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Hunter Biden memos call into question congressional testimony of Democrat lobbying firm

Emails state Hunter Biden met, strategized with Blue Star Strategies executives who claimed they had no contact.

Published: July 2, 2021 7:23pm

Updated: July 5, 2021 10:28pm

Hunter Biden memos on a laptop recovered by the FBI directly conflict with the congressional testimony of two key executives at a Democrat-connected firm who asserted they did not deal with the current president's son while working for a Ukrainian energy firm where the younger Biden served on the board.

The questions about the testimony from Blue Star Strategies officials comes as the Justice Department is reportedly investigating whether the firm violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act with its work contacting federal officials on behalf of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings.

Blue Star, a lobbying and strategy firm with deep Democrat connections dating to the Bill Clinton era, was hired in late 2015 by Burisma in an effort to improve its image and fight corruption allegations the Ukrainian firm had been facing since early 2014 when Hunter Biden joined its board, according to documents previously published by Just the News.

Blue Star's work later became the focus of a Senate investigation that concluded last year that Hunter Biden's role at Burisma while his father oversaw Ukraine policy as vice president created a conflict of interest that undercut U.S. efforts to fight corruption in the former Soviet republic.

Late last August — just over two months before the presidential election won by Joe Biden — the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee summoned two representatives from Blue Star Strategies to testify on the firm's relationship with Burisma.

Blue Star's Karen Tramontano and Sally Painter were asked about the firm's contacts with Hunter Biden while he served on Burisma's board.

Tramontano testified that "at no time did I or anyone else in the firm working on behalf of Burisma collaborate or coordinate the development or implementation of our work with Hunter Biden. ... Mr. Biden played no role in Blue Star Strategies' work on behalf of Burisma."

You can read Tramontano's testimony here. 

Under questioning from the Democratic counsel on the Senate committee, Painter gave similar testimony.

"Did you ever consult with Hunter Biden about Blue Star Strategies and its representation of Burisma?" Painter was asked.

"Never," she answered.

"Did Hunter Biden ever direct any of Blue Star Strategies and its representation of Burisma?" the questioner asked.

"No," Painter responded.

You can read Painter's testimony here.

But emails, calendar notations and memos obtained by Just the News from the Hunter Biden laptop now in possession of the FBI state clearly that Hunter Biden had direct conversations with the Blue Star team on several occasions as its was beginning its work in November and December of 2015.

Those conversations included details about the Burisma-Blue Star contract as well as specific strategies, such as countering the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine's claims of corruption.

"Hunter and I spoke to Sally Painter yesterday," Eric Schwerin, a close colleague of Hunter Biden, wrote in a Nov. 12, 2015 email that briefed a top Burisma executive about the meetings.

"First, Hunter talked to Sally about the agreement and the desire on your part to evaluate success after two months and not feel locked in to the year long contract if things weren't going well," Schwerin wrote. "Sally understood and said that that wasn't a problem. So, you should feel free to go ahead and execute the agreement as it is written and process the first invoice.

"Second, Sally said she has already had a few meetings on Burisma's behalf and had some feedback she wanted to give to us offline. She felt she had some intelligence on why the Ambassador made his comments. Hunter and I are going to sit down with her on Monday and find out more.

"Third, we discussed the potential trip to Kiev in December. One alternative suggestion that Sally made was for Blue Star to go alone and do some high-level government meetings in Kiev as the first step."

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who was chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last year when it investigated Hunter Biden's business dealings and interviewed Blue Star executives, told Just the News on Monday he is troubled by the new revelations and the traditional news media's failure to cover them.

"I had serious doubts that Blue Star Strategies was fully complying with the subpoena my committee issued the firm in 2020. With new documents coming to light, it appears my suspicions were well founded," Johnson said.

"Unfortunately, Democrats and the press had no interest in exploring the troubling findings Senator Grassley’s and my report revealed regarding Biden Inc.’s vast web of foreign financial entanglements," he added. "There have been multiple confirmations that President Biden lied when he said he never spoke to Hunter about his overseas business activities. When will the press, Congress, and our justice system hold the Bidens accountable? The American people deserve the truth and the equal application of justice. Right now, they are getting neither."

Calendar notations also show Hunter Biden was scheduled for multiple conference calls with Blue Star officials from mid-November to mid-December, with the lobbying firm directly emailing the vice president's son the telephone call-in information.

In early December 2015, a Blue Star executive named Sean Keeley wrote that his firm had scored a conference call with Joe Biden's office concerning the vice president's planned trip to Kiev later that month. Keeley directly emailed the briefing memo to Hunter Biden, with Tramontano and Painter copied.

"Attached is a memo from the Blue Star Strategies team with the minutes of the call, which outlined the trip's agenda and addressed several questions regarding U.S. policy toward Ukraine," Keeley wrote Hunter Biden in the email dated Dec. 2, 2015.

Beyond showing Blue Star was communicating with Hunter Biden, the email also shows the firm had direct contacts with the vice president's office concerning matters affecting Burisma.

In her Senate testimony, Painter said she did not believe she had contacts with the vice president's team. "I have no recollection of talking to the Vice President or anybody on the Vice President's staff about Burisma," she told the Senate probe.

Painter, Tramontano and Blue Star did not reply to messages or phone calls from Just the News seeking comment.

The memos indicate that Blue Star's relationship with Burisma dates back to Oct. 30, 2015, when an associate at Blue Star sent a proposal, contract, and initial invoice to Hunter Biden's longtime business partner and fellow Burisma board member Devon Archer. Archer forwarded the documents to Hunter Biden and Vadym Pozharskyi — an executive at Burisma and the apparent point of contact for Archer and Biden as well as Blue Star's executives.

Pozharskyi replied with a list of concerns, complaining that Blue Star's scope of work "largely [lacked] concrete tangible results" and the proposal did not offer any specific names of American or Ukrainian officials that would help improve Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky's case amid swirling allegations of international corruption.

Pozharskyi suggested that Blue Star may have omitted such specifics "deliberately to be on the safe and cautious side." The Burisma executive signaled that if all parties understood the "true purpose" of Blue Star's engagement and Hunter Biden's joint efforts then Burisma was OK with the current proposal and ready to proceed immediately. Pozharskyi added that he wanted Blue Star and Hunter Biden et al to be on the same page "re our final goals."

Pozharskyi closed out his email with a set of deliverables, including the desire for Blue Star to arrange for U.S. officials to express public support for Zlochevsky, and explicitly stated that the "ultimate purpose" should be to shut down the legal "cases/pursuits against [Zlochevsky] in Ukraine."

Hunter Biden replied and urged Pozharskyi to sign the contract with Blue Star, stating that he felt "comfortable with [Blue Star] and the ability of Sally and Karen to deliver." The younger Biden was apparently on a first name basis with the former Clinton administration officials now running Blue Star.

Less than two weeks later, on Nov. 18, 2015, Burisma sent $60,000 to Blue Star. Within a week, Hunter Biden and his associates were preparing for a joint strategy session with the Burisma and Blue Star teams. A Blue Star representative contacted Hunter Biden, Devon Archer, and Vadym Pozharskyi and proposed a conference call for Dec. 1, 2015. Tramontano and Painter were both on the email chain with Hunter Biden.

A few days later, Blue Star again reached out to Hunter Biden and his associates offering to host a conference call "between Blue Star and Burisma." Painter and Tramontano were again on the email chain. Hunter Biden remained involved in the email exchanges and conference calls between Blue Star and Burisma into 2016 (though he rarely replied to the lobbyists directly and apparently relied on Archer and other associates to speak of his behalf).

On Dec. 8, 2015, Painter sent an email to Hunter Biden and others involved in the Burisma project, approving of a plan to clean up the Ukrainian company's Wikipedia entries.

"This looks like a fine strategy to upgrade and more reflect the facts of the company," Painter wrote in an email in which Hunter Biden was listed as the first recipient. "We also work with a group called which improves the overall internet image. Happy to discuss this if any interest."

After months of work in Ukraine and Washington, Blue Star reported it had made some progress.

On July 26, 2016, Tramontano sent an update to Biden's business partner, Schwerin, stating, "Most of the restraints on Burisma have been lifted." Reporting that she would be heading to Ukraine that day and Painter would be heading to Latvia, Tramontano said she hoped they would "make a little more progress in both countries."

By the end of 2016, Blue Star and an American criminal defense attorney named John Buretta had helped Burisma settle the outstanding corruption probes in Ukraine, in one case paying a financial penalty.

Obama-Biden State Department officials, however, reported to the FBI and State headquarters in both 2015 and 2016 that they believed Burisma had paid bribes to Ukrainian officials to make the cases go away. U.S. officials have refused to say whether those allegations were ever investigated.

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