tv Washington Journal Amy Mackinnon CSPAN October 16, 2019 11:29am-11:54am EDT
ronna provides a history of latin america and megan fephelp roper recounts growing up as a member of the baptist church. watch our live coverage of the wisconsin book festival saturday starting at 11:30 a.m. eastern, and be sure to catch the texas book festival in october and the miami book fair in november or book tv on c-span2. amy mckinnon at our table this morning. she's with foreign policy magazine here to talk about ukraine and the origins of this impeachment inquiry. let's go back to 2014, 2015, 2016, obama administration. what is u.s. policy toward ukraine at this time? >> u.s. policy towards ukraine since ukraine's independent from the soviet union has been fairly consistent in pushing ukraine on anticorruption reform. that's been one of the corner stones of u.s. messaging in ukraine for decades, and that's been fairly consistent, both under barack obama and under
president trump, and you know, under the obama administration this was very much carried by his ambassadors to ukraine who have long played a strong role in kiev in working with politicians there to try and convey the message of, look, you need to clean up corruption. >> what was then vice president joe biden's role? >> so joe biden was obama's point person in ukraine, and he really carried that message for the president. he also oversaw the u.s. response -- perhaps not the u.s. response but the u.s. messaging when it came to conflict in ukraine, the russian annexation of crimea, it was 2014 where you had russia lops off a chunk of ukraine, annexes crimea and then the war begins in eastern ukraine in the spring of that year. it was the first hot war in the region in an extremely long time, and you know, biden really carried obama's messaging on that in the region. >> was it only the united states that was worried about corruption in ukraine at this
point? >> no, absolutely not. i mean, this has been an issue for the european union, for the united states allies in europe, and also for international institutions such as international monetary fund. so things like, you know, the corner stone of the i guess conspiracy theory that you can call it that has been pushed about joe biden in ukraine is that he was pushing for the ukrainians to remove their prosecutor general, shokin that he was doing that inappropriately, that he was trying to do it to shield his son hunter biden who was on the board of the gas company burisma. it really was not just joe biden, the assistant secretary of state was pushing for him to be removed as was the european union and the international monetary fund at the time, so joe biden's work was really much in line the with broader picture of what the u.s. allies and international institutions were pushing in ukraine.
>> irish times reporting at the time, march 29th, 2016, e.u. hails sacking of ukraine's prosecutor viktor shokin. >> yeah. they hailed the firing of him because why? >> because he was seen as slow walking corruption investigations. i mean, the the whole point, the corner stone of the ukrainian revolution in 2014, they call it the revolution of dignity. it was about the signing of the association agreement with the european union and it was seen as a watershed moment in ukraine of ukrainians saying we want to go closer to europe and as part of that, it was we want to clean up corruption. we want to have, you know, a free and fair society, and so the u.s. has always sought to support ukraine in that message, and shokin was seen as an obstacle to that. there was a number of corruption investigations at the time he wasn't pursuing. and one of them was the burisma investigation, so contrary to the allegation that biden was trying to shut it down, it was almost basically kind of stalled under shokin as prosecutor when
joe biden started to call for his removal. it's also important to note that he wasn't kind of stacked with a single decision. he was removed by the ukrainian parliament as well. >> at this time, though, hunter biden is serving on the board of this energy company, burisma holdings. how did that come about? >> he was -- he was invited to join the board as they were looking to kind of -- they were looking to get some american involvement to try and carelean the company, to try and promote transparency measures, and look, why they picked hunter biden of all people, he has a yale law degree. he does have a background of being on boards in business. was it bad optics for the vice president's son who was, you know, carrying the messaging in ukraine for his son to be on the board of ukrainian company? it's bad optics, but there has been no evidence that's come to light that hunter biden was involved in any wrongdoing in burisma. >> how much was he getting paid? >> he was getting paid 50,000 u.s. dollars a month.
>> is a month. is that in line with what other people make on boards? i know that's a little bit outside your purview, and at the time he's not the only sort of prominent person serving on this board? >> sure, i mean, there was other americans serving on this board. there was other former colleagues of hunter biden o'on this board. before he joined it, they had done some due diligence through a private investigations firm from new york to look and see kind of what the status was with corruption investigations into the company. there was some due diligence done before hand. >> in may of 2014, i want to show our viewers white house press secretary jay carney for the -- president obama is asked about hunter biden's job with this gas company. >> hunter biden has now taken a position with the largest oil and gas holding company in ukraine, is there any concern about at least the appearance of a conflict there? the vice president -- >> i would refer you to the vice president's office. i saw those reports that hunter
biden and other members of the biden family are obviously private citizens and where they work is not -- is not reflected endorsement by the administration or by the vice president or president, but i would refer you to the vice president's office. >> that was jay carney back in 2014, and that is their response to hunter biden serving on the board. the vice president then as we know as he's talked about travels to ukraine to put more pressure on the then president poroshenko to fire shokin, and at the time what is happening with this perception, the optics of him serving on this board while the president -- while the vice president is making this push? >> i mean, it's not great optics, right? you have the son of the vice president on the board of a major ukrainian gas company, and you really can't over estimate
the importance of gas energy in both the ukrainian economy, the ukrainian business, but also ukrainian politics. so it's certainly not great optics, but you know, genagain, there's no evidence that's come to light that hunter biden has been involved in any wrongdoing and the bidens have been consistent on that. it's not clear that joe biden discussed it with his son. i believe he said to him i hopedown whhope you know what you're doing. that as far as the bidens have said is as much as they discussed what was going on. >> you took a look at the "new york times" at this time that the vice president is traveling to ukraine and the headline by james risen then, joe biden his son in the case against ukrainian oligarch, and in this piece, james risen writes, the credibility of the vice president's anticorruption message may have been undermined by the association of his son. and you just noted this, "the new yorker" did a profile recently about hunter biden, will hunter biden jeopardize his
father's campaign? and they note in this story hunter biden saying to the reporter as hunter recalled, his father discussed burisma with him just once, and he said i hope you know what you're doing, and the response was i do. >> yeah. >> let's go to our viewers involved in the conversation. coleman in tulsa, oklahoma, republican, go ahead. >>. >> caller: hey, good morning, your guest here is an apologist for the democrats, the biden campaign, and generally she's lacking in facts. there were four senators who played a game, markey particularly, democrat senators who were promoting gas production, more gas production in ukraine and getting kickbacks on that. markey is one that's opposed the gas production in the united states and favors the green
deal, and the obama administration and hillary clinton were using ukraine because it was dependent on u.s. aid in the battle against russia, and they took advantage of that situation. and this guest is just simply giving platitudes. biden's son received $83,000 a month, not $50,000 a month, so she's not up to date. court records show that, so you need to have a guest on that has facts. >> okay. well, there's been reporting of $50,000 a month as well. amy mckinnon talk about what he just mentioned on ukraine policy and what is it that ukraine needs and wants from the united states, both during the obama administration and during the trump administration? >> well, i think it's interesting that your caller framed ukraine as being, you know, part of the u.s.'s war against russia when really the
situation is quite the opposite. it was ukraine that had crimea annexed in 2014. it was ukraine that was invaded by russia. russia and its proxies have fermented war in eastern ukraine for five years now, and there's been over 13,000 lives lost, and in that -- in ukraine's fight against russia, and russia is huge. russia just can swamp ukraine. the size differential is just massive, and ukraine is very dependent on u.s. support for this, european support, support from international institutions, as it both tries to juggle these many things, at the same time they have an ongoing hot war. they're trying to clean up corruption. they've long relied on western support for that. of course the corner stone of that has been u.s. military aid, the sale of javelins, anti-tank javelins, and of course that's what is it at the heart of the impeachment investigation is whether that was dangled over the ukrainians in exchange for politically useful information for the president. >> give us a ballpark of how
much military aid ukraine has received from the united states over the years? >> oh, i mean, millions and millions of dollars. the u.s. has invested so much in trying to support ukraine in cleaning it up, and that's part of what makes this whole situation really kind of sad is that, you know, u.s. taxpayers' money has gone into helping ukraine to reform, helping ukraine to improve when the president's allies try to kind of go in search of opposition research in ukraine and dangle -- and potential dangle military aid over the ukrainian's heads, it undermines years of taxpayer money that's been spent in ukraine. >> and as we talk about u.s. policy toward ukraine, both in the obama administration and the trump administration and the connections to what the role was of joe biden at the time and hunter biden's part of this as well, the des moines register reporting that the former vice president in iowa yesterday
announced his family won't work for foreign companies if he's president and tied to that is the headline this morning that hunter biden said he has now stepped down from the -- from a chinese -- serving on the board of a chinese company. max, in water ford, michigan, independent. >> caller: hello. >> good morning. >> caller: good morning. hunter biden's son is not the only one, you've got john kerry, his stepson, he's in there doing the same type of job as hunter biden. nancy pelosi's son is another one, and also mitt romney, so they're all -- they're all part of it. that's what i have to say. >> max does it comfort you that joe biden saying today if he becomes president, family members will not serve on any boards of foreign companies? >> caller: no, it don't help me out none. i don't believe that. i don't care because what about the other countries he's involved in? okay.
>> caller: i mean, and the truth, the last guy who called, it was $86,000 that he's making a year, and it ain't 50, and for what? he's an ex-dope dealer, a dope head. >> okay, max there in michigan. terry st. joe, indiana, independent. terry. >> caller: two things, first i was an air force jag for over ten years, and it was a clear ethics violation for vice president biden not to recuse himself from doing any negotiations with the ukraine as vice president. seco secondly, it seems the defense is that he threatened to withhold money for a good reason. he said i won't give you the money unless you get rid of this guy. i wonder if anybody can tell us under the law, i don't think that matters. he didn't have any authority or power to threaten to withhold
the money from the ukraine. >> from ukraine, let's talk about this, joe biden at council of foreign relations in january of 2018 talks about his efforts to get ukraine to fire the prosecutor. here's what he has to say. >> i'm desperately concerned about the backsliding on the part of kiev in terms of corruption. they made -- i'll give you one concrete example. i was -- not i, but it just happened to be that was the assignment i got. i get all the good ones, and so i got ukraine, and i remember going over convincing our team, others to convince that we should be providing for loan guarantees. now over i guess the 12th, 13th time to kiev, and i was supposed to announce that there's another billion dollar loan guarantee, and i had gotten a commitment from poroshenko and from yacht
sin yook that they would take action against the state prosecutor, and they didn't, so they said they were walking out of the press conference, i said we're not going to give you the billion dollars. they said, you have no authority. you're not the president. the president said, i said call him. i said i'm telling you, you're not getting a billion dollars. i said you're not getting a billion. i am going to be leaving here, i said i'm leaving in six hours. if the prosecutor's not fired, you're not getting the money. well, son of a bitch, got fired, and they put in place someone who was solid at the time. well, so they made some genuine substantial changes institutionally and with people, but one of the three institutions there's now some backsliding. >> is that accurate, what the vice president, the former vice president says there about his role and what happened in
ukraine at the time? >> so what's interesting about this story is buzz feed had a very good piece about this, i think it was in the last week, at the time when joe biden told this story, his aides realized that this would be an anecdote which was going to be seized on for years as joe biden kind of almost showing off, right, about the u.s. trying to leverage its loan guarantees over ukraine to seek the removal of this prosecutor generali, viktor shok shokin, and there was an awareness at the time that this could be something that could potentially haunt a future biden campaign, and clearly it has that resurrected. what he says as i mentioned before was very much in line with what the european union, international institutions and others within the u.s. government were seeking at the time, which was just a realization that -- i mean, the prosecutor general has a huge role in ukraine. it's their equivalent of the attorney general, and if you have a prosecutor general who is
not pursuing corruption investigations, it's a bit of an issue for a country which is kind of seeking to clean up its act. >> what happens after this point with u.s. and ukraine relations? >> so i mean, under trump u.s. policy by and large towards ukraine has been very similar under obama. i mean, there's been a lot of attention towards trump's comments about russia, his relationship with vladimir putin, but by and large, the broader apparatus of the u.s. government, of congress has, you know, been very strong bipartisan support for ukraine, you know, very strong support in the nsc, in the state department, and if anything, it's been a little bit support for ukraine's even been a little bit stronger because under trump the trump administration has sold javelins, these anti-tank missiles to ukraine, which was always a bit of a red line for the obama administration. they were just hesitant at giving these very powerful weapons to the ukrainians. they weren't quite sure the ukrainian military was yet equipped to handle them, and
they were concerned in the event they got captured by the russians that there was a technology transfer, that the russians could figure out how to develop their own versions of these weapons. under the trump administration they did agree to for one set of sales and a couple of weeks ago it was announced they were going to sell more. under obama and trump policy for ukraine has been pretty strong. >> under the trump administration, what is their view of crimea and what should happen with it? >> so the administration as a whole and the state department certainly very strong that crimea is ukrainian and that for any sanctions to be lifted there needs to be progress on returning crimea to ukraine. trump, however, has not had a lot to say about this particular issue. >> and what do you -- who does that benefit? >> i mean, unquestionably russia. the russians portrayed the annexation of crimea as a huge victory. it was seen as a return of this land that they had lost. it was extremely popular in russia amongst russian population. putin had a huge surge in the
polls after it. and so you know, the international community by and large does not recognize crimea as being part of russia, but any steps which, you know, would normalize crimea as being russian would be a huge boon for the kremlin. >> fast forward to march, around march of 2019. where is -- how is ukraine playing a role or who in ukraine is playing a role in this theory that the vice president was trying to get the prosecutor fired to benefit his son? >> so one of the big questions for me about this whole thing is when did it really begin. i spoke with rudy giuliani on friday, and he said that it began when he was approached by an investigator in new york who kind of came up with this pack of documents and said, look, i have this information about the bidens, and ukraine, i think this could be interesting to you. it's based off this ukrainian
source, and giuliani says he met with this ukrainian source, found him to be credible, and that's where this whole thing began. we know in january and february of this year, rudy giuliani met with the prosecutor general who has since left office, he was then prosecutor general, and that appears to be when he began kind of gathering this information both about the bidens, but also this idea, which has been widely debunked that the origins of the election interference in 2016 was actually in ukraine and not with russia. but the first public manifestation of this came towards the end of march of this year and april when there was a series of interviews in the washington, d.c. news site the hill. it appears to be one long video interview with this prosecutor general, yuriy lutsenko, which was then chopped up and turned into several articles off the back of it by john solomon who was an opinion columnist.
there were many different lines. it was the kind of first very public iteration of this theory that joe biden had acted inappropriately in ukraine to see shokin removed to protect his son. it also advanced the theory that it was ukraine that was the origins of the election hack. it also for reasons which are not clear why this was tied in with it, it began the attack on the then u.s. then-u.s. ambassador to ukraine, marie yovanovitch claiming that the prosecution -- the prosecution claimed she handed him a do not prosecute list. an argument she since walked back afterwards, she vehemently denied. it was an advance theory and then trump tweeted out some of the articles, his son did and picked up by conservative commentators in the u.s. and it kind of spun out from there. it was a couple months later that, of course, the u.s. ambassador to ukraine was recalled two months ahead of schedule. and, you know, at the time it
was kind of tied to this attack that her position had become untenable. >> the story u.s. ambassador to ukraine recalled in, quote, political hit job, says a lawmaker. >> i see the ambassador in the canary in the coal mine. her move was something was up. it wasn't clear, me and my colleague were watching this at the time and we could see this one interview, this one series of interviews in "the hill" had tied all these -- had put out all these theories and we couldn't figure out how they fit together, who was behind them. it was -- the political at spekt -- it was emerging there was a narrative that could single-handedly -- that ukraine was the source of all the -- fixing all of the president's problems, right? you could both undermine the narrative it was russia that interfered in the election and also find a way to hit out one of his 2020 opponents. what wasn't clear is how the ambassador fit into the picture.
that's what weave been learning. there was a sustained behind the scenes campaign by rudy giuliani's allies to see her removed from office. >> she testified behind closed doors on friday. today up on capitol hill they're going to hear from fiona hill. who is she and what information will she provide? >> fiona hill was head of russia and eurasia. she's a british academic and widely respected in washington. i haven't heard anybody say a bad word about her yet. she's seen as cool-headed. she was very much a russia-hog. she wrote an interesting book about vladimir putin a few years ago. there's already been a couple of stories previewing what might be in her testimony and she looks set to say that giuliani and his allies had set to circumnavigate the process with his work in ukraine. >> we'll go to zach in
harrisburg, pennsylvania. >> thank you for taking my call. amy, i want to commend you for such a fine job on all the work toouf done. i watch rasple maddow and i love when people have their facts and times on paper to show how systematic and methodic this thing has become. from barack's birth certificate to hillary and the one deal when we knew there were several departments who had to sign off on that deal. when it comes to joe biden, several countries wanted him to remove this particular prosecutor because he wasn't prosecuting corruption. so, it's just -- it's just another shiny thing this guy throws out for u