Former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, one of the star witnesses of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, on Friday undercut the defense Joe Biden and his allies have been making about the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor.
Yovanovitch, a self-described anti-corruption expert who most recently served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine between 2016-2019, told the House Intelligence Committee there was an open probe into Burisma Holdings when Joe Biden demanded the firing.
Burisma, which is Ukraine’s only private oil conglomerate and until recently counted Hunter Biden among its board of directors, is central to the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Democrats have argued Trump’s suggestion that the Ukrainian government investigate the company and its ties to the younger Biden amount to an impeachable offense.
During Friday’s hearing, Yovanovitch was questioned about the allegations of public corruption that have dogged Burisma and its leadership since the early-2010s. In particular, she was asked about the status of a corruption probe Ukraine had into Burisma when Joe Biden pushed for the ouster of Viktor Shokin, the country’s prosecutor general, in 2016.
“It wasn’t an active case, but it also was not fully closed,” the former ambassador testified, before elaborating that at the time the Ukrainian government was opting to keep a “hook” into Burisma and its founder, Mykola Zlochevsky.
Yovanovitch’s admission that Shokin was looking for a “hook” with which to prosecute Burisma and Zlocvesky undermines a central argument Joe Biden has made to defend his conduct. Since the story became central to the impeachment inquiry, the former vice president and his allies have tried to argue that Shokin’s investigation into Burisma was dormant at the time of his firing and therefore his ouster actually improved the chances that the company would face stricter scrutiny. read more