When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) used Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to raise questions about allegations of corruption involving President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, the committee chairman shut the line of questioning down.
The chairman was New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D).
Cruz was questioning Biden’s nominee to become ambassador to Estonia, George P. Kent, who previously spent more than a decade in Ukraine in various State Department positions. In 2015, he warned then-Vice President Joe Biden’s office that he had concerns about Hunter’s position on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma. According to payment records reviewed by Reuters, Burisma paid about $3.4 million to a company controlled by Hunter Biden and a partner between April 2014 and November 2015.
The records specifically showed Hunter Biden collecting more than $83,000 per month in what has been described as a “ceremonial” position on the company’s board.
According to Kent’s testimony in October 2019, when he brought his concerns to Joe Biden’s office, he was told it wasn’t important and that the vice president didn’t have the “bandwidth” to deal with the issue.
During Tuesday’s hearing on his nomination, Cruz asked Kent about his previous testimony and the appearance of corruption, repeatedly noting Hunter Biden had no experience in the natural gas industry or global energy markets. The only value the younger Biden could bring to the position, Cruz said, was “the fact his daddy was the sitting vice president.”
Kent said he did not know enough about Hunter Biden’s experience to answer the questions and he repeatedly insisted that “Vice President Biden led our efforts to fight corruption.”
After about seven minutes, the questioning turned to the elder Biden’s use of federal aid to Ukraine to force the government to fire a prosecutor looking into Burisma’s corruption. “Did Joe Biden…getting that prosecutor fired benefit that oligarch [who owned Burisma]?”
Before Kent could answer, Shaheen gaveled Cruz’s questioning to an end.
“Thank you, Sen. Cruz,” Shaheen said.
“Are you going to allow him to answer the question, Madame Chairman?” Cruz asked.
“I am not going to allow him to answer the question,” Shaheen replied.
“Why are you covering for the vice president,” Cruz demanded. “Don’t you want him to answer that question?”
“I think it’s unfortunate, Sen. Cruz, for you to put into positions that are uncomfortable, the nominees to be our ambassadors,” Shaheen responded.
The role Joe Biden claims to have played in the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, and whether Shokin was a threat to Burisma corruption, has been hotly debated. Biden supporters say Shokin was utterly corrupt and would never have conducted a serious investigation of Burisma, regardless of who sat on the company’s board. Republicans respond that the relationship between the vice president’s son and Burisma raises issues that deserve serious scrutiny.
After a continued back-and-forth with Cruz, Shaheen relented and allowed Kent to answer the question. He again insisted that Vice President Biden had done nothing wrong. When Cruz tried to ask a follow up, Shaheen gaveled him down for good.
“You’re protecting the president well,” Cruz told her.