Quid Pro Joe?: Phone leaks reveal Biden linked $1B Ukraine loan to ouster of prosecutor investigating Burisma
Biden, at that time, was the face of US policy toward Ukraine, demanding as a matter of policy that the government make reforms to end corruption if it wanted to continue to receive billions of dollars in Western aid and loan guarantees
A new set of leaked phonecalls has the potential of derailing the Joe Biden presidential campaign. Recordings of calls between former Vice President Joe Biden and former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko show that Biden linked loan guarantees for Ukraine to the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general in 2015.
Poroshenko openly admits in the calls that Shokin did nothing wrong, and Biden openly bragged about getting him fired in January 2018.
The calls were leaked by Ukrainian MP Andrii Derkach, who played the recordings during a May 19 press conference alleging that they explained how Biden and American financier George Soros were exerting undue influence over the Poroshenko administration in Ukraine.
It's important to note that Shokin was investigating Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that hired Hunter Biden, the former vice president's son, as a board member. Shokin opened a case against Mukola Zlochevsky, Burisma's founder, who granted permits for the company to drill for oil and gas in Ukraine while he was Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources. Biden, at that time, was the face of US policy toward Ukraine, demanding as a matter of policy that the government make reforms to end corruption if it wanted to continue to receive billions of dollars in Western aid and loan guarantees. The recording don't show Biden mentioning Burisma or his son at any point.
During a January 2019 deposition, Shokin revealed that there were five criminal cases against Zlochevesky, including corruption, money laundering, illegal funds transfers, as well as profiteering via shell corporations during his tenure as minister.
Coming back to the recordings, the phone calls begin on December 3, 2015, with former Secretary of State John Kerry detailing why Shokin needed to be removed from office.
Kerry is heard saying in the clips how Shokin "blocked the cleanup of the Prosecutor Generals' Office," and that Biden "is very concerned about it." In response, Poroshenko noted that the prosecutor general's office will not be able to pursue corruption charges against Shokin and that it would be difficult to fire him without cause.
On February 18, 2016, less than three months after Kerry's conversation with Poroshenko, the latter delivers some "positive news."
"Yesterday I met with General Prosecutor Shokin," Poroshenko says. "And despite the fact that we didn't have any corruption charges, we don't have any information about him doing something wrong, I specially asked him - no, it was day before yesterday - I specially asked him to resign in, uh, as his, uh, position as a state person."
"And despite the fact that he has a support in the power. And as a finish of my meeting with him, he promised to give me the statement on resignation. And one hour ago he brings me the written statement of his resignation. And this is my second step for keeping my promises," he concludes.
Biden simply responds by saying, "I agree."
On March 22, 2016, almost a month later, Biden has another conversation with Poroshenko. "Tell me that there is a new government and a new Prosecutor General. I am prepared to do a public signing of the commitment for the billion dollars," the then-vice president says.
Finally, on May 13, 2016, Biden thanks Poroshenko and congratulates him on "getting the new Prosecutor General." He insists that it will be "critical for him to work quickly to repair the damage Shokin did." "And I'm a man of my word," Biden adds. "And now that the new Prosecutor General is in place, we're ready to move forward to signing that one billion dollar loan guarantee."
In response, Poroshenko notes that it was a "very tough challenge and a very difficult job" and thanks Biden for the support.
In February this year, Shokin filed a criminal complaint against Biden in Kyiv. Here's what the transcript says, in part.
During the period 2014-2016, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine was conducting a preliminary investigation into a series of serious crimes committed by the former Minister of Ecology of Ukraine Mykola Zlotchevsky and by the managers of the company “Burisma Holding Limited “(Cyprus), the board of directors of which included, among others, Hunter Biden, son of Joseph Biden, then vice-president of the United States of America.
The investigation into the above-mentioned crimes was carried out in strict accordance with Criminal Law and was under my personal control as the Prosecutor General of Ukraine.
Owing to my firm position on the above-mentioned cases regarding their prompt and objective investigation, which should have resulted in the arrest and the indictment of the guilty parties, Joseph Biden developed a firmly hostile attitude towards me which led him to express in private conversations with senior Ukrainian officials, as well as in his public speeches, a categorical request for my immediate dismissal from the post of Attorney General of Ukraine in exchange for the sum of US $ 1 billion in as a financial guarantee from the United States for the benefit of Ukraine.
Biden's spokesperson called the recording a "nothingburger." “They heavily edited this, and it’s still a nothingburger that landed with a thud,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said.