Two Republican senators sent a request Thursday to the State Department asking to meet with key State Department employees for an investigation into Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy firm that once employed Hunter Biden on its board.
The letter from Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Finance Committee, shows they want to seek interviews and documents specific to the dismissal of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.
Shokin, who was dismissed in March 2016 after about a year in office by then-President Petro Poroshenko, claims he was ousted because he wanted to investigate the lucrative role Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, had on Burisma's board from 2014 to 2019.
Johnson and Grassley, who sent their letter after the elder Biden became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, requested interviews with U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Bridgett Brink and U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, who used to be the ambassador to Ukraine. The senators also want to talk to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent and State Department official Elizabeth Zentos.
Zentos was detailed to the National Security Council and, in January 2016, participated in a meeting with Ukrainian and U.S. officials. In November 2019, Johnson and Grassley sent a letter to the National Archives requesting documents from that meeting.
Kent testified before the House Impeachment Committee in November during the Ukraine-related impeachment investigation against President Trump, saying he clashed with a State Department attorney over how to comply with a congressional subpoenas.
“Former Vice President Biden previously expressed that he wanted Prosecutor General Viktor Shakin fired. When did the United States government determine that Shokin should be removed?” Johnson and Grassley wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Please explain the justification for that decision and how and when that determination was communicated to the Ukrainian government.”
The senators also asked for records, including call transcripts and summaries, related to then-Vice President Biden's phone calls with Poroshenko from March 2015 through April 2016. They asked for all the materials and the interviews no later than May 14.
In February, Ukraine investigators opened an investigation into the elder Biden over claims he urged officials into firing Shokin in 2016.
Joe Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukraine did not fire its top prosecutor, who was criticized by the West for not doing enough to crack down on corruption. The European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and other allies had the same objective, and Biden was repeating U.S. policy that had been set out by Washington’s ambassador to Kyiv in the preceding months and was briefed by White House staff just ahead of the trip.
Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and other allies also claim Biden improperly used his position as vice president to pressure Ukraine to fire Shokin to protect his son from an investigation into Burisma. Joe Biden has said there is no "credibility" to the claims of corruption.
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