Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent made the case for launching an investigation into the Bidens and their involvement in Ukraine related to the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
Kent, the State Department’s top official on Ukraine, said during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in the Democrats’ partisan impeachment proceedings Wednesday he was concerned about a, “perception of a conflict of interest,” related to Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, serving on the board of the energy company while his father oversaw the Obama administration’s policy towards Ukraine.
George Kent: "My concern was that there was the possibility of a perception of a conflict of interest" because Hunter Biden, the son of then-VP Joe Biden, was on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company. #ImpeachmentPBS pic.twitter.com/9Wnn2Ls00a
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) November 13, 2019
Hunter Biden served on the board of the company for $50,000 a month despite having no prior experience in the energy industry while his father served as vice president deeply involved U.S.-Ukrainian policy.
Kent also testified in a private deposition that he voiced his discomfort over the situation to the White House in 2015 where administration officials brushed off Kent’s concerns.
“I raised my concerns that I had heard that Hunter Biden was on the board of a company owned by somebody that the U.S. Government had spent money trying to get tens of millions of dollars back and that could create the perception of a conflict of interest,” Kent told lawmakers behind closed doors in October. “The message that I recall hearing back was that the vice president’s son Beau was dying of cancer and that there was no further bandwidth the deal with family related issues at that time… That was the end of that conversation.”
During his testimony before the House on Wednesday, Kent reiterated his conviction that officials in Ukraine ought to be investigated to root out corruption related to Burisma.
“To summarize, we thought the [CEO of Burisma] had stolen money. We thought a prosecutor had take an bribe to shut the case,” Kent said.
“Are you in favor of that matter being fully investigated and prosecuted?” asked Minority House Intelligence Committee Counsel Steve Castor.
“I think, since U.S. taxpayer dollars were wasted, I would love to see the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office find who the corrupt prosecutor was that took the bribe, and how much of it was paid,” Kent said.
George Kent: "To summarize, we thought the [CEO of Burisma] had stolen money. We thought a prosecutor had take an bribe to shut the case."
GOP counsel: "Are you in favor of that matter being fully investigated and prosecuted?" https://t.co/Tbcm4X2OaU pic.twitter.com/RybEdDQuZN
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) November 13, 2019
In an interview with ABC News last month, Hunter admitted to practicing “poor judgement,” by serving on the board as his father’s presidential campaign has struggled amid new details of the scandal coming to light from Trump’s impeachment proceedings.
House Democrats opened formal partisan impeachment proceedings against the president following reports of a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Media outlets reported details of the call, alleging Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate the Bidens in exchange for military aid.
An unredacted transcript of the phone call has since been declassified, revealing no such quid pro quo as Democrats had charged and continue to claim. Despite the release of the transcript, Democrats have aggressively pushed forward with impeachment as their best hopes to undo the 2016 election after the Russian collusion hoax failed to incriminate the president earlier this year.
Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the anti-Trump investigation in September, the proceedings were held in secret where House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California ran partisan proceedings prohibiting Republican members from asking questions Schiff did not want witnesses to answer, pre-interviewing witnesses in preparation for public testimony.
Even after Pelosi put a formal impeachment inquiry to a vote a month and a half after proceedings had already begun, Schiff continued to run hearings behind closed doors for two weeks before holding the first public hearing Wednesday.
As the hearings get underway, the rules passed entirely by Democrats without one Republican vote bar the minority party from subpoenaing any witnesses or evidence without Democratic approval.