A US diplomat overseeing the previous administration's Ukraine policy reportedly told House investigators he was "turned away" by a staffer to then-Vice President Joe Biden after sharing concerns about his son's work in the country.
George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, said that he approached an aide to Mr Biden in early 2015 with concerns about Hunter Biden’s position on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, according to the Washington Post.
He reportedly warned that Ukrainian officials might believe they could use the younger Biden for currying influence with the vice president.
Three people familiar with his testimony told the outlet that Mr Kent was concerned the issue would undermine efforts by US diplomats working with Ukraine to root out corruption and conflicts of interest within its own government.
But Mr Kent was turned away by one of the vice president’s staffers — who he reportedly declined to name during his testimony on Tuesday.
He said the staffer told him Mr Biden did not have the “bandwidth” to focus on the issue of his son working for the Ukrainian energy firm as his other son, Beau Biden, was battling cancer.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a former senior national security aide to Mr Biden told the outlet the former vice president’s son had “no substantive impact” on the administration’s Ukraine agenda.
“I don’t understand what the optics thing means other than someone thinking it looked bad in a political way,” the aide told Washington Post. “Did it have any effect on US policies, either on what we were doing or what the Ukrainians were doing? It didn’t…. In the aggregate it didn’t have any discernible effect.”
There has been no evidence to show illegal actions or any criminal wrongdoing on either part of the Bidens. Still, their involvement in Ukraine has become the subject of attacks by Donald Trump and his allies in Washington who are currently embroiled in their own Ukrainian scandal.
The House launched an impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump after a whistleblower alleged he abused his power in a 25 July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
A memorandum the White House released of the phone call showed Mr Trump asking Mr Zelensky for a “favour” before urging him to launch an investigation into the Bidens, as well as the origins of the 2016 probe into Russian meddling in the US election. Mr Trump has long espoused unfounded claims that Ukraine was behind election interference rather than Russia.
The whistleblower also alleged military financial aid had been withheld just days before the call. Mr Trump has denied those claims and said there was "no quid pro quo" in his "perfect call" with Ukraine.
Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for the vice president’s campaign, said in response to Washington Post’s reporting that the younger Biden's position on the board of Burisma did not factor into the administration's policy surrounding Ukraine.
“On Joe Biden’s watch, the US made eradicating corruption a centrepiece of our policies toward Ukraine,” he said.