James Comer, House Oversight Seek Answers from State Department on Then-VP Biden's Ukraine Involvement

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Rep. James Comer, who heads up the House Oversight Committee, is diving further into Joe Biden’s involvement with the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, and he is going straight to the State Department for answers this time.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Comer tells the State Department that his committee “seeks information from the U.S. Department of State (State Department or Department) to provide context for certain sudden foreign policy changes that occurred while Joe Biden was Vice President.” 

“Particularly,” he writes, “regarding Ukraine while then-Vice President Biden’s son served on the board of directors of a company being investigated for corruption. The Committee requests information from the State Department regarding then-Vice President’s actions and decisions relating to Ukraine.”

More from the letter: 

The Committee is investigating then-Vice President Biden’ and the Obama-Biden Administration’s official actions and policies regarding Ukraine. Specifically, the Committee seeks information regarding the State Department’s perception of the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General, at the time headed by Viktor Shokin. Prosecutor General Shokin assumed his position on February 10, 2015.? Shokin was elevated to lead the Office of the Prosecutor General in the midst of an ongoing, international investigation focused on corruption surrounding Burisma- a natural gas company in Ukraine and its founder, Mykola Zlochevsky. In March 2014, a French bank reported Zlochevsky to “U.K. authorities on suspicion of money laundering after his companies tried to move $23 million to Cyprus from their British account at the bank. 

Comer’s letter also says the Oversight Committee is seeking to understand why the State Department suddenly changed its mind on Shokin during that time. Before then-Vice President Biden got involved, the Obama Administration had praised Shokin’s efforts as prosecutor in Ukraine. Comer notes this in his letter to Blinken, as well.

The Committee seeks to understand the State Department’s sudden change in disposition towards the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General in late 2015. On June 11, 2015, then-Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland wrote Prosecutor General Shokin, applauding his office’s progress in anti-corruption efforts. In September 2015, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt publicly stated “we want to work with Prosecutor General Shokin so the [Prosecutor General Office] is leading the fight against corruption.” Also in September, the Interagency Policy Committee asserted Prosecutor General Shokin had made sufficient progress in combating corruption to warrant a third guarantee of a $1 billion loan.& On November 5, 2015, then-Vice President participated in a call with then-President of Ukraine Poroshenko and provided no indication that the United States’ policy regarding Ukraine required the dismissal of Prosecutor General Shokin’ By late 2015, however, the removal of Prosecutor General Shokin became a condition of the loan guarantee by the United States. In March 2016, Shokin was dismissed from his position by the Ukrainian Rada after months of public pressure most adamantly applied by then-Vice President Biden.

The Oversight Committee has given Blinken’s State Department a September 26 deadline for the information they seek, including all communications (emails, transcripts, handwritten notes, etc.) during that time period.

The pursuit of information from the State Department comes on the same day news leaks that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is expected to endorse an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden sometime this week. 

The State Department could claim Executive Privilege in the matter, but an impeachment inquiry gives the House greater power against such claims and makes it legally more difficult for the Biden administration to completely block the House’s attempts to gather information.

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