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The Bidens, Burisma, and Hillary: More back story on ‘Kyiv/Washington gravy train’

Op-ed

A year ago Democrats impeached President Trump over a Ukraine story. Turns out they had plenty of Ukraine issues of their own.

Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

A year after the Democratic House voted to impeach President Donald Trump, we're finding out more about witnesses in the impeachment hearings, the Biden family, Burisma Holdings, and now even Hillary Clinton's campaign.

My book "Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump" explains that Burisma hired Democratic-leaning lobbying firm Blue Star Strategies, which contacted top State Department officials in February 2016 and dropped Hunter Biden's name as a board member in attempting the make the case there is no evidence of corruption from the Ukrainian energy firm. The book details why Hunter Biden's work for Burisma sparked State Department concerns from officials who thought it would complicate then-Vice President Joe Biden's diplomacy in Ukraine.

Blue Star Strategies apparently kept working for its client in both the U.S. and Ukraine, according to new information released by government watchdog group Judicial Watch, which sheds some new light on the events of 2019 and the Democrats' effort to oust Trump from office without an election.

On Sept. 3, 2016, State Department official George Kent sent an email to then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and other officials stating that then-Ukraine Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko told him Blue Star Strategies CEO Karen Tramontano offered him meeting with the Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. "He confirmed he had been pitched by Blue Star, not sought them out," Kent's email said.

"Blue Star CEO Tramontano's pitch was that she could gain him access to high levels of the Clinton campaign," the Kent email continued, adding, "and that was appealing – to meet the possible next Presidential Chief of Staff."

Tramontano was a top White House official under former President Bill Clinton before heading Blue Star Strategies. Kent suggested Lutsenko not take the offer to be in contact with the campaign, suggesting it was unlikely he would gain such access so close to an election, according documents obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The subject line from Kent said, "Lutsenko now likely not to go to DC with Blue Star, other Ukr issue comments." Kent said he talked to the prosecutor about the suspected corruption by Burisma, the Clinton Foundation, and "the media attention being paid at present to the Kyiv/Washington gravy train."

In 2019, Democrats and media pundits claimed talking about Hunter Biden was a distraction from Trump's impeachment. "Abuse of Power" contends that Trump's impeachment was a distraction from the Biden family problems. This is particularly the case now that we know Hunter Biden is under federal investigation for other business deals — though probably not Burisma.

Both Kent and Yovanovitch were witnesses in the House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings. Kent was the most forthcoming about his concerns regarding Hunter Biden's job on the board of Burisma, getting paid $50,000 at a time the company was facing corruption allegations.

"This smoking gun email ties Hunter Biden's Burisma's lobbying operation to an influence-peddling operation involving the Clinton campaign during the 2016 election," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a public statement. "This further confirms the Obama-Biden-Deep State targeting of President Trump was to cover-up and distract from their own corruption."

Yovanovitch told the House committee in her October 2019 testimony that she knew little about Burisma and that "it just wasn't a big issue." In October, Judicial Watch released State Department records that include a briefing checklist of a February 2019 meeting in in Kyiv between Yovanovitch and Sally Painter, co-founder and chief operating officer of Blue Star Strategies.

Last Friday marked one year since House Democrats voted almost along party lines, with four defections on at least one of the two impeachment articles. But impeachment was the culmination of what Democrats sought to do since Trump was elected in 2016. When the Russia case fell apart, Trump's imperfect phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would suffice. As it turned out, the phone call gave Democrats an avenue for two political goals impeach Trump and (for the time being) protect the Bidens.

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