggested that Telizhenko may be functioning as a conduit for others to funnel Kremlin-backed conspiracies to congressional investigators. Johnson and Grassley have said that they vetted all of Telizhenko's information through other sources. Both Ukrainians have a relationship with the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, though Telizhenko told The Post earlier this month that he barely knows Derkach and has taken pains to stay away from him.
The panel interviewed about a dozen witnesses in the investigation, including from Blue Star. The panel also interviewed two close Biden advisers, former deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken and former international energy envoy Amos Hochstein, as well as two current ambassadors, Geoffrey Pyatt, who previous was the top diplomat in Ukraine, and Bridget Brink, who was previously the deputy assistant secretary of State with responsibility for Ukraine. Current deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, former National Security Council Eastern Europe director Liz Zentos, former assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Victoria Nuland, and David Wade, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, also spoke to investigators in the probe.
Last week, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee voted to release the transcript of all interviews alongside the report, but the transcripts were not provided to the press early Wednesday morning. Late Tuesday night, panel ranking member Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., protested the decision in a letter to Johnson, saying his 'violation of the unanimous vote of this Committee . . . would further weaken the Committee's ability to effectively carry out its responsibilities on behalf of the public in the future.”