Ukraine’s top law enforcement officer has said that U.S. Attorney General William Barr never formally contacted his office to request a joint investigation into unsubstantiated reports of corruption in connection with Biden family, further placing in doubt the White House’s justification that the military aid to Ukraine was withheld over concerns about widespread corruption in the country.
Ukrainian prosecutor general Ruslan Ryaboshapka told the Financial Times that despite the Trump administration’s justifications, Attorney General Barr’s office never contacted his office to request a joint investigation into corruption linked to the Bidens or Burisma.
“Asked about a potential probe focusing on the Bidens and their connection with Ukrainian energy company Burisma, Mr. Ryaboshapka said Mr. Trump’s attorney-general William Barr had made no contact to formally request a joint investigation,” the report said.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in September, “If you are asking separately if the President has asked the AG to investigate Biden, the answer is no.”
“We have an obligation to investigate corruption. And that’s what it was,” President Donald Trump responded last month when asked why the $250 million in congressionally approved aid to Ukraine held up.
The president’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney reiterated that explanation in an interview last month with Fox News’s Chris Wallace.
“There were two reasons that we held up the aid. We talked about this at some length. The first one was the rampant corruption in Ukraine. Ukraine — by the way, Chris, it’s so bad in Ukraine that in 2014, Congress passed a law making it, making us, requiring us, to make sure that corruption was moving in the right direction,” Mulvaney said. “So, corruption is a big deal, everyone knows it. The president was also concerned about whether or not other nations, specifically European nations, were helping with foreign aid to the Ukraine as well.”
These remarks came after a certain Mulvaney press conference.
At least one impeachment witness has said that, as early as May, the Department of Defense didn’t share the same concern that Ukraine had not met anti-corruption “benchmarks.” And at least one other witness said Ukraine’s announcement of the investigations President Trump desired — not necessarily actually opening the investigations — was what Zelensky needed to get a White House meeting.
In the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that sparked a whistleblower complaint and the impeachment inquiry, President Trump specifically asked Zelensky to look into why the investigation of Ukrainian gas company Burisma had ended. Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, served on the board of the company.
“Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it. … It sounds horrible to me,” Trump said, according to a non-verbatim memorandum of the call. Trump also expressed an interest in investigating the CrowdStrike conspiracy, which the intelligence community has debunked. The president also said Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr were the point people to make these things happen.
Documents released Tuesday revealed the White House first took official action to withhold the military aid to Ukraine on July 25–the same day as the phone call.
[image via Ed Zurga/Getty Images]