An investigation is underway into allegations that Joe Biden threatened to withhold U.S. funding to Ukraine if the nation’s leaders did not fire their top prosecutor, Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations has confirmed.
The investigation was launched in response to a court order, after the ousted prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, made an appeal for action in the matter, Shokin’s attorney, Oleksandr Teleshetsky, told The Washington Post.
“They need to investigate this. They have no other alternative,” Teleshetsky told the Post. “They are required to do this by the decision of the court. If they don’t, then they violate a whole string of procedural norms.”
Shokin has long said that then-Vice President Biden pushed for his firing in 2016 because the prosecutor tried to investigate Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas company where Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a highly paid board member.
In a video from a Council on Foreign Relations event in 2018, Biden is heard boasting about using his influence to get Shokin fired, including threatening to hold back a $1 billion loan from the U.S. government to Ukraine if the firing didn’t happen.
“I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion.’ I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,’ ” Biden says in the video, referring to a conversation with then-Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko.
“Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” Biden adds. “And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
Republicans in the U.S. Senate have also opened an investigation into the claims of corruption against Biden and his son.
Meanwhile, Biden on Friday admitted that he had lied on several occasions when he claimed he was arrested in South Africa during apartheid when he attempted to visit Nelson Mandela.
The 2020 Democratic Party presidential hopeful, in an interview with CNN, now claims he was simply “stopped” and not allowed to “move where I wanted to go” as he sought to meet with Mandela.
“When I said ‘arrested’ I meant I was not able to move, cops would not let me go with them and made me stay where I was. I guess I wasn’t arrested, I was stopped, I was not able to move where I wanted to go,” Biden told CNN.
At campaign events in recent weeks, Biden had claimed on multiple occasions that he was arrested three decades ago as he sought to visit Mandela on a trip to South Africa.
“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid,” Biden said at a campaign event in South Carolina, as reported by The New York Times. “I had the great honor of meeting him. I had the great honor of being arrested with our UN ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robbens Island.”
At a campaign event in Las Vegas, Biden claimed that Mandela thanked him for getting arrested.
“After he got free and became president, he came to Washington and came to my office,” Biden said, according to the NY Times. “He threw his arms around me and said, ‘I want to say thank you.’ I said, ‘What are you thanking me for, Mr. President?’ He said, ‘You tried to see me. You got arrested trying to see me.’ ”
After the Times noted that there was no mention of his arrest in Biden’s memoir, and no references to an arrest of the then-Delaware senator in contemporary news accounts, it drew greater scrutiny. The Washington Post’s fact-checker branded the claim, as well as the claim that Mandela later thanked him for the move, as “ridiculous.”
“Biden has never been shy about tooting his own horn. So it’s pretty surprising that on the eve of a primary critical to his election hopes, he suddenly recalls being arrested in South Africa — and being thanked by Mandela for being arrested,” the Posts’s Glenn Kessler wrote. “There is no evidence for either claim; neither appears remotely credible.”
The Biden campaign later walked back the claim and said that Biden was actually “separated from his party at the airport.”
“It was a separation. They, he was not allowed to go through the same door that the — the rest of the party he was with. Obviously, it was apartheid South Africa. There was a white door, there was a black door. He did not want to go through the white door and have the rest of the party go through the black door. He was separated. This was during a trip while they were there in Johannesburg,” campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told reporters.
Biden repeated that explanation in his interview with CNN.
He also admitted that Mandela did later come and thank him, but not for getting arrested.
“Long after this, when Nelson Mandela was freed and came to the United States, he came to my office. He was one of the most incredible men I ever met. He sat down in my office and thanked me, thanked me for all the work I did on apartheid,” Biden said. “So that’s the context of it.”