On Wednesday, State Department official George Kent said that e would “love” to see Ukraine look into the circumstances surrounding the closure of a probe tied to natural gas firm Burisma Holdings, while raising concerns that Hunter Biden’s role on the board of that firm created the appearance of a conflict of interest.
During questioning by Steve Castor at the first public hearing of the House impeachment inquiry, George Kent was asked about the Ukrainian investigation into Burisma Holdings and why it was closed.
He testified that it was his and other officials’ “strong assumption” that Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of the firm, had stolen money, and that a prosecutor had taken “a bribe to close the case,” as Fox News reported.
Castor asked Kent whether he was in favor of that matter “being fully investigated and prosecuted.”
Here is part of the transcript.
CASTOR: “OK. Now, you — you’ve seen Vice President Biden’s — his — he sort of given a — a — a speech, and he’s, you know, a little folksy about how he went into Ukraine and he told the Ukrainians that if they don’t fire the prosecutor, they’re going to lose their $1 billion in loan guarantees. You’ve seen that, correct?”
KENT: “I have. I think it was a speech at the Council of Foreign Relations in January, 2018.”
CASTOR: “Right. And he also said that he’s been there, you know, the Ukraine, 13 times. Do you know if that’s accurate?”
KENT: “To the best of my knowledge, when he was vice president he made six visits.”
CASTOR: “And did the State Department ever express any concerns to the Vice President’s Office that the vice president’s role at the time in — in engaging on Ukraine presented any issues?”
KENT: “No. The vice president’s role was critically important. It was top cover to help us pursue our policy agenda.”
CASTOR: “OK, but you know Hunter Biden’s role in Burisma’s board of directors. At some point you testified in your deposition that you expressed some concern to the Vice President’s Office. Is that correct?”
KENT: “That is correct.”
CASTOR: “And what did they do about that concern that you expressed?”
KENT: “I have no idea. I reported my concern to the Office of the Vice President.”
CASTOR: “OK. And that was the end of it, nobody —” [crosstalk]
KENT: “Sir, you would have to ask people worked in the Office of the Vice President during 2015.”
CASTOR: “But after you expressed the concern of a perceived conflict of interest at the least, the vice president’s engagement in Ukraine didn’t decrease, did it?”
KENT: “Correct. Because the vice president was promoting U.S. policy objectives in Ukraine.”
CASTOR: “And Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma didn’t cease, did it?”
KENT: “To the best of my knowledge, it didn’t. And my concern was that there was the possibility of a perception of a conflict of interest.”