Consultant For Firm Linked To Hunter Biden Sought State Department Meeting To Downplay Corruption Concerns
A consultant for the Ukrainian energy firm linked to Hunter Biden reached out to State Department officials in 2016 as part of an effort to downplay concerns about corruption at the company. The timing of the emails is significant because the consultant requested the meeting during the same time frame Joe Biden pressured Ukraine’s president to fire a prosecutor who said he was investigating Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian company. Other emails published by journalist John Solomon show that Hunter Biden arranged meetings with the State Department’s No. 2 official. A consultant for Burisma Holdings contacted the Obama State Department in 2016 in an attempt to downplay concerns about corruption at the Ukrainian energy firm, which had Hunter Biden as a board member at the time.
State Department emails show that Karen Tramontano, a lawyer for Blue Star Strategies, sought a meeting on Feb. 24, 2016, with Catherine Novelli, formerly the undersecretary of state for energy issues, in hopes of “getting a better understanding of how the U.S. came to the determination that [Burisma] is corrupt.”
The timing of the email exchange, which journalist John Solomon obtained and published, is significant because during the same time frame, former Vice President Joe Biden pressured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire a prosecutor in order to secure $1 billion in loan assistance from the U.S. Supporters of President Donald Trump allege that Joe Biden’s pressure was a quid pro quo aimed at helping Burisma Holdings.
Rudy Giuliani, a personal lawyer for Trump, has floated allegations that the fired prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was investigating Burisma Holdings for corruption. Joe Biden has denied intervening to help his son. Hunter Biden has acknowledged that Burisma likely hired him because his father was vice president. But he has also denied lobbying his father on behalf of the firm.
The Biden-Burisma issue is at the center of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against Trump. That’s because Trump urged Volodymyr Zelensky, the current Ukrainian president, to investigate the Bidens and Burisma during a July 25 phone call.
Democrats say that Trump abused his power by asking a foreign leader to open a politically charged investigation. State Department officials have testified that Trump wanted Zelensky to publicly announce the opening of the investigations before agreeing to a face-to-face meeting at the White House. Some of the officials said they believe that Trump also withheld $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine in order to put pressure on Zelensky to open the investigations.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and says he did not put pressure on Zelensky. He’s also said he withheld the aid (before releasing it on Sept. 12) because of concerns about rampant corruption in Ukraine and about a lack of funding from European nations.
The emails Solomon obtained show that, at the very least, there were concerns within the U.S. government about possible corruption at Burisma.
“Per our conversation, Karen Tramontano of Blue Star Strategies requested a meeting to discuss with U/S Novelli USG remarks alleging Burisma (Ukrainian energy company) of corruption,” reads a Feb. 24, 2016 email between two State Department officials.
“She noted that two high profile U.S. citizens are affiliated with the company (including Hunter Biden as a board member),” it said.
An official said Tramontano wanted to speak to Novelli “about getting a better understanding of how the U.S. came to the determination that the company is corrupt.”
“According to Tramontano there is no evidence of corruption, has been no hearing or process, and evidence to the contrary has not been considered,” the official said.
At the time, Burisma’s owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, was under investigation for money laundering in the United Kingdom. Prosecutors in Ukraine have investigating Zlochevsky and Burisma off and on over the past several years, but no charges have been filed against either.
The emails indicate that Novelli was scheduled to meet on March 1, 2016 with Tramontano, but it is not clear if the meeting took place.
Tramontano, who worked under John Podesta during former President Bill Clinton’s administration, did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment about the State Department outreach. Burisma paid Blue Star Strategies $60,000 in 2015 and 2016, according to Solomon.
Other State Department records show that Hunter Biden connected with Tony Blinken, who served as deputy secretary of state, the Number 2 position at Foggy Bottom.
“I know you are impossibly busy, but would like to get your advice on a couple of things,” Hunter Biden wrote to Blinken on May 22, 2015.
Blinken said that he would “absolutely” be willing to meet.
State Department records indicate that the pair met on May 27, 2015 and on July 22, 2015, but there is no indication that they spoke about Burisma.
Hunter Biden’s business partner, Devon Archer, met with former Secretary of State John Kerry on March 2, 2016, according to the documents. Archer advised Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and was a roommate and business partner of Kerry’s stepson, Christopher Heinz.
Archer was on Burisma’s board with Hunter Biden. Bank records show that Burisma paid Archer and Hunter Biden’s firm, Rosemont Seneca Bohai, more than $165,000 per month throughout most of 2014 and 2015.