By Chuck Todd
A Democratic consultant working for Burisma Holdings and connected to Hunter Biden approached Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken at an event for a liberal think tank in June 2016 to arrange a meeting to discuss “troubling events” in Ukraine, State Department emails reveal.
At the time, Sally Painter, a consultant for Blue Star Strategies, was working for Burisma to quash investigations into corruption at the Ukrainian energy company. She was reportedly put in touch with Burisma through Biden, who joined the firm as a director in April 2014.
Biden and Painter shared a connection as directors of the Truman National Security Project, which featured Blinken as a speaker at its annual national security conference June 24, 2016. Painter moderated a panel discussion later in the day entitled “Navigating the Political Appointment Process.”
Painter still serves on the board of the Truman Project. Biden left the organization in March 2019, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
Three days after 2016 event, Painter emailed Blinken’s top aide, William Russo, asking the State Department’s second-in-command to meet with her and her Blue Star partner, Karen Tramontano.
“Per my conversation with Tony at the Truman event, Karen Tramontano and I would like to have a brief coffee with Tony at his earliest convenience regarding some troubling events we are seeing n [sic] Ukraine,” Painter wrote in a June 27, 2016 email to Russo, who serves as director of communications for the Joe Biden presidential campaign. (RELATED: Hunter Biden Was On Board Of Trade Coalition That Lobbied Obama Admin On Ukraine)
“(He said yes),” Painter said in her email to Russo of Blinken, who serves as foreign policy advisor to Biden’s campaign.
“We are just back from Kiev,” Painter added.
Painter’s email adds previously unreported details to efforts by Burisma-linked consultants to meet with State Department officials. Other State Department emails show that Tramontano reached out to the agency to discuss Burisma. Hunter Biden also established contact with Blinken in 2015, according to State Department records.
The New York Times reported in 2019 that Hunter Biden connected Burisma with Blue Star Strategies as part of an effort to fight against corruption investigations against the firm.
Biden joined the board of the company in April 2014, just as his father, then the vice president, began handling Ukraine-related issues for the Obama administration.
Burisma said in a statement welcoming Biden that he would “provide support for the company among international organizations” as well as to take charge of its legal unit.
Painter’s email to Russo regarding a meeting with Blinken does not mention Burisma, so it is unclear whether they discussed the firm or other issues involving Ukraine.
Lobbying disclosure forms filed with Congress show that Painter lobbied on behalf of consulting firm Glover Park Group through Dec. 31, 2015, on “expanded US assistance for Ukraine.”
Tramontano, a former deputy chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, did discuss Burisma in emails to other State Department officials several months before Painter’s outreach to Foggy Bottom.
Those emails make it clear that Tramontano disagreed with the U.S. government’s view that Burisma was corrupt.
On Feb. 24, 2016, a State Department official who Tramontano had contacted sent an email to Catherine Novelli, who then served as undersecretary of state for energy issues.
In the email, which journalist John Solomon first reported, the State Department employee said Tramontano want to meet to get “a better understanding of how the U.S. came to the determination that [Burisma] is corrupt.”
“Per our conversation, Karen Tramontano of Blue Star Strategies requested a meeting to discuss with U/S Novelli USG remarks alleging Burisma (Ukrainian energy company) of corruption,” the email reads.
“She noted that two high profile U.S. citizens are affiliated with the company (including Hunter Biden as a board member),” it said.
“According to Tramontano there is no evidence of corruption, has been no hearing or process, and evidence to the contrary has not been considered,” the official said.
Burisma, which is owned by former Ukrainian government official Mykola Zlochevsky, has been dogged for years by allegations of corruption. The United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office has investigated Zlochevsky, and Trump allies have alleged that former Ukrainian general prosecutor Viktor Shokin was investigating Burisma in 2016 before Joe Biden pressured then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire him.
Biden has vehemently denied pushing for Shokin’s ouster to help Burisma or his son.
Hunter Biden met with Blinken as well, according to State Department records.
“I know you are impossibly busy, but would like to get your advice on a couple of things,” Biden wrote to Blinken on May 22, 2015.
Blinken said that he would “absolutely” be willing to meet.
State Department records reported by John Solomon, the journalist, show that the pair scheduled meetings for May 27, 2015 and July 22, 2015. It is unclear whether they spoke about Burisma.
Blue Star Strategies did not respond to a request for comment about Painter’s contacts with Blinken.
The Truman Project did not respond to questions about whether the think tank knew of Painter’s interactions with the diplomat, or whether the organization has any policies against board members using its events to advance their business interests.
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