President Biden retained classified documents related to a December 2015 call with Ukraine’s prime minister after admonishing his assistant to “[g]et a copy of this conversation,” special counsel Robert Hur revealed in his bombshell report Thursday.
The call between then-Vice President Biden and then-Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk took place on Dec. 11, 2015, just days after Biden, now 81, returned from a trip to Kyiv — during which he pressured Yatsenyuk and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.
“Get [a] copy of this conversation from [the Situation Room] for my Records please,” reads a handwritten note from Biden – who signed “Joe” – on the upper-right corner of a telephone call sheet detailing the purpose and talking points for the conversation.
The document was found in a box at the president’s namesake think tank – the Penn Biden Center in Washington, DC – within a folder labeled, “VP Personal.”
The one-page document was marked with a classification designation of “Secret.”
In the same folder, Hur’s team discovered a five-page transcript of the call between Biden and Yatsenyuk.
“Given Mr. Biden’s handwritten note, documents A9 and A10 [the pre-call talking points and the transcript] have additional indicia of willful retention by Mr. Biden as compared to the other marked classified documents recovered from the Penn Biden Center,” Hur wrote in his scathing report.
The special counsel determined that Biden’s executive assistant stored both the talking points and the transcript in the “VP Personal” folder. Hur also noted that typically the content of all calls between foreign leaders are “classified by default.”
Despite the indications of “willful retention,” Hur defended his decision not to charge the president with a crime, arguing that “there is reasonable doubt.”
“Mr. Biden’s handwritten note does not request that executive assistant save the classified call sheet containing talking points for the call (A9) in his records; rather, he only requested the transcript of the phone call itself,” Hur states. “And no jury could reasonably find that the substance of the call between Mr. Biden and the Ukrainian Prime Minister was national defense information.”
The special counsel found that during the call “the two exchanged pleasantries and the Prime Minister heaped praise upon Mr. Biden for his December 9, 2015 speech to Ukraine’s parliament.”
“They did not engage in a substantive policy discussion,” according to Hur. “There may be technical or nuanced reasons to maintain the classification of the call, but no reasonable jury could conclude the call or its contents were national defense information after the end of Obama administration, or that by asking for a transcript of the call Biden intended to retain national defense information.”
“The evidence suggests that the marked classified documents found at the Penn Biden Center were sent and kept there by mistake. Therefore, we decline any criminal charges related to those documents.”
An FBI informant has alleged Biden pushed for Shokin’s ouster because the prosecutor was investigating natural gas company Burisma Holdings, where his son Hunter had an $80,000-a-month seat on the board of directors beginning in the spring of 2014 despite having no expertise in its business.
Before his call with Yatsenyuk, Biden had threatened to withhold a $1 billion US loan guarantee during his December 2015 trip to Kyiv.
In January 2018, Biden bragged about his pressure campaign during remarks at the Council of Foreign Relations.
“I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t,” Biden said.
“I said, ‘Nah, I’m not going to’ — or, ‘We’re not going to give you the billion dollars.’ They said, ‘You have no authority. You’re not the president’ … I said, ‘Call him,” Biden went on. “I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
Hur’s report notes that Biden met with Yatsenyuk in-person again long after the 2015 call, in May 2017, at the Penn Biden Center, where the classified call documents were found.