Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified Friday that the Obama administration was so concerned about Hunter Biden’s job on Burisma’s board of directors that she was asked prep questions about the issue by White House staffers before her 2016 Senate confirmation.
In response to questions from GOP counsel Stephen Castor, Yovanovitch testified at the House Intelligence Committee’s second public impeachment hearing that she had been informed about the lucrative gig Hunter Biden landed with the petroleum producer — which paid the son of then-Vice President Joe Biden as much as $50,000 a month despite his seeming lack of relevant experience — but took no action when she arrived at her post.
“As I said, I arrived in August of 2016, several months before the elections and several months before President Trump took office. And it was not a focus of what I was doing in that six-month period,” she answered.
Castor then pressed her on why she took no action.
“We — I was aware of it, because as I told you before, in the deposition, there had been a — in terms of the preparation for my Senate confirmation hearings for Ukraine, there was a question about that and a select answer. So I was aware of it, yes,” Yovanovitch said, not providing the answer she was coached to give.
“My understanding from newspaper accounts is that he just recently left, in 2019. I never met him, never talked to him.”
But GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) later hammered home the point that the Obama administration was concerned enough over the younger Biden’s Ukraine job that staffers prepared Yovanovitch to answer them for the confirmation hearing.
“The exact quote from your testimony, Ambassador, is, quote, ‘the way the question was phrased in this model Q&A was, what can you tell us about Hunter Biden’s, you know, being named to the board of Burisma?’ So for the millions of Americans watching, President Obama’s own State Department was so concerned about potential conflicts of interest from Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma that they raised it themselves while prepping this wonderful ambassador nominee before her confirmation,” Stefanik said.
“And yet our Democratic colleagues and the chairman of this committee cry foul when we dare ask that same question the Obama administration was so concerned about. But we will continue asking it.”
Later, Texas GOP Rep. John Ratliffe asked Yovanovitch what the answer in the Obama administration briefing book was.
“It was something along the lines of, ‘I would refer you to the vice president’s office on that,’” Yovanovitch answered.
Republicans have repeatedly stressed Hunter Biden’s position with Burisma, and charged that his father, while vice president, fired a prosecutor who was investigating the company, Viktor Shokin.
Democrats responded that Republicans were trying to distract from Trump’s call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he asked him to investigate the Bidens and Burisma.
VP Biden, they said, was executing US policy by pushing for the prosecutor’s ouster because he was not fighting hard enough to thwart corruption, and that the European Union and International Monetary Fund also supported his firing.
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