Phone calls that former Vice President Joe Biden had with Ukraine’s ex-president leaked on Tuesday, throwing his dealings with the country back into the spotlight just as the presidential campaign begins to heat up.
Although they have been heavily edited, the calls appear to show Biden talking about the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who had previously investigated Burisma Holdings, a company on whose board his son, Hunter, sat, as Breitbart reported.
Biden phone calls leaked
Biden’s dealings with Ukraine figured heavily into the impeachment of President Donald Trump, which lasted from late 2019 through February of this year. Through all the drama, Trump and his allies accused Biden of pressuring Ukraine to fire prosecutor Viktor Shokin in order to protect Biden’s son, who had a very lucrative position at Burisma despite a glaring lack of relevant experience.
Joe, who was President Barack Obama’s point man in Ukraine, admitted publicly in 2016 to seeking Shokin’s firing by threatening to withhold a billion-dollar loan from the country, as RealClearPolitics reported.
The phone calls were released by a member of Ukraine’s parliament, Andrii Derkach. Although the recordings do not include Biden talking about his son or Burisma, they do capture him discussing the firing of Shokin, the $1 billion loan, and the appointment of Shokin’s eventual replacement, Yuri Lutsenko.
“I’m a man of my word, and now that a new prosecutor general is in place, we’re ready to move forward and sign that one billion dollar loan guarantee,” Biden notably told Poroshenko in a call from May of 2016, as Breitbart reported.
A phone conversation that former Secretary of State John Kerry had with Poroshenko, in which they touched on Shokin, was also leaked, according to Breitbart.
Burisma controversy lingers
Reacting to the leaked calls, Biden spokesman Andrew Bates called them a “nothingburger,” according to The Washington Post.
At the height of the Ukraine impeachment intrigue, Biden and his allies in the Democratic Party and the media insisted that the corruption claims were a “conspiracy,” and that Shokin was widely viewed as corrupt. Trump and Republicans considered hauling the Bidens before Congress at the time, but ended up moving quickly to vindicate Trump instead.
Republicans have continued to make Burisma an issue, though, and on Wednesday, Republican senators issued a subpoena in their probe of the company’s ties with Hunter, according to the New York Post.
Derkach, who met with Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in December and who has past ties to a pro-Russia faction in Ukraine, has said he has proof that Burisma paid Joe Biden almost $1 million in lobbying fees, the New York Post reported.
According to the Associated Press, Poroshenko has claimed that the calls are part of a smear campaign by Russia sympathizers in Ukraine, but Ukraine’s current president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has opened a criminal investigation into whether Poroshenko abused his power.