Schiff Staffer’s Meeting With Impeachment Witness Marked Turning Point in Ukraine Controversy

Ivan Pentchoukov
By Ivan Pentchoukov
October 24, 2019Politicsshare
Schiff Staffer’s Meeting With Impeachment Witness Marked Turning Point in Ukraine Controversy
Committee Chairman of House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) speaks to members of the media at the Capitol in Washington on May 22, 2019. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

During a weeklong trip to Ukraine in late August, a staff member for Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) met with the top U.S. envoy in Kiev who is now a key witness in the Democrat-run impeachment inquiry.

Thomas Eager traveled to Ukraine from Aug. 24 to 31 and met with Charge de Affairs William Taylor on Aug. 25, according to a travel disclosure form (pdf) filed with the House of Representatives.

Taylor briefed Eager and other staffers about the “political environment in Ukraine, as well as its relations with various partners, especially the United States,” according to an itinerary composed by the Atlantic Council, which sponsored the trip.

The timing of Eager’s trip lines up with major events which are now the focus of the impeachment inquiry. Lawmakers are investigating, in part, whether President Donald Trump’s request for Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, was connected to a temporary hold placed on military aid to Ukraine.

Three days after Eager met Taylor, Politico published a story based on a leak which revealed to the public, for the first time, that aid to Ukraine was on hold. According to Taylor’s testimony, Ukrainian officials were unaware of the hold until the leak.

“Amazingly, news of the hold did not leak out until August 29,” Taylor told lawmakers, on Oct. 22.

The Politico story was published on Aug. 28 and updated on Aug. 29. The news outlet claims to have received the leak on Aug. 28 from a “senior administration official.”

The day after Eager departed Ukraine, Taylor wrote a text message explicitly questioning, for the first time, whether the aid and the Ukrainian president’s potential White House visit were tied to the investigations Trump sought.

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Taylor wrote to U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on Sept. 1, according to a batch of text messages (pdf) handed over to Congress.

Taylor wasn’t the only one asking whether there is a link between the aid and the probes. Schiff did the same in a Twitter message two hours after Politico published the leak.

“Trump is withholding vital military aid to Ukraine, while his personal lawyer seeks help from the Ukraine government to investigate his political opponent,” Schiff wrote on Aug. 28.

Eager journeyed to Ukraine 12 days after an anonymous whistleblower filed the complaint that led to the impeachment inquiry. Schiff initially claimed his office did not have contact with the whistleblower, but later admitted that the anonymous official approached his office before filing the complaint.

The Atlantic Council invited Eager to join other staffers for the Ukraine trip on May 29. The Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center led the trip. According to his LinkedIn profile, Eager is a fellow of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.

In 2017, the Atlantic Council signed a cooperation agreement with Burisma, the Ukrainian gas firm at the core of the allegations about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Taylor has also worked with the Atlantic Council. He authored articles posted on the organization’s website in 2019 and 2017. Aaron Klein with Breitbart was the first to note the connection. In 2011, the Atlantic Council hosted Taylor as a featured speaker.

During his July 25 call with Zelensky, Trump requested that the Ukrainian leader look into the firing of a top prosecutor in relation to Joe and Hunter Biden. In January last year, Joe Biden bragged about forcing the ouster of a top prosecutor by withholding $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees. The prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was investigating Burisma at the time. In a sworn statement, Shokin said that pressure from Biden led to his firing because he refused to drop the Burisma investigation. At the time of Shokin’s removal, Joe Biden was the vice president and Hunter held a paid position on the board of directors of Burisma.

According to bank records from 2014 and 2015 released as part of an unrelated lawsuit, a firm controlled by Hunter Biden’s business associate received funds from Burisma and paid more than $850,000 in total to the younger Biden.

According to a statement from his lawyer, Hunter Biden advised Burisma on its “corporate reform initiatives.” One source close to Burisma told Reuters that the money sent to Biden was largely unearned.

“He was a ceremonial figure,” the source said.

Oleksandr Onyshchenko, a businessman and former member of the Ukrainian parliament, told Reuters that the owner of Burisma came up with the idea to appoint Biden to the board “to protect [the company].”

From The Epoch Times

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