Joe Biden acknowledged Thursday that it “may have looked bad” for his son to take a high-paying job with a Ukrainian energy company while he, as vice president, was serving as the Obama administration’s point person on Ukraine.
In the past, Biden has defended his son when asked whether there was anything wrong with his taking a seat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, in 2014. President Donald Trump and his Republican allies have accused the Bidens, in baseless charges unsupported by any evidence, of corruption in Ukraine.
Biden was asked again about his son’s role with Burisma during a wide-ranging interview with Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart.
“There is nothing he – there is nothing to . . . that he did anything that was illegal. Nothing,” Biden said, according to a transcript of the interview.
“Not saying illegal,” Diaz-Balart clarified. “Is it wrong?”
“Look, here’s what I’m not gonna do. I’m not gonna – and I know you’re not intending to do this – play the game to take the eye off the culprit. The culprit here is what may have looked bad but wasn’t anything wrong is totally different than whether a president has held up $400 million in aid . . . that is criminal.”
The impeachment probe focuses on a July 25 phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky in which he asked him to investigate the Bidens and their activities in Ukraine as “a favor.”
The investigation has allowed Republicans in Congress to raise the specter of wrongdoing by the Bidens. Though there’s been no evidence found that the Bidens engaged in any wrongdoing in Ukraine, Republicans in Congress are turning more of their attention toward Hunter Biden amid the impeachment inquiry. Two Senate committees have asked for documents related to his actions, along with transcripts of calls that Biden had as vice president with Ukrainian officials.
A career State Department official, George Kent, testified to Congress that he raised concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest with Hunter Biden working for Burisma, but was turned away by a Biden staffer. But Kent also said he had no knowledge of the Bidens acting improperly with Ukraine.
Earlier Thursday, Biden had a heated exchange with an Iowa voter, calling him a “damn liar” when the voter suggested that Burisma hired Hunter Biden to gain access to the Obama White House.
Hunter Biden, in an interview with ABC News in October, said that joining the Burisma board was “poor judgement” because it gave his father’s opponents an opening to attack.
“Was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is . . . a swamp in – in – in many ways? Yeah,” Hunter Biden said. “I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That’s where I made the mistake. So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”
But Joe Biden has previously refrained from criticizing his son or conceding that it gave the perception of a conflict of interest. Hours after his son’s interview aired in October, Biden was asked several times during a Democratic debate whether his son erred – and whether he should have done more to prevent the potential conflict.
“Look, my son’s statement speaks for itself. I did my job. I never discussed a single thing with my son about anything having do with Ukraine,” he said. “My son made a judgment. I’m proud of the judgement he made. I’m proud of what he had to say. And let’s focus on this. The fact of the matter is that this is about Trump’s corruption. That’s what we should be focusing on.”
In the Telemundo interview, Biden said he was “confident” that Trump violated the Constitution when he asked Zelensky for help.
“And fortunately, even the leader of Ukraine said, ‘There’s nothin’ to check out here. Nothin’ to check’,” Biden said. “Not a single person’s ever suggested there’s anything I did that was anything other than completely in the interest of the United States of America.” Yuri Lutsenko, the former top prosecutor of Ukraine, told The Washington Post recently that he didn’t believe the Bidens violated any laws.