WASHINGTON — The Ukrainian oligarch Republicans claim bribed Joe Biden said he never actually talked to Biden, according to an interview transcript made public Thursday by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
Mykola Zlochevsky is a co-founder of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma that employed Biden’s son Hunter for several years. Zlochevsky served as Ukraine’s energy minister, but has been in hiding since fleeing corruption charges.
Republicans claim there’s evidence a Burisma executive — apparently Zlochevsky — paid Joe Biden a $5 million bribe when he was vice president in exchange for an official favor. They’ve demanded the FBI hand over a document reflecting a confidential source’s conversation with Zlochevsky.
Raskin has now countered with a document of his own — a three-page transcript of a 2019 interview between Zlochevsky and an acquaintance of Rudy Giuliani, who at the time was publicly seeking dirt on Biden on behalf of then-President Donald Trump.
“No one from Burisma ever had any contacts with VP Biden or people working for him during Hunter Biden’s engagement” with Burisma, Zlochevsky says in the transcript.
When asked if the vice president had assisted him or his company “in any way,” Zlochevsky says no.
In 2015, however, a Burisma executive named Vadym Pozharskyi thanked Hunter Biden in an email for having had the chance to meet his father at a charity dinner, though other guests told The New York Times they didn’t recall the elder Biden having a substantive conversation with Pozharskyi.
Politico in 2020 reported the contents of the Zlochevsky transcript, and Democrats have repeatedly referred to it in response to Republican claims that the FBI is withholding derogatory material against Biden. Democrats obtained the transcript in 2019 in their impeachment inquiry into Trump for pressuring Ukraine to announce a sham investigation of the Bidens.
Raskin has said FBI officials told him the Justice Department assessed the derogatory material on Biden and found it wasn’t worth formally investigating, but the bureau has declined to make any public statements to that effect. So Raskin has turned to what lawmakers already have on hand from Zlochevsky.
“Despite being interviewed as part of a campaign by Mr. Giuliani and his proxies in 2019 and 2020 to procure damaging information about the Biden family, Mr. Zlochevsky explicitly and unequivocally denied those allegations,” Raskin said in a letter to House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) on Thursday.
“Mr. Zlochevsky’s statements are just one of the many that have debunked the corruption allegations against President Biden that were first leveled by Rudy Giuliani and have been reviewed by former President Trump’s own Justice Department,” Raskin said.
In response, Comer insisted the FBI’s tip from a confidential human source who spoke to the Burisma executive has nothing to do with Giuliani. (He has not explicitly said the source is Zlochevsky, but has noted the source is in hiding. Other Republicans, including Giuliani, have named Zlochevsky.)
“The Burisma executive claims then-Vice President Biden solicited and received a $5 million bribe in exchange for certain actions,” Comer said in a statement on Thursday. “The executive also claims he didn’t pay ‘the big guy’ directly but used so many bank accounts that it would take ten years to unravel.”
State Department officials have said they considered Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board during his father’s vice presidency awkward because it looked like a conflict of interest. Joe Biden at the time was the face of the U.S. government’s Ukraine policy and urged the country to root out corruption, including by firing its top prosecutor.
Trump dispatched Giuliani to find evidence that Biden’s action was designed to protect his son, but Republicans have been unable to substantiate claims that the elder Biden bent U.S. foreign policy in his family’s favor. An investigation by Senate Republicans in 2020 concluded it was “not clear” that Hunter Biden’s position with Burisma affected the U.S. government’s stance toward Ukraine.
Nevertheless, Comer and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have kept the story alive this year, seizing on the FBI’s refusal to hand over unverified raw material to argue the bureau is protecting the Bidens.
They have stepped up their efforts following this month’s federal indictment of Donald Trump on Espionage Act charges.
On Wednesday, Comer asked the Treasury Department to hand over any “suspicious activity reports” filed by banks on accounts related to Zlochevsky and other Burisma executives. In his letter to Treasury, Comer claimed his committee “has reviewed government documents that allege President Biden, while serving as Vice President, solicited and received a bribe from a foreign source in return for certain actions.”
Other Republicans have suggested that Zlochevksy might not be a credible source. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), for instance, said earlier this month that the bribery allegation “could be coming from a very corrupt oligarch who could be making this stuff up.”