FIRST ON FOX: Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., on Wednesday accused President Biden of “corruptly [changing] the United States’ policy towards Ukraine,” during the Obama administration, pointing to a 2015 speech from now-Secretary of State Antony Blinken praising Ukraine’s “anti-corruption” efforts when Viktor Shokin was the country’s prosecutor general. “This is corruption at the highest levels of federal government and one of many reasons why House Republicans have launched a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden,” Stefanik told Fox News Digital. The timing of Blinken’s praise toward the Ukraine government in March 2015 raises questions about the White House’s insistence that then-Vice President Joe Biden was pushing for Ukraine officials to fire Shokin because he was not fulfilling his duties in prosecuting corruption. Nearly a year after Hunter Biden joined Burisma’s board in April 2014, Shokin was appointed the prosecutor general of Ukraine, inheriting multiple investigations into Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky. Shokin was fired in March 2016 amid international pressure, including from the Obama administration, over alleged corruption. REPUBLICANS ERUPT OVER 2015 EMAIL EXPOSING ‘ULTIMATE PURPOSE’ OF HUNTER’S INVOLVEMENT WITH BURISMA Republicans claim that Biden’s push for Shokin’s firing was linked to Hunter’s work with Burisma, but the White House has said he was fired because he was not effectively prosecuting corruption. Just a year before Shokin’s firing, when Blinken was serving as deputy secretary of state to John Kerry, he gave a speech in Berlin on March 5, 2015, saying Ukraine had achieved “probably the best government” it had seen “since its independence.” “It’s been working to undertake deep and comprehensive economic and political reforms,” Blinken said at the time. “These include laws to enhance transparency in public procurement, to reduce the government inefficiency and corruption. To clean up Ukraine’s energy sector, to make the banking system more transparent, and measures to improve the climate for business and attract foreign investment. To create a new anti-corruption agency. To strengthen the prosecutor general’s office.” Stefanik told Fox News Digital that the video of Blinken’s remarks “is further evidence that the Obama-Biden Administration thought the Ukrainian government and Prosecutor General Shokin were indeed successfully combating corruption in Ukraine. “Yet, Joe Biden corruptly changed the United States’ policy towards Ukraine along with the assessment of Shokin to illegally and corruptly benefit his son’s foreign business partners in Ukraine when he decided to withhold aid to Ukraine until Shokin was fired,” she said. “The most alarming part of this video is that Hunter Biden contacted Blinken shortly after this speech while Hunter Biden was serving on the board of a Ukrainian gas company that Shokin was allegedly investigating to have a meeting.” HUNTER BIDEN GUSHED OVER ‘EXTRAVAGANT’ GIFTS FROM BURISMA EXEC WHO WAS FOCUS OF CORRUPTION PROBE Blinken’s comments in Germany came roughly four months before he held a meeting with Hunter Biden at the State Department on July 22, 2015, Fox News Digital previously reported. A State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital that Stefanik’s claim is “based on dubious allegations” and reiterated the White House position that the international community expressed legitimate concerns about Shokin’s inadequate prosecution of corruption. On Tuesday, House Oversight Chairman Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., sent a letter to Blinken highlighting comments from multiple Obama administration officials also praising Shokin’s office in 2015. Comer accused the State Department of taking a “sudden change in disposition towards the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General in late 2015.” His letter included past comments from State Department officials revealed through a FOIA lawsuit by Just the News media outlet. The letter cited then-Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, who wrote a letter to Shokin on Kerry’s behalf, applauding his office’s “ambitious reform and anti-corruption agenda of your government” on June 11, 2015. On Sept. 24, 2015, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt said at the Odesa Financial Forum, “We want to work with Prosecutor General Shokin so the PGO is leading the fight against corruption. We want the Ukrainian people to have confidence in the Prosecutor General’s Office, and see that the PGO, like the new patrol police, has been reinvented as an institution to serve the citizens of Ukraine.” On Oct. 1, 2015, the National Security Council’s Interagency Policy Committee said in a memo that Ukraine had made “sufficient progress on its reform agenda to justify a third guarantee” of a $1 billion loan, and that “it is in our strategic interest to provide one.” Comer’s letter also said that on Nov. 5, 2015, Biden participated in a call with then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and “provided no indication that the United States’ policy regarding Ukraine required the dismissal of Prosecutor General Shokin.” “By late 2015, however, the removal of Prosecutor General Shokin became a condition of the loan guarantee by the United States,” Comer wrote. “In March 2016, Shokin was dismissed from his position by the Ukrainian Rada after months of public pressure most adamantly applied by then-Vice President Biden.” Comer pointed to recent statements to Congress made by former Hunter Biden business associate Devon Archer, who said that on Dec. 4, 2015, Hunter “called D.C.” in a private meeting with Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, and Vadim Pozharsky, Burisma’s corporate secretary, in Dubai following Pozharsky’s request. Biden traveled to Ukraine days three days later, where he threatened to withhold the loan unless Shokin was fired. On March 29, 2016, Shokin was fired. A year after leaving the White House, Biden recounted his closed-door conversations with Poroshenko during the 2015 trip. He explained how he told Ukrainian officials the U.S. would withhold up to $1 billion in aid money earmarked for the country if Shokin remained in his position. “I said, ‘Nah, I’m not going to – we’re not going to give you the billion dollars.’ They said, ‘You have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said –.’ I said, ‘Call him,’” Biden recounted during a January 2018 event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. “I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not getting the $1 billion.’” “I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here,'” Biden continued. “I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.” OBAMA-ERA EMAILS REVEAL HUNTER’S EXTENSIVE TIES TO NEARLY A DOZEN SENIOR-LEVEL BIDEN ADMIN AIDES During an interview with Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade that aired on Aug. 26, Shokin said he was fired by Poroshenko at Biden’s insistence specifically because he was investigating Burisma. “There were no complaints whatsoever and no problems with how I was performing at my job. But because pressure was repeatedly put on Poroshenko, that is what ended up in him firing me,” Shokin said. The White House has forcefully pushed back on Shokin’s claims. “Years of independent reporting has found that Shokin was not investigating Burisma or Hunter Biden at the time,” the White House told Fox News in a lengthy response to Shokin’s interview. The White House listed multiple reports, including one from The New York Times in 2019 that said the probe went “dormant” under Shokin. However, multiple reports, also from the Times, simultaneously suggest Shokin posed a real threat to Burisma, whether through a legitimate investigation or through abusing his office to extort its owners. “Among both Ukrainian and American officials, there is considerable debate about whether Mr. Shokin was intent on pursuing a legitimate inquiry into Burisma or whether he was merely using the threat of prosecution to solicit a bribe, as Mr. Zlochevsky’s defenders assert,” The Times added in a 2019 report. “Mr. Zlochevsky’s allies were relieved by the dismissal of Mr. Shokin, the prosecutor whose ouster Mr. Biden had sought, according to people familiar with the situation,” The Times reported. “Mr. Shokin was not aggressively pursuing investigations into Mr. Zlochevsky or Burisma. But the oligarch’s allies say Mr. Shokin was using the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes from Mr. Zlochevsky and his team, and that left the oligarch’s team leery of dealing with the prosecutor.” The White House did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
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Publish date : 2023-09-14 15:14:45
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