Biden advisers knew in 2018 his Ukraine comments would be an issue
Three former Joe Biden officials have revealed that they knew the former vice president and 2020 Democratic front-runner “had not spoken well” when he recounted a story about forcing the hand of the Ukrainian government to fire prosecutor Viktor Shokin in 2015.
Biden recounted his 2015 negotiation with the Ukrainian government during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations a year after leaving office as vice president. Specifically citing that he personally threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, Biden touted his successful tactics as forcing the dismissal of Shokin.
“I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch,” Biden said of his trip to Kyiv three years prior, pausing for laughter from the crowd. “He got fired.”
“It was classic Joe Biden,” one anonymous former official said in reference to Biden’s 2018 appearance at CFR, according to BuzzFeed News.
The 76-year-old Biden has been criticized recently for tending to cast himself as the hero of stories with dubious factual content and blatant errors, additions, and omissions. He was the subject of scrutiny in August for misstating nearly every major detail about honoring a selfless soldier when he was vice president. He also falsely claimed to have been a comforting vice president during the 2018 Parkland mass shooting and shared multiple versions of stories that elevate him as a champion for gay rights.
Shokin had been in the sights of several foreign governments and the U.S. Senate as a corrupt individual who needed to be removed for some time when Biden cast himself as the catalyst in making his professional demise official.
One former official of Biden’s said that at the time of the Kyiv visit, “It was … impossible to talk about our aim with the prosecutor general’s office, which was just thoroughly corrupt, without understanding that Shokin’s removal would have to be step number one in the process … So even though in our policy documents we didn’t refer to requiring the departure of Viktor Shokin, we sort of hedged in typical diplo-speak.”
The anonymous Biden official added, “It was obvious to everyone.”
“It was not just us — it was other governments, it was the IMF [International Monetary Fund], so it also felt not great that we were taking credit for something that lots of people had been trying to do,” a former official said. “I think it’s quite possible that he got it over the finish line … Everything that a president or vice president does, almost everything has been worked on for months or weeks by dozens if not hundreds of people.”
All three officials rejected the notion that Biden’s son Hunter was guilty of malfeasance when he joined the board of a Ukrainian gas company in 2014 but noted that the appearance was less than ideal.
“I obviously believed that there was nothing improper, but, especially because there is so much scrutiny, you never want there to be anything that appears in any way inappropriate,” said a former Biden official. “At no point did anyone think or believe that Shokin was investigating Burisma, so it wasn’t that. It was more, the appearance of him getting that job, not because of his own achievements but because of his connection.”