Yovanovitch: ‘I Was Aware’ of Hunter Biden, Burisma Perception Problem

By Melanie Arter | November 15, 2019 | 1:53pm EST
(Photo by ALEX WONG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by ALEX WONG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told the House Intelligence Committee on Friday that she never met or talked to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

She said that she had just arrived in Ukraine in August 2016 just before the U.S. presidential election and several months before President Donald Trump took office, and the reason why Hunter Biden was added to the board of Burisma was not the focus of what she was doing during that time.

Yovanovitch said she was aware of the perception of Hunter Biden being on the board, because it was brought up during her Senate confirmation hearings for the job.

Steve Castor, counsel for the Republican minority on the committee, asked, “One of the people they added to the board was the vice president's son, Hunter Biden, which raises the question, is he a genius on the corporate governance in front? 

“Is he a genius with the Ukrainian oligarchical systems and cleaning that up or was he just added to the board because he's the vice president’s son? Was that ever a concern or at least the perception of that, concern addressed?” Castor asked.

YOVANOVITCH: As I said, I arrived in August of 2016 several months before the elections and several months before President Trump took office, and it was not a focus of what I was doing in that six month period. 

CASTOR: Okay. Was the issue ever raised at all? 

YOVANOVITCH: You know, not -- 

CASTOR: He was still on the board I think at the time.

YOVANOVITCH: My understanding from newspaper accounts is that he just recently left in 2019. I never met him, never talked to him. I'm sorry, what was your question? 

CASTOR: He was still on the board at post, and I was wondering if the perception problem was brought to your attention as the ambassador. 

YOVANOVITCH: I was aware of it because as I told you before in the deposition, there had been a -- in terms of the preparation for my Senate confirmation hearings for Ukraine, there was a question about that and a select answer, so I was aware of it. Yes.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) pointed out that Yovanovitch was specifically prepped on how to respond to questions about Burisma and Hunter Biden during her Senate confirmation hearings.


STEFANIK: And you also testified that they Ukrainian thought it would be a good idea to set up this architecture of a special investigative office that will be all about the crimes and corruption. I know this was before you arrived in Ukraine but you are aware that the first case that the U.S., U.K., and Ukraine investigators worked on was in fact against the owner of Burisma?


STEFANIK: And that was during the Obama administration.


STEFANIK: And in your testimony - and you said today - the investigation was never formally closed because ‘it’s frankly useful to keep that company hanging on a hook,’ right?

YOVANOVITCH: The Ukrainian investigation was never closed.  … Because we didn’t see the Ukrainians moving forward on that, we no longer partner with them on that case or in that way.

STEFANIK: Let’s take a step back. The first time you personally became aware of Burisma was actually when you were being prepared by the Obama State Department for your Senate confirmation hearings. This was in the form of practice questions and answers. This was your deposition, and you testify that in this particular practice Q & A with the Obama State Department, it wasn’t just generally about Burisma and corruption, it was specifically about Hunter Biden and Burisma. Is that correct?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes, it is.

STEFANIK: And the exact quote from your testimony, Ambassador, is ‘the way the question was phrased in this mock Q&A was, what can you tell us about Hunter Biden’s you know being named to the board of Burisma?’ So for the millions of Americans watching, President Obama’s own State Department was so concerned about potential conflicts of interest from Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma that they raised it themselves while prepping this wonderful ambassador nominee before her confirmation. And yet, our Democratic colleagues and the chairman of this committee cry foul when we dare ask that same question that the Obama State Department is so concerned about, but we will continue asking it.

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