Viktor Shokin, the ousted Ukrainian prosecutor whose name has surfaced in the wake of President Donald Trump’s controversial call with the Ukrainian president, claimed in an affidavit that he was forced out of office because he was leading a “wide-ranging corruption probe” into a company on whose board of directors Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, sat.
However, there are two very polarized narratives around the ouster of Shokin; there’s the above narrative, which is the one favored by Trump and his supporters as House Democrats push for impeachment proceedings. However, others say this narrative runs counter to the fact that Shokin was pushed out, after Joe Biden’s admitted pressure, because Shokin was perceived as soft on corruption and reluctant to probe Burisma, the company on whose board Hunter Biden was sitting.
You can read the full affidavit here via Scribd, where it was uploaded by John Solomon, an opinion contributor to The Hill news site. He is the former editor of the conservative Washington Times newspaper and has also worked as a reporter for The Washington Post.
Another former Ukrainian prosecutor has also come forward to The Los Angeles Times to allege that he didn’t see wrongdoing by either Biden and rejected the demands of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani to launch an investigation into them.
Labeled a witness statement, the Viktor Shokin affidavit said he was making the statement at the request of lawyers acting for Dmitry Firtash for use in legal proceedings in Austria. In it, he says he was the former General Prosecutor of the Republic of Ukraine who worked in that office from 1980 to 2016 at different times.
According to ABC 7, Firtash is “the subject of a drawn out extradition fight by federal prosecutors in Chicago.” Reuters has reported of Firtash, an oligarch: “His success was built on remarkable sweetheart deals brokered by associates of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, at immense cost to Russian taxpayers.” Firtash then helped a pro Russia/Putin president become elected in Ukraine (Viktor Yanukovich, who is no longer in power and fled to Russia after demonstrations.)
The prosecutor was fired in 2016 “after months of demands from the country’s pro-reform and anti-graft community for his failure to investigate the corruption of fugitive President Victor Yanukovych’s regime. Yanukovych was ousted in the EuroMaidan Revolution in 2014 and fled to Russia,” reported Kyiv Post.
Some allege that Shokin actually stopped investigating Burisma, countering his narrative that he wanted to pursue the probe. Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Kyiv-based Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC), told Radio Free Europe that Shokin “dumped important criminal investigations on corruption associated with [former President Viktor] Yanukovych, including the Burisma case.” Furthermore, “Ukrainian prosecutors and anti-corruption advocates who were pushing for an investigation into the dealings of Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevskiy, said the probe had been dormant long before Biden leveled his demand,” Radio Free Europe reports.
“Ironically, Joe Biden asked Shokin to leave because the prosecutor failed [to pursue] the Burisma investigation, not because Shokin was tough and active with this case,” Kaleniuk said to Radio Free Europe. “Zlochevsky had been Ukraine’s ecology minister under former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian leader who had been forced into exile in Russia,” James Risen wrote for Intercept.
Risen added, “The then-vice president issued his demands for greater anti-corruption measures by the Ukrainian government despite the possibility that those demands would actually increase – not lessen — the chances that Hunter Biden and Burisma would face legal trouble in Ukraine.” Read his full report here.
According to Kyiv Post, “The accusations against the Bidens are not supported by any available evidence.” It is true, though, that Hunter Biden was sitting on the Burisma board of directors at the time Joe Biden was pushing for Shokin’s ouster. Kyiv Post called Shokin “a highly unpopular prosecutor general.” Kyiv Post reported: “Firtash was a close ally to Yanukovych and is still a business partner of the ex-president’s chief of staff, Serhiy Lovochkin. In his early days, he allegedly worked with organized crime boss Semyon Mogilevich and profited from a murky scheme to resell Turkmen gas.”
The newspaper also reported, of Firtash, “the oligarch’s defense team has hired two attorneys connected to Trump, Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing.” ABC7 says that Firtash is also represented by lawyer Dan Webb, a Chicago attorney and former federal prosecutor. DiGenova and Toensing are conservative lawyers whose backgrounds you can read more about later in this article. According to Daily Beast, Fox News reported that DiGenova and Toensing were “working off the books” to help Rudy Giuliani dig up dirt against Biden. Chris Wallace broke the story on Fox.
“Two high-profile Washington lawyers, Joe diGenova, who’s been a fierce critic of the Democratic investigation, and his wife Victoria Toensing were working with Giuliani to get oppo research on Biden,�� Wallace said on Fox.
Here’s what you need to know:
Shokin’s Affidavit Claims He Was Removed From Office Because He Was Investigating the Company Tied to Hunter Biden
Shokin, in the affidavit, claimed that Joe Biden along with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and other top Ukrainian officials “took steps aimed at preventing DF’s return to Ukraine.” Firtash wanted to launch a plan for the modernization of Ukraine, he wrote. Among those steps, he claimed that authorities said that Firtash could be criminally charged if he returned to Ukraine.
Firtash didn’t travel to Ukraine but Biden did. The general prosecutor of Ukraine is appointed to office by the president with the consent of parliament. Shokin was appointed during the presidency of President Poroshenko.
He claimed he was “staunchly politically unaffiliated.” He writes that Poroshenko asked him to resign due to pressure from Joe Biden who was threatening to withhold $1 billion in subsidies to Ukraine “until I was removed from office.”
He alleges, “The truth is that I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings…a natural gas firm active in Ukraine. Jose Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a member of the Board of Directors. I presume Burisma, which was connected with gas extraction, had the support of the US Vice President Joe Biden because his son was on the Board of Directors.”
He claimed that Poroshenko asked him to consider winding down the investigation but he refused to close it. He claimed Poroshenko told him if he didn’t stop investigating Burisma the US via Biden would refuse to release the money.
The 2014 press release for the Justice Department indictment against Firtash reads, “A federal indictment returned under seal in June 2013 and unsealed today charges six foreign nationals, including a Ukrainian businessman and a government official in India, with participating in an alleged international racketeering conspiracy involving bribes of state and central government officials in India to allow the mining of titanium minerals. Five of the six defendants are also charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), among other offenses.” The release continues, “One defendant, Dmitry Firtash, aka ‘Dmytro Firtash’ and ‘DF,’ 48, a Ukrainian national, was arrested March 12, 2014, in Vienna, Austria. Firtash was released from custody on March 21, 2014, after posting 125 million euros (approximately $174 million) bail, and he pledged to remain in Austria until the end of extradition proceedings…Firtash controls Group DF, an international conglomerate of companies that was directly and indirectly owned by Group DF Limited, a British Virgin Islands company.”
As for Burisma, Politifact concluded in an article exploring the issue that “Experts agree that Hunter Biden’s acceptance of the position created a conflict of interest for his father.” However, a later prosecutor found no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that another former Ukraine prosecutor general named Yuri Lutsenko says he rejected the demands of President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden because had hadn’t seen evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
Lutsenko was fired from the position a month ago. “I told him (Giuliani) I could not start an investigation just for the interests of an American official,” The Times reported. He told the Times that Hunter’s position “while his father was involved in steering Obama administration policy toward Ukraine” could be a conflict of interest but wasn’t illegal. The Times reported that Lutsenko was “believed to have been one of the original promoters behind the unsubstantiated allegations against Biden.”
Politico once called Victoria Toensing “one of the most committed conservative lawyers in Washington.”
Both Victoria Toensing and DiGenova have made frequent appearances on national television programs, often boosting Republican causes, and they were especially prolific during the Clinton years and investigations.
Victoria Toensing has represented a Benghazi “whistleblower,” and “was named Special Counsel by the U.S. House of Representatives to probe the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. In 2007, Toensing was retained by the New York State Senate to investigate then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer in the Troopergate matter,” her law firm bio says.
She also spent time as a prosecutor in the Reagan Justice Department. “As Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Justice Department from 1984-1988, she established Justice’s Terrorism Unit,” the bio says. “She managed the federal government’s efforts to bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the hijacking of TWA 847, the bombing of Pan Am 830, and the takeover of the cruise ship Achille Lauro. For her aggressive pursuit of terrorist Mohammed Rashid she was featured on the cover of The New York Times Magazine (April 21, 1991).”
She was also chief counsel for Republican senator Barry Goldwater.
In 1998, The Washington Post called Toensing and her husband, DiGenova, “The Power Couple at Scandal’s Vortex.” The Post described their criticism of the Clintons and wrote that DiGenova was a “white-hot media presence, politically connected lawyer and all-around agent provocateur. He and Toensing, also a battle-tested former prosecutor, keep popping up wherever there is trouble — as commentators, as investigators, as unnamed sources for reporters.”
The Post described how Victoria Toensing and DiGenova were involved in criticism over Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. Victoria “Toensing was approached by an intermediary for a Secret Service agent who had supposedly seen something untoward involving President Clinton and the former intern. DiGenova was at the heart of a quickly retracted Dallas Morning News account of that matter,” the Post reported.
Victoria Toensing is still involved in the public debate. She wrote a column for Fox News that opined that Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions was being unfairly maligned.
Joseph DiGenova is the former U.S. Attorney for Washington DC. According to his law firm bio, “He led the prosecution of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. He was the Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney during the prosecution of attempted Presidential assassin, John W. Hinckley.”
He was also “chief Counsel and Staff Director of the Senate Rules Committee and Counsel to the Senate Judiciary, Governmental Affairs and Select Intelligence Committees,” the bio says. In 1998, wrote Slate, “TV bookers love diGenova because he is a former prosecutor who goes for the sound bite, and also because he is a former independent counsel himself. Between 1992 and 1995, he looked into charges that Bush administration officials instigated an improper search of Bill Clinton’s passport files during the 1992 campaign.”
Hunter Biden’s Work in Ukraine & as a Lobbyist Has Provoked Controversy
According to The New York Times, Hunter Biden once served on the board “of one of Ukraine’s largest natural gas companies.” That’s Burisma.
The New York Times previously reported in May 2019 that dealing with Ukraine was something Joe Biden “enthusiastically embraced” as President Barack Obama’s vice president, “browbeating Ukraine’s notoriously corrupt government to clean up its act.” You can read the full Times’ report here.
The Times added that Joe Biden, in 2016, “threatened to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his own office and among the political elite.” The prosecutor’s name was Viktor Shokin.
The prosecutor was voted out. The Times reported that Hunter Biden “had a stake in the outcome,” because, at the time, he was a board member for “an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch” who had been a target of the fired prosecutor.
The Times described Hunter as a “Yale-educated lawyer” who had served on Amtrak’s board and boards for nonprofit organizations but didn’t have experience in Ukraine. He was paid “as much as $50,000 per month” some months for his work for Burisma Holdings, The Times reported.
The Times claimed that Hunter and his partners “were part of a broad effort by Burisma to bring in well-connected Democrats” during “the period” that the company faced probes in the Ukraine and from Obama administration officials.
The newspaper quoted Hunter Biden as saying, “I have had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation of Burisma, or any of its officers. I explicitly limited my role to focus on corporate governance best practices to facilitate Burisma’s desire to expand globally.”
NBC News reported that the elder Biden’s role in Ukraine involved leading “the U.S. diplomatic efforts to bolster the country’s fledgling democracy and root out corruption after mass protests ousted the country’s pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych.” According to NBC, Burisma, for which Hunter is no longer on the board, “had ties to Yanukovych,” raising conflict of interest concerns that the Obama White House denied. It was argued that the prosecutor was hesitant to go after any prominent members of the Yanukovych regime.
However, Bloomberg has reported that the prosecutor’s investigation into Burisma was dormant for some time before Joe Biden made his comments about Ukraine. According to Bloomberg, Joe Biden stated his comments against the prosecutor derived from U.S. frustrations that the prosecutor was soft on corruption.
In May 2019, Ukraine’s then prosecutor general “said there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden,” BBC reported.
This plays into accusations that President Trump, in a call to the president of Ukraine, urged him to investigate Biden’s son and Biden, now his 2020 presidential rival. Trump released a memorandum of the call on September 25, 2019 with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky. The passage about Hunter Biden says:
Trump: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.
I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all, I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.
Read the full memorandum here.
Trump told reporters of that call, according to NBC: “What Joe Biden did for his son, that’s something they should be looking at.” Trump also said, NBC reported: “He said, ‘I’m not going to give billions of dollars to Ukraine unless they remove this prosecutor.’ And they removed the prosecutor supposedly in one hour,” Trump claimed, referring to Biden. “And the prosecutor was prosecuting the company of the son and the son. He just shouldn’t have said that. Now, as far as my conversation, it was perfect. It was a perfect conversation.”
There have also been accusations that Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, and there is an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that raised concerns about the call and the administration’s handling of it. You can read that complaint here.
Biden has previously spoken about his actions in Ukraine. “I remember going over (to Ukraine), convincing our team … that we should be providing for loan guarantees. … And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from (then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko) and from (then-Prime Minister Arseniy) Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor (Shokin). And they didn’t…” he said during an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations in 2018.
“They were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, … we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, ‘You have no authority. You’re not the president.’ … I said, call him. I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. … 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. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
According to John Solomon, writing for The Hill: “U.S. banking records show Hunter Biden’s American-based firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, received regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015, during a period when Vice President Biden was the main U.S. official dealing with Ukraine and its tense relations with Russia.”
Solomon added that Shokin “told me in written answers to questions that, before he was fired as general prosecutor, he had made ‘specific plans’ for the investigation that ‘included interrogations and other crime-investigation procedures into all members of the executive board, including Hunter Biden.'”
Politifact concluded: “Vice President Joe Biden did urge Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, with the threat of withholding U.S. aid. But that was the position of the wider U.S. government, as well as other international institutions. We found no evidence to support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind, as the message suggests. It’s not even clear that the company was actively under investigation or that a change in prosecutors benefited it.”