Sen. Lindsey Graham called on the Justice Department to investigate “all things Ukraine” Sunday amid controversy about a secretive whistleblower complaint likely regarding a phone call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president.
The South Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he was, “hoping that the Department of Justice will look at the Biden-Ukraine connection the way that we looked at Trump-Russia connection” in a Fox News interview, and called for DOJ to appoint an investigator. Graham also brought up Republican claims that Ukrainian officials tried helping Hillary Clinton win in 2016.
Biden bragged in 2018 that, as vice president, he threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukraine did not fire its top prosecutor Viktor Shokin. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani alleged for months that Biden wanted Shokin fired because Shokin reportedly undertook an anti-corruption investigation into Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma Holdings, which employed Joe Biden’s lobbyist son Hunter as a board member starting in 2014, reportedly paying him $50,000 a month. The Biden camp countered that Shokin was widely seen by the U.S. and Europe — and inside Ukraine — as ineffective, corrupt, and a hindrance to Ukraine’s progress. Ukraine’s parliament removed Shokin in 2016.
“We looked at all things Russia and Trump, his family, everything about his family, everything transaction between the Trump campaign and Russia. Now is time to see whether or not the Ukrainians released information regarding Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager,” Graham said. “What relationships, if any, did the Biden world have with the Ukraine? What role, if any, did the Ukraine play in the 2016 election?”
A whistleblower complaint deemed “serious” and “urgent” by intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson was reportedly prompted by a phone call Trump had with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in July where Trump reportedly urged Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden’s ties to the Ukrainian energy company.
Former Ukrainian and U.S. officials told the Washington Post the Burisma case was dormant before Shokin was fired, and Shokin’s successor, Yuri Lutsenko, told Bloomberg News in May there wasn’t any evidence of wrongdoing by the Biden family.
Three Democrat-led committees are looking into whether Trump improperly pressured the Ukrainian government by withholding $250 million in aid to block Russian aggression unless they agreed to help Trump’s reelection campaign by investigating the Bidens. That money was released earlier this month.
On Saturday, Biden rejected the notion that he pressured the Ukrainian government on behalf of his son, and said, “I have never spoken with my son about his overseas business dealings.” But Hunter Biden told the New Yorker in July he and his father spoke about his business foray in Ukraine once.
Biden shot back on Saturday. “I know Trump deserves to be investigated,” he said, doubling down on his demand for Trump to release the call transcript in question.
Trump defended the call as a “perfectly fine and routine conversation.”
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire declined to release the contents of the whistleblower complaint to Congress and will testify before House and Senate intelligence committees this week.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko on Saturday dismissed claims that Trump pressured Zelensky during the July call, saying, “I know what the conversation was about, and I think there was no pressure.”
“There are a lot of allegations out there how the Ukraine fed information maybe to the Democrats and the Department of Justice against Trump campaign managers and others,” Graham said on Sunday. “And I think it’s fair after what the Trumps have gone through regarding Russia that somebody looked at the connection of the Bidens — while the vice president was a sitting vice president — the Biden connection to the Ukraine through his son.”
But in the same interview where Prystaiko denied Trump had improperly pressured Zelensky, he also denied Ukrainian involvement in helping Clinton in 2016.
“I think the situation that’s taking place with the Americans between Ukraine and the U.S., this confrontation between Republicans and Democrats, all these speculations that Ukraine helped the Democrats, that we wanted President Clinton instead of President Trump, this is a result of misinformation and evil intentions of certain people,” Prystaiko said this weekend.
Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian journalist and activist who revealed in August 2016 a “black ledger” purportedly showing secretive payments from pro-Russian former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to Manafort, denies he was trying to help Clinton.
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