In a recent television interview, CNN brought on a former U.S. diplomat in Ukraine to assert that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden had done nothing wrong in threatening to withhold U.S aid until a Ukrainian prosecutor was fired. What CNN failed to disclose was that John Herbst, the former diplomat interviewed by CNN anchor Kate Bolduan, had a significant conflict of interest regarding Burisma, the controversial Ukrainian gas concern that was reportedly being investigated by the prosecutor whose firing Biden had demanded.
Herbst currently runs the Eurasia Center for the Atlantic Council, a foreign policy-focused tax-exempt organization that is funded in part by Burisma. According to the Atlantic Council’s web page, Burisma donated as much as $250,000 to the Atlantic Council in 2018 alone.
During his interview with CNN, Herbst claimed that Biden was merely following the lead of various international partners in demanding the firing of Viktor Shokin, the Ukrainian prosecutor general at the time. However, in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, State Department official George Kent told lawmakers that the international community deferred to U.S. leadership on the matter.
As The Federalist reported last week, Kent told lawmakers that the Obama administration spearheaded the efforts to have Shokin removed from his position as the top federal prosecutor in Ukraine. Kent said international players — namely the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Western nations within the European Union — were deferential to U.S. directives on the matter.
At a 2018 event organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, Joe Biden — who was tasked by then-President Barack Obama to lead the U.S. government’s efforts in Ukraine — bragged about threatening to withhold a billion-dollar loan guarantee if the Ukrainian government refused to fire Shokin.
“I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars,” Biden said. “I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours.”
“I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours,’” Biden recalled. “If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a b-tch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
After Shokin was fired, he was replaced by Yuri Lutsenko, who also has been dogged by allegations of corruption.
Despite having zero experience in global energy markets or business management, Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, was selected to join Burisma’s board in 2014. Various reports indicate that the younger Biden was paid more than $80,000 a month for nearly five years to sit on Burisma’s board. Shortly after Biden and a family friend were added to the Burisma board, the gas giant hired John Kerry’s former chief of staff David Leiter to lobby Congress and the executive branch, federal records show.
In May 2019, Burisma and the Atlantic Council jointly hosted a cyber-security event in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Herbst organized and spoke at the Burisma-sponsored event, which included guided tours of Burisma’s energy facilities in the country. A local Ukrainian television network captured both Herbst and former Mitt Romney advisor and Burisma board member Joseph Cofer Black singing the company’s praises.
Clad in a Burisma jacket and standing in front of a Burisma mural, Black referred to Burisma’s business as a “blessing.” Footage of the event shows that Herbst was at one point seated directly next to Ukraine gas executive and Burisma board advisor Vadym Pozharskyi. It is unclear why an event ostensibly devoted to the topic of cyber-security necessitated guided tours of Burisma gas facilities.
It was not the first time Herbst paraded before cameras to promote Burisma. During another Burisma-sponsored event in April 2018, Herbst donned a Burisma jacket and hat, stepped in front of a Burisma mural at a Burisma gas facility, and praised the company, which has been dogged for years by allegations of corruption and money-laundering. Two separate clips of Herbst were uploaded to YouTube by Burisma.
“Super-deep drilling is taking place here,” Herbst said, according to a translation. “That is why such a powerful machine is needed.”
“The fact that they brought this equipment — I would say it stands to credit both the Burisma company and the whole Ukraine,” Herbst gushed. “I am impressed by this technology and the way it is implemented here.”
According to a Google translation of Herbst’s remarks, as transcribed in a Burisma press release, Herbst referred to the company as “awe-inspring.”
Both Herbst and Black, the former Romney adviser-turned-Burisma board member, were featured as speakers at a Burisma-sponsored energy conference in Monaco in 2017, according to the official web page promoting the event. The conference, known as the Energy Security Forum, was founded in 2016 by the president of Burisma.
Herbst did not respond to a request for comment about his relationship with Burisma or why he failed to disclose the conflict-of-interest during his CNN interview.