'Permanent Coup' excerpt: How Biden pushed to quash investigation of company paying son $80k/month
"Out of a country of more than 40 million with a notoriously corrupt political class, the man Biden singled out happened to be investigating the company that was paying his son millions of dollars a year to do nothing." — From "The Permanent Coup," by Lee Smith.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
Below follows part one of a two-part excerpt from Just the News contributor Lee Smith's book "The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President.":
"Well, son of a bitch," said Joe Biden. "He got fired."
The audience laughed. Biden always knew how to make people laugh. He had the common touch. But these weren’t common people — it was an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan, and Biden was trying to impress them with a story about himself as a man who got things done. It is easier to get things done using the resources of the U.S. government.
Biden was talking about a trip he made to Kiev to speak with Ukrainian officials. "I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee," Biden said. He said that he had a commitment from the Ukrainian president and prime minister to fire the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating the Ukrainian company that paid his son more than $80,000 a month. Unlike his father, who made many business trips to Kiev, Hunter never visited.
The Ukrainian heads of state and government tried to deflect Biden's demands. "We're not going to give you the billion dollars," Biden told the Ukrainians. "They said, 'You have no authority. You're not the president.'" Biden dared them to call Obama. "I said, call him." The Manhattan audience laughed again. "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. He got fired."
Biden had implicated the former president in an extortion scheme, in front of an audience. His statements were on videotape for anyone to view online. Of course no one was going to prosecute Obama or Biden. The making of foreign policy requires the use of various instruments to advance the national interest. Whether leveraging U.S. taxpayer money to get the vice president's son out of trouble served the national interest is another question.
Biden said he never asked Hunter about his business, but he should have warned him that doing business in Kiev was a bad idea, for him and for U.S. national security. Hunter's problems with money, women, and substance abuse would have flagged the attention of foreign intelligence services looking to influence the United States through the troubled son of the vice president. His job on the board of a company under investigation for corruption in a country known for corruption also would have made him and U.S. national security vulnerable. It was the duty of the chief executive to find out what, if anything, had happened.
Donald Trump was impeached, in part, to punish him for asking what Joe and Hunter Biden had been up to in Ukraine. Democrats and the media knew the Bidens were involved in questionable practices. In December 2015, the New York Times had reported that Hunter's work for a corrupt Ukrainian energy company called Burisma compromised the vice president.
But four years later, the context in which those facts had appeared changed. Hillary Clinton and Biden were no longer vying with each other for the 2016 nomination. Clinton was no longer the establishment pick, and her campaign had no reason to dump dirt on Biden to hurt his candidacy. In 2019, the story was nakedly about Democratic party corruption. So according to the left, facts describing Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine became components of a right-wing conspiracy theory, even though those facts appeared in the Times. As Biden came closer to securing the party's 2020 nomination, the cover-up became more urgent.
In August 2014, Ukraine's prosecutor general opened an investigation of Burisma, and by the end of the year its owner Mykola Zlochevsky fled Ukraine. The man who was paying Hunter Biden more than $80,000 a month was put on Ukraine's most wanted list.
Zlochevsky and his company are corrupt, says a former senior Obama administration intelligence official. "But Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Ukrainian prosecutors were investigating Burisma because it kept the oligarchs who were lined up against the new Ukrainian president on a leash."
The Burisma investigation, however, was bad for the Bidens. Throughout 2015, the vice president was in frequent contact with the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko. In March, they discussed the U.S. sanctions imposed the previous year in response to Russia's occupation of Crimea and parts of the east, where Ukrainian forces were fighting Russian-backed separatists.
Biden called Poroshenko again in June, July, and August. Their conversations ranged from U.S. aid and U.S. sanctions on Russia to Kiev's reform agenda and anti-corruption efforts. Given that the Ukrainians were at war with a power often hostile to U.S. interests, it's hardly surprising Ukraine was at the top of Biden's agenda.
And yet the Obama administration refused to arm Kiev in spite of bipartisan support, including John McCain on the right and Adam Schiff on the left. Obama feared that giving Ukraine lethal aid would only provoke Putin to escalate. John Brennan explained that the administration was concerned that sensitive technology would fall into Russian hands. Samantha Power went to Kiev in June to make a speech about fighting Russian disinformation campaigns.
Sometime in the summer, says the former Obama intelligence official, CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella was detailed to the NSC staff, where as Ukraine director he answered to the administration official who had the lead on Ukraine, Joe Biden.
"Ciaramella set up all the phone calls and coordinated interactions between the vice president and the Ukrainian president," says the source. "He did the prep work, and knew what was said in all the calls and meetings between the two, and was responsible for whatever after-action or follow-up was decided on."
In September, Obama administration officials seemed to have crossed signals. The ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, told the Ukrainians that they were not doing enough to fight corruption. He wanted to know who was slow-rolling the case against Burisma and its owner. Pyatt said that whoever was responsible for subverting the case "should — at a minimum — be summarily terminated."
On September 29, Biden met with the Ukrainian president at a UN meeting in New York. What was the status of the Burisma investigation? And why was the U.S. ambassador pushing the Ukrainians for an investigation that would invariably highlight Hunter Biden's role at the company?
"The Ukrainian president had his own reasons for investigating Burisma," says the former senior Obama administration official. "He's got his own domestic political concerns. He wants to look like he's fighting corruption, and more importantly, the investigation is an instrument to rein in his rivals, other powerful oligarchs."
The Americans also had their own domestic concerns, says the former official. "Biden was still thinking about running for president. He didn't leave the race until the middle of October. The pro-Clinton crowd showed him that the Burisma investigation could cause him trouble."
The Clinton campaign resolved to make sure Biden didn't have second thoughts. The New York Times had a story about Hunter Biden and Burisma timed to the vice president's December trip to Kiev.
On December 7, 2015 Biden and Poroshenko met and held a joint press conference. The vice president's central motif was corruption — Ukrainian corruption, of course:
"All Ukrainians, officials, business leaders, the business community, everyday citizens — they've got to work together to root out corruption that has held this country back for so long ... The Ukrainian people cannot once again have their hopes dashed based on the cancer of corruption. ... And it's absolutely critical for Ukraine, in order to be stable and prosperous and part of a secure Europe to definitely, thoroughly, completely root out the cancer of corruption ... And as I told the President at our meeting, as long as you continue to make progress to fight corruption and build a future of opportunity for all Ukraine, the United States will stand with you ... These new funds — this additional roughly $190 million —will help fight corruption in law enforcement and reform the justice sector."
The Times article — "Joe Biden, His Son, and the Case against a Ukrainian Oligarch" — posted that night. "The credibility of the vice president's anticorruption message may have been undermined by the association of his son, Hunter Biden, with one of Ukraine's largest natural gas companies, Burisma Holdings," wrote James Risen.
"Now you look at the Hunter Biden situation, and on the one hand you can credit the father for sending the anticorruption message," a Washington policy expert told the Times. "But I think unfortunately it sends the message that a lot of foreign countries want to believe about America, that we are hypocritical about these issues."
Only a day after the Times article published, Biden first openly called for the man investigating the company paying his son to be fired. In a December 9 speech in Kiev, the vice president said: "The Office of the General Prosecutor desperately needs reform."
In January, Obama's NSC invited Ukrainian prosecutors to Washington to discuss how to tackle corruption. Ciaramella was at the meeting. The White House reportedly wanted two things. First, they asked the Ukrainians to drop their investigation of the Ukrainian company that employed Hunter Biden. The FBI would handle it. Second, they were interested in reopening an investigation into payments that Paul Manafort's Ukrainian patron made to Americans. They wanted information on Manafort.
It wasn't until March that Manafort was named to the Trump campaign. The former Obama intelligence official speculates that perhaps the White House just sought to dirty a Republican. "There were so many Democrats with questionable ties to Ukraine," says the official. "Not just Biden. One of the biggest donors to the Clinton Foundation was another Ukrainian oligarch, Victor Pinchuk." In 2008, he committed $29 million to the Clinton Global Initiative.
Even with Hillary Clinton backing off once Biden was out of the race, the vice president was still on the hook with the Burisma investigation. The president of Ukraine didn't want to give up an instrument with which he fought his domestic foes. On February 2, the Ukrainian prosecutor seized all of the assets belonging to Burisma's owner, Zlochevsky.
The second-highest elected official in the United States called President Poroshenko on February 11; and a week later, on the 18th; and the day after that, on the 19th. Biden urged him "to accelerate Ukraine's efforts to fight corruption." It was clear what Biden meant by corruption — he was referring to the prosecutor handling the case involving his son Hunter.
On March 15, Clinton ally Victoria Nuland gave Biden a hand. The assistant secretary of state testified that Ukraine had to get rid of the prosecutor investigating the Burisma case, Victor Shokin, and "appoint and confirm a new, clean Prosecutor General."
Biden called Poroshenko on March 22, and one week later the Ukrainian parliament voted to dismiss Shokin. On March 31, Biden landed in Kiev to announce the $1 billion loan guarantee. Biden later boasted that he'd threatened the Ukrainians in person over the prosecutor. His made-up story had the advantage of obscuring the fact that the vice president of the United States had campaigned for more than a year to bury the Ukrainian prosecutor. Out of a country of more than 40 million with a notoriously corrupt political class, the man Biden singled out happened to be investigating the company that was paying his son millions of dollars a year to do nothing. Naturally, Joe Biden was resolved to have him fired.