Career diplomat George Kent told congressional investigators earlier this week he had voiced concerns in early 2015 about former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter working for a Ukrainian natural gas company, the Washington Post reported Friday.
Citing three people familiar with the testimony, the newspaper reported that Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, recounted concerns during his testimony Tuesday that Hunter Biden’s work could undercut American efforts to convey to Ukraine the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest.
The people told the Post when Kent raised the risk of Ukraine viewing Biden as a direct line to his father, he told investigators, the then-vice president’s office responded that Biden didn’t have the “bandwidth” to address Hunter’s situation while his other son, Beau, battled brain cancer. Kent did not name the Biden staffer he interacted with, the people told the Post.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, defended the former vice president’s conduct in Ukraine.
“Donald Trump’s unprecedentedly corrupt administration is melting down because of the scandal he touched-off by trying to get Ukraine to lie about Joe Biden — and as the vice president said yesterday, he should release his tax returns or shut up,” Bates said in a statement. “On Joe Biden’s watch, the US made eradicating corruption a centerpiece of our policies toward Ukraine, including achieving the removal of an inept prosecutor who shielded wrongdoers from accountability.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat who heard in the testimony, said the concerns about Biden were related to the death of his older son, Beau, not due to Hunter Biden’s business ties.
“That’s not my recollection,” Connolly said when asked about the Post report by CNN’s Erin Burnett on “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “My recollection is that concerns were raised about whether Vice President Biden should go to Ukraine and represent the United States at that time, and the reaction was the man is in deep grieving with the illness of his son and the ultimate loss of his son, and this is not the time to confront him with the appropriateness of his representing the United States government as he’s been asked to do.”
The news of Kent’s testimony stands out after two weeks of administration officials testifying in House lawmakers’ probe into the President’s dealings with Ukraine. The effort has shown so far that President Donald Trump played a key role in the US diplomatic effort to push Ukraine to open an investigation into Hunter and Joe Biden that goes well beyond the President’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that formed the basis of the whistleblower complaint. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.
Kent also told investigators that Trump associates made baseless claims against then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who testified last week.
A former senior Biden national security aide told the Post he did not recall hearing about such a complaint from Kent or from Yovanovitch. The aide recalled Hunter’s position first surfacing as an issue in December 2015 when it was referenced in media reports of Joe Biden’s anti-corruption speech. Hunter Biden’s role on the board was publicly announced in 2014, per the Post.
The aide said “in the aggregate (Hunter’s job) didn’t have any discernible effect,” and asserted that Beau Biden’s diagnosis, while serious, barely affected Joe Biden’s work as vice president.