Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denied former Vice President Joe Biden ever raised the topic of Burisma with him and said claims of Ukrainian interference in U.S. politics were likely the product of Russian disinformation.
Poroshenko, who lost his reelection bid last year to Volodymyr Zelensky, appeared on Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN on Sunday to answer whether Biden, now the 2020 Democratic presumptive nominee, had ever brought up to him Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas company that once employed his son, Hunter.
“My absolutely clear answer: No, never,” Poroshenko said, adding that former President Barack Obama, President Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence never pressed him either.
Trump and his allies have repeatedly questioned why the Ukrainian gas company gave Hunter Biden a lucrative position on its board from 2014 to 2019 despite him having little experience in the energy sector and a well-documented problem with drug use. Some of this time frame included when his father was leading the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy. Trump briefly mentioned the younger Biden’s lucrative Ukrainian gig during his Tulsa rally Saturday night.
Poroshenko was also asked to discuss John Bolton’s boo k, which dismissed Trump’s concerns about Ukraine as “fantasy conspiracy theories” and alleged the president believed there were those in the Ukrainian government seeking to undermine him.
“Me, as a president, enjoy extremely important and powerful bipartisan support from the United States both from Democrats and from Republican,” Poroshenko said.
“And believe me, Ukraine now in the world, one of the most pro-American nation in the world, no matter it is Republican or Democrats.” Poroshenko said, adding, “We are definitely very much appreciate for … giving us such a volume of support to protect our sovereignty during the Russian aggression.”
He also argued that there was “a Russian scenario just to break unity between Ukraine and U.S.” and that it “is in the Russian interest to launch a scenario that, OK, Ukraine are against Trump or Ukrainian are against Biden or Ukrainian are against Obama.”
Burisma became a hot-button issue last year when Trump seemed to reference it in a July 25 call with Zelensky, the current president of Ukraine. The call spurred a whistleblower complaint, which sparked Democrat-led impeachment proceedings in the House. In the call, immediately after Zelensky expressed interest in purchasing anti-tank weaponry, known as Javelins, from the U.S., Trump asked Zelensky “to do us a favor though” by looking into a CrowdStrike conspiracy theory and any possible Ukrainian election interference in 2016. Trump urged Zelensky later in the call to investigate “the other thing,” referring to allegations of corruption related to the Bidens.
The Democratic-led House impeached Trump in December on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, but he was acquitted after a trial in the Republican-led Senate in February.
Trump and other allies claim Biden improperly used his position as vice president to pressure Ukraine to fire Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin to protect his son from an investigation into Burisma. Democrats say the focus on Burisma is part of an effort to dirty up Trump’s political rival.
The former vice president threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukraine did not fire Shokin, who was criticized by many in the West for not doing enough to crack down on corruption.
Biden says there is “no credibility” to the claims of corruption, but his critics have seized on video of a statement the former vice president made in January 2018, where he boasted to a Council of Foreign Relations panel that he ordered Ukraine to fire Shokin or the White House would renege on a commitment to provide aid. Shokin was fired in 2016.
The Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee voted 8-6 along party lines in May to approve a subpoena for Blue Star Strategies, a Washington, D.C., firm that represented Burisma.
Some of the calls Biden had with Poroshenko were leaked online in May. The calls, which largely echo what Biden has claimed, were leaked by Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker with links to Russian intelligence.
The leaked 2016 calls include discussions throughout 2015 and 2016, and a Washington Examiner review found no mention of Burisma or Hunter Biden.
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted in response to an edited May 13, 2016, call, “Yikes!!!! This is not a ‘perfect conversation.’”
Biden spokesman Andrew Bates told the Washington Post, “They heavily edited this, and it’s still a nothingburger that landed with a thud.”