Fact check: 4 things Trump's attorney left out of her arguments about Biden and Burisma
Posted January 27, 2020 8:28 p.m. EST
CNN — President Donald Trump's lawyer Pam Bondi played a video clip of former Vice President Joe Biden recounting, at a 2018 event, how he had pressured Ukraine to fire its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin.
Bondi claimed that Shokin had been, at the time of the pressure in late 2015 and early 2016, "investigating Burisma," the company where Biden's son Hunter Biden sat on the board of directors.
Here are four key facts Bondi omitted:
1. Shokin's former deputy, Vitaliy Kasko, said the investigation into Burisma and company owner Mykola Zlochevsky was inactive at the time of Joe Biden's pressure in late 2015 and early 2016. A leading Ukrainian anti-corruption activist said the same.
"Shokin was not investigating. He didn't want to investigate Burisma," Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of Ukraine's Anti-Corruption Action Center, told The Washington Post for a July article. "And Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation, but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation."
2. Shokin was widely seen -- by Ukrainian activists, US diplomats, European governments and the International Monetary Fund -- as ineffective or corrupt. In a speech in 2015, Geoffrey Pyatt, then the US ambassador to Ukraine, castigated Shokin's office for impeding the investigation of Burisma's owner Zlochevsky. Pyatt called for people in Shokin's office to be fired, "at minimum."
"Rather than supporting Ukraine's reforms and working to root out corruption, corrupt actors within the prosecutor general's office are making things worse by openly and aggressively undermining reform," Pyatt said.
3. Biden was acting in accordance with official US policy. Because of Shokin's reputation, the US and its allies believed that removing him would increase, not decrease, the chances of people like Zlochevsky being pursued.
"What former Vice President Biden requested of former President of Ukraine, (Petro) Poroshenko, was the removal of a corrupt prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin," George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, testified in the impeachment inquiry. Kent went on to say Shokin had "undermined" a US-funded program to try to investigate corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors.
4. Some Republican senators had also demanded changes to the prosecutor general's office Shokin led.
In a bipartisan 2016 letter, Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin joined Democratic colleagues in calling on then-President Poroshenko to "press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General's office and judiciary."