George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, is claimed to have testified on 15 October in the House impeachment inquiry that he raised concerns in early 2015 about then-Vice President Biden’s son serving on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, but was rebuffed by one of Joe Biden’s staffers, The Washington Post reports, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation.
The State Department official who was overseeing Ukraine policy expressed concern at the time that Hunter Biden’s position at Burisma Holdings would present a conflict of interest, the paper reports.
Kent, who had concerns that Ukrainian officials might view Hunter Biden as a means of currying influence with his father, raised the issue with Joe Biden’s office, but was turned away, as the former Vice President was preoccupied at the time with his other son, Beau, who was battling cancer.
The outlet says Kent did not name the Biden staffer he communicated his concerns to.
The Washington Post previously reported that Joe Biden’s advisers had also been concerned whether his son’s work in Ukraine might be perceived as a conflict of interest.
A former senior Biden national security aide claimed to have no recollection of hearing about George Kent’s concerns, reports the paper.
The first time the aide recalls Hunter Biden mentioned at all is in December 2015, when the vice president travelled to Ukraine to deliver an anti-corruption speech and the New York Times wrote about his son’s role in Burisma.
The aide reportedly said Hunter Biden’s position had no substantive impact.
“I don’t understand what the optics thing means other than someone thinking it looked bad in a political way,” the aide said.
“Did it have any effect on US policies, either on what we were doing or what the Ukrainians were doing? It didn’t…. In the aggregate it didn’t have any discernible effect.”
Joe Biden has said that he never spoke with his son about his dealings with Ukraine and has said that he only learned of his position on the Burisma board when he read about it in news reports.
Hunter Biden told ABC in an interview this week that he had done “nothing wrong at all” but that he showed “poor judgement” in accepting the position on the board of Burisma.
Trump impeachment inquiry
Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, joined the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma in 2014, with the issue now in the spotlight in the wake of a government whistleblower’s revelations about a 25 July phone call in which Donald Trump, Democrats claim, asked Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” the Bidens, particularly whether Joe Biden – a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate - had pressured Ukrainian officials to fire a prosecutor whose office had been investigating Burisma.
The Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on 24 September, is seeking to determine whether Trump withheld military aid and diplomatic support to Ukraine in an attempt to get information to use against Biden.
Trump, for his part, dismissed all allegations of misconduct, insisting that his talks with Zelensky were "pitch perfect", as he authorised the release of the full transcript of his phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.
He also slammed the impeachment as yet another "witch hunt" against him as well as a “hoax” and a “coup”.