PROOF OF CORRUPTION | SETH ABRAMSON | St. Martin's Publishing Group







USA Today reports that [Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor] Shokin[ ] was ousted for the opposite reason Trump and his allies claim. . . . It was because Shokin wasn’t pursuing corruption among the country’s politicians, according to a Ukrainian official and four former American officials who specialized in Ukraine and Europe.”11 Shokin’s unwillingness to prosecute corruption in Ukraine eventually became so infamous both within and without Ukraine that it resulted in public protests and international pressure to fire him from “European diplomats, the International Monetary Fund and other international organizations . . . [as well as] ‘civil society organizations in Ukraine.’”12 Shokin was ultimately removed from office by the Ukrainian parliament.13

Trump and his allies’ claims about Shokin’s firing are contradicted by the facts of the Ukrainian prosecutor’s ouster in almost every particular. Whereas “Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani claim Biden [threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine] to quash Shokin’s investigation into . . . Burisma Holdings, and its owner, oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky,” in fact Shokin, as noted, assisted rather than hindered Zlochevsky’s evasion of justice for his alleged crimes. Whereas Trump and Giuliani assert that Shokin’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion sought to aid Hunter Biden by turning a blind eye to his alleged malfeasance, in fact USA Today reports that “Burisma Holdings was not under scrutiny at the time Joe Biden called for Shokin’s ouster, according to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, an independent agency set up in 2014 that has worked closely with the FBI.” Whereas Trump and Giuliani contend that Hunter Biden’s actions while on Burisma’s board were in some unspecified way corrupt, in fact when Shokin briefly investigated Burisma it was via a probe “focused on a period before Hunter Biden joined the company.”14 Indeed, Shokin’s review of Burisma’s Ministry of Ecology permits considered only the period from 2010 to 2012; Hunter Biden “did not join the company until 2014,” USA Today reports, and even Shokin’s successor, a prosecutor publicly spoken of with admiration by both Trump and Giuliani named Yuri Lutsenko, will eventually admit that “there is no evidence Hunter Biden did anything wrong,” saying in a statement to the press that Biden’s son “did not violate” any Ukrainian laws.15

While Shokin’s successor Lutsenko will keep the Burisma investigation in a “dormant” but not yet closed status after he becomes prosecutor general in 2016, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch (see chapter 20) will tell Congress in October 2019 that this was not because Lutsenko intended to—or felt he had the evidence to—reopen an investigation into Burisma, but rather for strategic reasons. “It [was], frankly, [politically] useful to keep that company [Burisma] hanging on a hook,” Yovanovitch will tell Congress.16 When former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko is asked directly whether Biden ever requested that the Ukrainian government open or close any individual criminal cases, Poroshenko will answer that the former U.S. vice president did not.17 In October 2019, one of Trump’s foremost defenders in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), will concede that he signed a letter in February 2016 endorsing the collective view of Biden, President Obama, the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund that—as stated in the letter—“ urgent reforms to the [Ukrainian] Prosecutor General’s office and [Ukraine’s] Judiciary” were necessary during the period Shokin was Ukraine’s prosecutor general.18

Trump and Giuliani’s claims that Hunter Biden’s position at Burisma was unusual will also turn out to be false. USA Today reports that, according to former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer, “it’s not unusual for Ukrainian companies to bring on high-profile people from the West,” with USA Today offering in support of Pifer’s observation the fact that “Cofer Black, who served as [Republican president George W.] Bush’s counterterrorism chief, joined Burisma’s board in 2017.”19 While Burisma may have sought in 2014 to “burnish [its] image and gain influence” by hiring Hunter Biden—an attorney, Navy veteran, adjunct professor at Georgetown University, member of the President’s Advisory Board for the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, and board chairman at World Food Program USA—at the time Hunter’s father was calling for Shokin’s termination at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016, Burisma was not only no longer under ongoing investigative scrutiny, it was already working toward “a [November 2016] settlement and a fine paid by one of the firm’s accountants,” per USA Today.20

The effort by Biden and much of the West to force Shokin out of office, according to former National Security Council (NSC) senior director for European affairs Charlie Kupchan, was intended to “push[ ] the Ukrainian government to clean up the corruption [in Ukraine], partly because it was that corruption that allowed Russia to manipulate the country politically and economically.”21 While Ambassador Pifer criticizes the appearance of impropriety created by Hunter Biden having joined Burisma approximately a year before his father began spearheading the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy, USA Today reports that “the international effort to remove Shokin . . . began months before [Joe] Biden stepped into the spotlight [on Ukraine],” and was part of a massive campaign by “European and U.S. officials . . . to clean up Ukraine’s corruption” and force out a prosecutor who had, according to former deputy assistant secretary of defense Mike Carpenter, “played the role of protecting the vested interest[s] in the Ukrainian system. [Shokin] never went after any corrupt individuals at all, never prosecuted any high-profile cases of corruption.”22 Indeed, by September 2015—just over seven months into Shokin’s tenure—the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time, Geoffrey Pyatt, was declaring in a speech in Odessa that “rather than supporting Ukraine’s reforms and working to root out corruption, corrupt actors within the Prosecutor General’s Office are making things worse by openly and aggressively undermining reform.”23 The next month, assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that critical to Ukraine’s future was imprisoning “dirty personnel” in the prosecutor general’s office.24 In June 2016, Dmitry Firtash business associate and “indispensable” Putin ally Oleg Deripaska would be caught on camera by his self-identified mistress, Nastya Rybka, telling the deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Prikhodko, that Nuland—still aggressively seeking, in mid-2016, a cleaning up of Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office—was the chief reason for the Kremlin’s “bad relations with America,” a startling claim that underscores how, like much else in Nuland’s policy portfolio, her opposition to corruption in Ukraine likely irked the Kremlin significantly.25 At the time of Deripaska’s private, secretly recorded complaint about Nuland—one not revealed publicly until February 2018—Nuland’s and others’ efforts to rid the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office of corruption had just months earlier resulted in Shokin’s firing.26


In December 2018, Lev Parnas “help[s] to connect Giuliani [via Skype] with former Ukrainian prosecutor-general Viktor Shokin,” according to the New Yorker and Just Security.27 Despite the basis for Shokin’s firing being that he “was lax in pursuing corruption,” when Shokin speaks to Giuliani over Skype a second time—on January 23, 2019, again at Parnas’s orchestration—he will, per the New Yorker, “falsely” claim that “he was fired because he wanted to investigate Burisma”; Parnas will later append to this falsehood an equally false public claim that Shokin, rather than being fired by Ukraine’s parliament during the Poroshenko administration, “basically stepped down . . . to save the country” from Joe Biden’s wrath.28 According to Just Security, the participants in Giuliani’s January 2019 call with Shokin include not just Parnas but also Fruman and a man named George Boyle, “a former NYPD detective who works for Giuliani Partners.”29 Giuliani will subsequently say that he was first put in contact with Parnas by a “well-known investigator”; he does not say whether the investigator in question was Boyle.30

The reason Giuliani must Skype with Shokin in January 2019 rather than meet him face-to-face is that he has been unsuccessful in petitioning both the State Department and the White House—the latter in the person of Robert Blair, an aide to Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney—to grant Shokin a visa so he can come to the United States and divulge information about Biden.31 CNN will refer to Giuliani’s back-channel visa request as “an attempt [by Giuliani] to directly influence the actions of the federal government.”32

By the time of the second Giuliani-Shokin Skype conversation, it is widely known that Joe Biden plans to run for president of the United States in 2020. Moreover, every public poll shows Biden handily defeating the incumbent president. Among the national polls with published results, online surveys by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling (PPP), all conducted between March and December 2017, put Biden between 12 and 18 points ahead of Trump in a head-to-head general-election match-up; meanwhile, two additional polls—an October 2017 Emerson College poll and a January 2018 poll by CNN—return similar results, revealing a 9-point and 17-point Biden lead, respectively.33 The only other polls conducted between January 2018 and November 2018—three PPP polls in February, March, and June 2018—give Biden leads over Trump of 9, 17, and 14 points.34 Meanwhile, polls from PPP, Emerson, and Rasmussen between March 2017 and October 2018 show Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren either tied with or holding a moderate lead over Trump (up to a maximum of 11 points), and PPP polls released between June 2017 and June 2018 give Kamala Harris an even narrower margin of victory over the sitting president, with results ranging from a tie to a 6-point Harris victory.35 That Biden poses the greatest Democratic threat to Trump’s reelection in 2017 and 2018 is a fact Trump himself seems to acknowledge; in March 2018, according to the New York Times, he “threaten[s]” the former vice president, writing in a tweet that Biden “ ‘would go down fast and hard’ if the two men ever physically fought.”36 While Trump’s warning to Biden is ostensibly a response to an earlier statement by Biden that if he’d known Trump in high school he would have “beat the hell out of him” for disrespecting women, Trump may also be unnerved by another recent incident: as the Times reports, Biden, amidst “talk of a possible 2020 presidential run,” campaigned in early March 2018 for “a Democrat in western Pennsylvania who won a special congressional election in a district that had previously been considered Trump country. Mr. Trump campaigned for the Republican candidate who lost.”37

A July 2018 Axios report confirms that Trump has been badly shaken by Biden’s superior popularity in Pennsylvania, a major 2020 battleground state, with the digital media outlet revealing that “advisers to President Trump say Joe Biden is the Democrat he most fears running against, and that Pennsylvania is the state he worries most about flipping against him.”38 Axios adds that Trump is not worried about either Warren or Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, both of whom he perceives as “weak” and not “capable of appealing to his base of working class whites.”39 It is perhaps no surprise, then, that July 2018 also sees Trump musing publicly about a 2020 match-up with Biden, with the president telling CBS News that he “dream[s] about Biden” being the Democratic nominee, adding, “I’d love to have it be Biden.”40 Referring to the CBS News interview, Axios notes dryly that “what Trump meant was ‘wouldn’t.’”41 The truth of Trump’s willingness to face Biden notwithstanding, the president certainly would not have been pleased with a spring 2018 poll revealing that, in the view of a plurality of Americans, Biden would indeed defeat Trump in a fistfight: according to the poll, 37 percent of Americans would bet on Biden, and only 32 percent on Trump.42

In September 2019, Politico reports that in the three months prior to Trump’s now-infamous July 25, 2019, phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky (see chapter 28), the president suffered from “Biden mania” and was “extraordinarily preoccupied” with the former vice president, devoting an “inordinate amount of time [to] deriding” him publicly.43 This includes “more than 60 retweets bashing Biden” following the decision of the nation’s largest firefighters’ union to endorse Biden for president.44 In late May 2019, Trump goes so far as to quote an enemy of the United States, Kim Jong Un, for the premise that, as Trump puts it, “Joe Biden is a low IQ individual. He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with [Kim Jong Un] on that.”45 “By then,” Politico observes, “news reports had surfaced about an internal, seventeen-state March polling project that showed the president losing to Biden in key Rust Belt states that were essential to his 2016 victory.”46 By mid-June, Trump will have “fired the pollsters involved” in the poll, “blaming them for leaks.”47


On April 8, 2020, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’s suspension of his presidential campaign makes Joe Biden the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party for the 2020 presidential election—precisely the eventuality Trump and his political team had been anticipating and preparing for since spring 2018 (see chapters 7, 9, 17, and 21).48


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