May 7, 2019

Ukrainian official knocks down Biden conflict scandal promoted by Rudy Giuliani

Joe Biden and Rudy Giuliani

Joe Biden and Rudy Giuliani. Photos: Scott Olson and Alex Wong via Getty Images

Ukraine's former deputy prosecutor general has cast doubt on a New York Times story that reported on potential conflicts of interest involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden's work for a Ukrainian company, Bloomberg reports.

The backdrop: In 2016, Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if the Ukrainian government did not oust prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption. NYT reports that at the time, Shokin was investigating Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company with ties to Hunter Biden. Allegations of conflict of interest have been actively promoted by associates of President Trump — namely by his attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has met multiple times this year to discuss the matter with Ukraine's current prosecutor general.

What's new: Shokin's former deputy Vitaliy Kasko told Bloomberg that the investigation was not active at the time Biden made his threat, and had been "shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015." A spokeswoman for Ukraine's current prosecutor general said that the investigation into Burisma had not been reopened, contradicting reporting in the Times.

  • A spokeswoman for the Times said in a statement: "We stand by our reporting, which is detailed and well documented."
  • The Times report does note that "[n]o evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to benefit his son."

Why it matters: Allegations of Biden using his office to exert improper influence on foreign politics have been championed by Trump allies at a time when Biden is viewed as one of the most viable Democratic threats to Trump's re-election.

  • Giuliani tweeted on the day the Times report was published: "Biden conflicts are too apparent to be ignored and should be investigated quickly and expeditiously. But the more important question is how deep and how high did the alleged Ukraine conspiracy go?"
  • Trump himself said on Fox News: "Sure, I’m hearing it’s a major scandal, major problem. I hope for him it is fake news. I don’t think it is."
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