- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Senate Republicans released a long-anticipated report Wednesday that details Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden’s alleged conflicts of interest when he was vice president and his son Hunter Biden was making millions with sweetheart business deals in Ukraine, Russia and China.

The report said it wasn’t clear whether Hunter Biden’s lucrative gig on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings affected U.S. policy, but that the issue nevertheless percolated in the background when his father led Obama administration efforts in that graft-riddled country.

Still, the document threw new light on the Bidens’ suspicious business dealings and exposed more of the potential stumbling blocks for the elder Mr. Biden, as he begins the final sprint to the Nov. 3 election showdown with President Trump.

“The Obama administration knew that Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine,” said the report, released by Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Mr. Johnson is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Mr. Grassley heads the Finance Committee.

Mr. Biden’s Democratic allies called the report a desperate political stunt and part of foreign interference efforts by Russia and others to aid Mr. Trump.

The Biden campaign said that Mr. Johnson’s investigation helped subsidize “a foreign attack against the sovereignty of our elections with taxpayer dollars.”

“The senator has now explicitly stated he is attempting to exploit [it] to bail out Donald Trump’s reelection campaign,” said Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates.

The report underscored the awkward juxtaposition of the elder Mr. Biden’s diplomacy and his son’s business. It is the same arrangement Mr. Trump sought to get Ukraine to investigate, which ultimately led to the House’s impeachment of him in December 2019.

The report showed that George Kent, the former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, raised concerns about perceptions of conflicts of interest with Hunter Biden’s position on the board, but that they went unheeded.

“Furthermore, the presence of Hunter Biden on the Burisma board was very awkward for all U.S. officials pushing an anticorruption agenda in Ukraine,” Mr. Kent wrote in an email to colleagues in 2016.

Mr. Kent delivered similar testimony during last year’s impeachment probe, though he also said he didn’t think elder Mr. Biden did anything wrong.

The senators’ report said Mr. Kent indicated that the U.S. government never made a decision about Burisma based on Hunter Biden’s position, but that he was concerned there could be an appearance of a conflict.

“The extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear,” the report found. “But what is clear from the records, however, is that State Department officials, particularly Kent himself, regularly considered how Hunter Biden’s connection to Burisma might affect the execution of U.S. policy.”

In 2016, the vice president had threatened to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees unless the country’s leaders fired Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who also had reportedly been looking into Burisma.

The Biden campaign has pointed out that Mr. Johnson himself was among several U.S. senators who had backed the ouster of the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, over corruption issues.

The report does cast doubt on the elder Mr. Biden’s public position that he and his son never discussed Hunter’s business dealings.

Amos Hochstein, a former State Department official, said he raised potential conflict of interest issues with the vice president himself at the White House in October 2015.

“According to Hochstein, Hunter became aware of Hochstein’s West Wing conversation with the Vice President, who had mentioned it to Hunter,” the report said.

An investment firm Hunter Biden co-founded also got a $3.5 million wire transfer in 2014 from Elena Baturina, the wife of a former mayor of Moscow.

The report also found that Hunter Biden had business associations with “Ye Jianming, Gongwen Dong, and other Chinese nationals linked to the Communist government and the People’s Liberation Army.” Those associations resulted in “millions of dollars” in cash flow, according to the report.

The Democrat-led House impeached Mr. Trump for what they described as his attempting to strong-arm Ukraine into digging up dirt on the Bidens. The GOP-led Senate voted to acquit him earlier this year.

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, who led the impeachment drive, said the senators were getting fed Russian propaganda from Andriy Derkach, whom the Trump administration sanctioned earlier this month for an apparent effort to undermine the 2020 presidential election.

“The Kremlin must be very pleased,” said Mr. Schiff, California Democrat. “Everyone should see this report for what it is: an election year hit job that uses as its very basis Russian disinformation.”

The report said Mr. Johnson and Mr. Grassley were not influenced by “Russian disinformation.”

“Since the offices of Chairman Johnson and Chairman Grassley did not receive, and were unaware of, the information that Derkach had allegedly sent, it is impossible that Derkach’s efforts could have shaped the Committees’ investigation in any way,” the report said.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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