USA

GOP report: No wrongdoing in Biden son ties to Ukraine firm, but still 'problematic'

A report released Wednesday by Senate Republicans found that the role of Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma was "awkward" and at times "problematic" for U.S. officials dealing with the country, but provides no new evidence and found no instance of policy being altered as a result of his role.

"The extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear," the report finds.

"The Obama administration knew that Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine," the GOP report found, without drawing a conclusion on the extent of the impact of Hunter Biden's role.

Johnson said he had pursued the probe based in part on accusations from Trump and others that Biden ousted a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been looking into Burisma to benefit his son, despite multiple reports and testimony from Obama administration officials who have said ousting the corrupt prosecutor was in line with U.S. policy. Much of that testimony came during the Trump impeachment hearings earlier this year in which he was accused of pressuring Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden by threatening to withhold military aid and an Oval Office meeting.

The GOP report, based largely on news accounts, broke no new ground on that point.

"The extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear," the report finds.

In their response to Johnson's and Grassley's report, the ranking Democrats on the committees, Sens. Ron Wyden and Gary Peters, issued a separate report stating that Republicans found "no evidence" of wrongdoing by Vice President Biden and "no evidence" of alterations to U.S.-Ukraine policy to assist Hunter Biden.

"The Chairmen have uncovered absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing by Vice President Biden," the minority response reads. "Instead, this effort has been a partisan and unnecessary distraction from important business before both Committees as the country faces a once in a century pandemic."

The Republicans issued the report with the election just six weeks away, and Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates, in a statement released in advance, called it a distraction from other issues like the COVID-19 crisis.

"Why? To subsidize a foreign attack against the sovereignty of our elections with taxpayer dollars -- an attack founded on a long-disproven, hardcore rightwing conspiracy theory," Bates said.

The Republican report relies on the testimony of several U.S officials, including then top State Department official in Ukraine, George Kent, who testified in the House impeachment inquiry.

According to the GOP report, records from Kent show that he and other State Department officials "regularly considered how Hunter Biden’s connection to Burisma might affect the execution of U.S. policy."

Johnson and Grassley pointed to several emails in which Kent, during 2015 and 2016, raised concerns to others in the State Department about the role that Biden's position on the board might muddy the U.S. anti-corruption message in Ukraine, an effort which at the time was being led by Biden as vice president.

But senior Democratic aides said that in interviews with at least ten individuals as part of the probe, no witnesses testified to Hunter Biden's position on the board of Burisma as having any direct impact on U.S. policy in Ukraine.

Democrats have charged that the entire effort to investigate Burisma and the Bidens is predicated on Russian disinformation peddled, at least in part, by Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian Ukrainian national whom the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned earlier this month after linking him to the disinformation effort.

Treasury Department investigators found Derkach to be a "Russian agent" and designated him for his efforts to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Democrats have alleged that Derkach is targeting Biden. He has previously released unverified tapes of phone calls allegedly between Joe Biden and former Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko.

Wyden and Peters called the Republican report "one outcome of Mr. Derkach’s election interference efforts."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, said the report "reads as if Putin wrote it not United States senators."

Johnson and Grassley have repeatedly denied receiving information from or communicating with Derkach.

"This is a good-government oversight investigation that relies on documents and testimony from U.S. agencies and officials, not a Russian disinformation campaign, as our Democratic colleagues have falsely stated," the Republican report reads.

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