Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch admitted Friday under questioning from Republican counsel that she had been briefed about the fact that Hunter Biden was on Burisma’s board, but did nothing about it.
Hunter Biden, one of then-Vice President Joe Biden’s children, was named to a highly-compensated board position in 2014 while his father was overseeing U.S.-Ukraine relations — a situation that diplomat George Kent testified Wednesday presented a clear conflict of interest.
Yovanovitch testified, in response to questions from Stephen Castor before the House Intelligence Committee’s second public hearing in the impeachment inquiry, that she had been informed about the situation in her briefing documents for her confirmation hearing, and had even been coached on how to respond, but took no action when she arrived at her post:
Castor: Right around the time the bribe was paid [by an oligarch], Burisma undertook an effort to spruce up their board and they added, I believe, the president of Poland and some other luminaries. Are you familiar with that?
Yovanovitch: Yeah — I don’t exactly know what the timing of all this was, but yes, I mean, to the elements.
Castor: And, you know, one of the folks they added to the board was the vice president’s son, Hunter Biden. Which, you know, raises questions. Is he a genius on the corporate governance front? Is he a genius with the oligarchal systems and cleaning that up, or was he just added to the board because he’s the vice president’s son? Was that ever, you know, a concern, or at least the perception of that concern addressed?
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: OK. Was the issue ever raised at all?
Yovanovitch: You know, not —
Castor: He was still on the board, I think, at the time.
Yovanovitch: Year, my understanding from newspaper accounts is that he just recently left, in 2019. I never met him, never talked to him. And I’m sorry — what was your question?
Castor: He was still on the board when you arrived at post, and I was just wondering if at least the perception problem was brought to your attention as the ambassador.
Yovanovitch: We — 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. Elaine Stefanik (R-NY) later noted that while Democrats on the committee had tried to suppress questions about Burisma, the Obama administration itself had prepared her to answer them for her confirmation hearing.
Stefanik: 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. And this was in the form of practice questions and answers. This was your deposition. And you testified 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, quote, the way the question was phrased in this model 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 fowl when we dare ask that same question the Obama administration was so concerned about. But we will continue asking it.
Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) prevented Stefanik from speaking earlier in the hearing.