A senior State Department official involved in events connected to the surveillance of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign was directly involved in concocting a plan to have Vice President Joe Biden force the firing of the top prosecutor in Ukraine, by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, according to the impeachment inquiry testimony of George Kent, a senior State Department official.
State Department Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland worked with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt in late 2015 to create a plan to force the firing of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, according to Kent. Nuland was also among a network of Obama administration officials involved in the distribution and recirculation of the infamous Steele dossier, the document used by the FBI to secure a maximally intrusive spy warrant to surveil a Trump-campaign associate.
“My understanding is that the conversations that were near-daily between Ambassador Pyatt and Toria Nuland regarding what to do on the way forward then included pitching the office of the Vice President to push President Poroshenko to remove Shokin,” Kent told lawmakers on Oct. 15.
Biden ultimately carried out Nuland’s plan during a visit to Ukraine in December 2015 and has since bragged, on at least two occasions, about forcing Shokin’s firing by threatening to cut off the loan guarantees. At the time Biden exerted pressure on Ukraine, Shokin was investigating Burisma, the Ukrainian gas giant that was paying Biden’s son Hunter Biden to serve on its board of directors. The Ukrainian president asked for Shokin’s resignation two months after Biden’s overture. The Ukrainian Parliament approved the resignation on March 29, 2016.
Nuland’s involvement in the controversy about the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine may raise new questions about the motivations of the officials involved in the circulation of the Steele dossier, the document which for three years fueled the debunked narrative that then-candidate Donald Trump colluded with Russia in 2016 to influence the 2016 presidential election. Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, compiled the dossier by paying second- and thirdhand sources with ties to the Kremlin. The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee ultimately funded Steele’s work.