Burisma-linked firm 'pitched' Ukrainian prosecutor 'access' to 2016 Clinton camp, Obama officials' emails show

Senate report: Obama officials knew Hunter Biden’s Burisma tie was ‘problematic’

Jim Hanson, president of security studies, on concerns about the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son.

EXCLUSIVE: Former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko told former Obama State Department official George Kent he had been “pitched” by a Hunter Biden and Burisma-linked lobbying firm to give him “access” to “high levels” of the Clinton campaign in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election, according to emails between former Obama State Department officials obtained by Fox News. 

The lobbying firm, Blue Star Strategies, is reportedly under federal investigation for potential illegal lobbying. Politico first reported the investigation, which allegedly comes as the Justice Department is ramping up enforcement of foreign governments’ efforts to influence U.S. politics. Those efforts have been linked to work by Republicans, but the probe into Blue Star also puts firms and operatives connected to the Democratic Party under the microscope.

In an email released to Citizens United on Thursday as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filing, and obtained by Fox News, former deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eastern Europe George Kent wrote to a number of Obama administration officials about a meeting he had with Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko in September 2016 about Blue Star Strategies. 

The email, with the subject line “Lutsenko now likely not to go to DC with Blue Star, other Ukr issue comments,” was sent by Kent to the former assistant secretary for fossil energy Christopher Smith, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Alan Purcell, the chief political officer at the Kiev embassy from 2014 to 2017.

Prosecutor-general of Ukraine Yuri Lutsenko attends a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, May 30, 2016.  REUTERS/Gleb Garanich – D1BETHAMTIAA

In the email, dated Sept. 4, 2016, Kent writes that he met with Lutsenko “one on one after I’d SMSed him regarding stories that he was using a third party lobbyist to pull together a planned trip to DC turned into a chat over Thai food at the DCR.” 

Kent, a key witness in the first impeachment proceedings against former President Trump in 2019, said the two discussed options of a trip Lutsenko had been planning to the U.S., and “confirmed he has been pitched by Blue Star, not sought them out.” 

“He said he honestly didn’t know how Blue Star was to get paid — he didn’t have funds — and that some BPP MP that we probably didn’t know ‘and that’s good’ (Truhubenko??) had introduced them to him,” Kent wrote. It is unclear who “Truhubenko” is. 

“Blue Star CEO [Karen] Tramantano’s pitch was that she could gain him access to high levels of the Clinton campaign (GPK note: she was Podesta’s deputy as deputy COS the last year of Bill Clinton’s tenure), and that was appealing—to meet the possible next Presidential Chief of Staff,” Kent wrote. 

“But I pointed out that wasn’t too likely 6 weeks before the election, and that the embassies could arrange meetings at DOJ and State, and the Ukr embassy on the Hill,” he continued. “As for the Hill, not many members would be around 6 weeks before an election when Congress would be in recess, and the attention of the chattering think tank class would be on UNGA. Not the best timing, apart from DOJ and State.” 

Kent went on to write further about Blue Star Strategies which helped to represent Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden sat on the board. 

“In connection to Blue Star, I noted their representation of Burisma/Zlochevsky,” Kent wrote. 

Hunter Biden joined Burisma in 2014, and, at the time, reportedly connected Burisma with Blue Star to help the firm fight corruption charges. The founder of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, the former minister of ecologies, had been under investigation in Ukraine. 

The Obama administration pushed for the prosecutor investigating Zlochevsky, Viktor Shokin, to be removed from his post. Shokin was fired in April 2016 and the case was closed by the prosecutor who replaced him, Lutsenko. Joe Biden once boasted on camera that when he was vice president he successfully pressured Ukraine to fire Shokin.

Biden allies, though, maintain that his intervention had nothing to do with his son, but was rather tied to the administration’s concerns of corruption in Ukraine. At the time, as vice president to former President Obama, Biden was running U.S.-Ukraine policy and anti-corruption campaigns. 

Burisma Holdings was at the center of the first impeachment proceedings against former President Trump in 2019, after he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a phone call to look into the Biden family’s dealings in Ukraine. 

In the email, Kent went on to describe news reports surrounding the 2016 election related to Ukrainian lobbying—including work of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who had a lucrative political consulting business which included Ukraine and later pleaded guilty for financial crimes arising from that work; as well as work of Tony Podesta, the brother of former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, who also did lobbying work with Ukraine; money from Ukrainian businessman Victor Pinchuk to the Clinton Foundation; and others. 

Kent said in his conversation with Lutsenko, he “mentioned the various money flows from Ukraine to lobbyists that had been prominently in the news this past month, whether Manafort/Klueyev via Brussels to Podesta Group and Weber/Mercury, Yanu’s Justice Minister Lavrynovych to Skaden/arps-and Greg Caid—and Pinchuk to Clinton Foundation, and the media attention being paid at present to the Kyiv/ Washington lobbyist gravy train… And he got the drift. Not ideal timing, little receptive audience, and wrong facilitator,” Kent wrote. 

Kent added: “He said he’d figure out a better time when there would be more traction/ better audience.” 

Both Kent and Yovanovitch testified as part of the 2019 Trump impeachment. 

Kent, during his testimony, said that he raised concerns with Biden’s office in 2015 that Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma could present “the possibility of the perception of a conflict of interest.”

Kent also testified that he would “love” to see Ukraine look into the circumstances surrounding the closure of the probe tied to Burisma.

Yovanovitch testified that she didn’t have much knowledge about Burisma Holdings, and noted that she only learned of its connection to Biden through “press reports” she read while preparing for her Senate confirmation hearing. 

Fox News, however, first reported last year after obtaining a memo released through a Citizens United FOIA that Yovanovitch met with Blue Star Strategies CEO Karen Tramontano, as a representative of Burisma, inside the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine on Dec. 8, 2016. 

Meanwhile, last year, the Senate Homeland Security Committee, led, at the time by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., approved subpoenas for Blue Star Strategies as part of its investigation into Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma, and whether individuals at the firm improperly used the relationship with the then-vice president’s son to “influence” U.S. government agencies.

At the time, Tramontano said the firm would cooperate with the committee. 

Meanwhile, the investigation into Blue Star Strategies is reportedly being run out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware — the same office leading the federal investigation into Hunter Biden’s “tax affairs.” 

The Justice Department declined to comment on the existence of an investigation.

Biden announced he was under federal investigation for his tax affairs in December 2020, after the presidential election. 

At the time, a well-placed government source told Fox News that Hunter Biden is a subject/target of a grand jury investigation. According to the source, a “target” means that there is a “high probability that person committed a crime,” while a “subject” is someone you “don’t know for sure” has committed a crime. 

The source also told Fox News the investigation was predicated, in part, by Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) regarding foreign transactions. Another source familiar with the investigation told Fox News the SARs were regarding funds from “China and other foreign nations.”

The investigation, according to a source familiar with the matter, began in 2018. 

Hunter Biden has maintained he did nothing wrong. In his December statement making the investigation public, Hunter Biden said he took “this matter very seriously” and was “confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors.”

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