Ex-prosecutor approached DOJ in 2018 with witness who claimed Joe Biden involved in 'bribery'

Feds didn't take former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins up on his offer, but later scoured his phone records seeking his sources.

Published: May 7, 2023 11:07pm

A respected former federal prosecutor approached the U.S. Justice Department in fall 2018 on behalf of a foreign witness who claimed to have evidence that Joe Biden had "exercised influence to protect" his son's employer in Ukraine in return for money to his family, according to interviews and documents obtained by Just the News.

The agency didn't take up the ex-prosecutor on his offer but instead secretly obtained his phone records a year later in an apparent effort to identify his contacts.

Retired Little Rock, Ark., U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins wrote then-New York U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman on Oct. 4, 2018 that then-Ukraine Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko was willing to travel to the United States to present evidence about the Bidens and Burisma Holdings.

Lutsenko believes "VP Biden (and Sec State Kerry) exercised influence to protect Burisma Holdings in exchange for payments to Hunter Biden, (business partner) Devon Archer, and Joe Biden," Cummins emailed Berman.

Hunter Biden and his business partner Devon Archer were both hired to the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas firm, in spring 2014 while Joe Biden was vice president and in charge of U.S.-Ukraine policy.

The hiring raised eyebrows since the gas company was considered corrupt by the U.S. State Department and State officials have testified they believed the hiring of the VP's son created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In a series of emails, Cummins said Lutsenko could produce two "John Doe" witnesses who could corroborate the claims, including that some of the money Burisma paid to Hunter Biden as a board member for Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky's firm benefited Joe Biden.  

"There is a claim they have proof of a wire of significant funds from Zlochevsky to Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC which they claim directly went to the benefit of Joe Biden," Cummins wrote. "I have never understood why they think they know it went to him. I think the entity was associated with Hunter Biden and Archer.

"All I have been told is that the person who made the transfers was told that 'one goes to Joe Biden.' A little thin," Cummins wrote in one of several emails trying to prod Berman to set up a meeting.

In an interview with Just the News and The New York Post, Cummins said he was surprised DOJ didn't engage and try to determine if what Ukrainian officials were alleging was true,

"I can't really imagine a legitimate reason for the DOJ not to follow up on an offer like that," he said. "I felt like it was stonewalled."

Cummins, who served as chief federal prosecutor for the Arkansas federal district under George W. Bush, said he was even more stunned late last year when he got a belated notice from Apple that federal prosecutors obtained data in 2019 from his iPhone with a grand jury subpoena.

You can read the Apple notice here:

Cummins said the secret search of his phone felt like "retaliation."

"It doesn't make much sense to investigate the guy who brings you the allegation rather than the allegation," he said.

A spokesperson for the U. S. Attorney‘s office in New York did not immediately return a call for comment over the weekend.

Cummins' 2018 approach to the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan is the second known instance in which a witness came forward with allegations that the current president engaged in illegal behavior when he was Barack Obama's vice president.

House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) revealed last week that the FBI received information in June 2020 from a confidential human source, or informant, alleging that Joe Biden was involved in a pay-to-play bribery scheme in Ukraine.

Comer subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray in May of this year to turn over the FD-1023 report that details the informant's allegations, and both lawmakers said they were concerned the FBI and DOJ did not thoroughly investigate the informant's claim.

"The information provided by a whistleblower raises concerns that then-Vice President Biden allegedly engaged in a bribery scheme with a foreign national," said Comer in a statement released by House Oversight last week. "The American people need to know if President Biden sold out the United States of America to make money for himself. Senator Grassley and I will seek the truth to ensure accountability for the American people."

Hunter Biden has denied any wrongdoing but acknowledges he is under federal criminal investigation for tax matters. His legal team met with DOJ about the case late last month and is reportedly expecting Hunter Biden to be indicted soon.

Joe Biden has repeatedly dismissed allegations about the Burisma scandal, which date to 2019 and the first impeachment of Donald Trump, who tried to get Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden. He defended his son again last week, saying Hunter Biden has "done nothing wrong." White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has refused to answer any questions from the media about Biden’s possible involvement in the matter or the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Just the News first reported years ago that Cummins approached Berman on behalf of Lutsenko in 2018 and that it involved Hunter Biden's relationship with Burisma. The contact even was briefly mentioned during the Trump impeachment.

But the emergence of the contemporaneous emails added a new element, specifically raising questions about whether Biden benefited from his son's business relationship and tailored U.S. policy actions to help Burisma, a natural gas company the State Department considered to be corrupt.

Cummins' approach could also assume additional significance given the recent revelation that a FBI confidential informant had made similar allegations — similarly shunted aside by the Biden Justice administration — two years later.

The timing of the DOJ's sweep of Cummins phone, which occurred in November 2019 as the Trump impeachment case was unfolding, may also gain new scrutiny. Trump was eventually acquitted.

Cummins said he scored one brief call with Berman and then followed up with detailed emails about what the Ukrainian law enforcement officials were alleging. The prosecutors never responded again, he said.

Cummins said he never met directly with Lutsenko but rather with the Ukrainian prosecutor's representatives in the United States. He said he did not accept any pay for the work and did not go public or use any of his political ties to press that matter further.

"I approached this more like a former U.S. attorney and not so much as a political matter," he explained.

Congressional investigators have been developing a timeline showing that DOJ and other federal law enforcement agencies received waves of information from 2016 through 2020 raising red flags about Biden family transactions overseas and business partners. That timeline shows:

  • In 2015, as major New York bank filed suspicious activity reports flagging transactions related to several firms tied to Hunter Biden and his business partners. The reports led to a criminal investigation of Devon Archer, one of Hunter Biden's closest business partners and fellow Burisma board member.
  • In May 2016, Archer was indicted in federal court on charges he fleeced an Indian tribe through a bond scheme. He eventually was convicted in 2018.
  • In November 2016, a private bank official filed a sweeping whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, raising concerns about several firms and transactions tied to Hunter Biden and his associates.
  • In fall 2018, Cummins made his approach to the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan.
  • In late 2018, the FBI and IRS opened a criminal investigation of Hunter Biden based in part on the earlier suspicious bank activity reports.
  • From May to November 2019, the FBI in New York worked with a former Ukrainian government official who had tried to help Burisma settle criminal allegations in Ukraine while Hunter Biden was on the board.
  • In December 2019, the FBI obtained via subpoena a Hunter Biden laptop that included evidence that he had not declared $400,000 in income from Burisma and had not paid taxes on it.
  • In June 2020, the informant approached the FBI about an alleged bribery scheme   

When Cummins was pressing federal prosecutors in New York to consider meeting with Lutsenko, his emails to Berman noted that Archer, Hunter Biden's business partner, had been convicted and could be pushed by prosecutors about whether the allegations about Joe Biden's involvement were true, the emails show.

"I think your unique 'hook' may be that you have a defendant awaiting sentencing in your district (Devon Archer) who might be able to corroborate a lot of these allegations if they are true," Cummins emailed Berman on Oct. 9, 2018.

Cummins said he never heard back.

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