Emails from Hunter Biden's laptop show he was instrumental in setting up a consulting deal between a Ukrainian energy company and two Democratic consultants under investigation for violating foreign lobbying laws.
Biden and colleagues at the private equity firm Rosemont Seneca helped Burisma Holdings hire Blue Star Strategies, a firm owned by former Clinton administration officials Sally Painter and Karen Tramontano. Biden's emails show he played a bigger role than anyone had known in arranging Blue Star's consulting work for Burisma. Neither Biden nor the Blue Star founders registered their work under the Lobbying Disclosure Act or the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Biden's work as a middleman could also explain why federal prosecutors began scrutinizing Blue Star's work for Burisma. Republicans have scrutinized Biden over his work for the company, one of Ukraine's largest natural gas producers, as well as with various Chinese companies. Federal prosecutors are also investigating Biden over his tax affairs and foreign business dealings.
Politico reported that federal prosecutors in Delaware investigating Biden's taxes began probing whether Blue Star violated foreign agent laws by failing to disclose its work for Burisma. Both Biden and the Blue Star executives met with U.S. government officials to advocate on Burisma's behalf, according to congressional testimony. Biden also met with Painter in November 2015 to discuss her potential work for Burisma.
Burisma appointed Biden and his partner, Devon Archer, to serve on its board of directors in May 2014. As board members, the pair was tasked with finding investment projects for Burisma in the United States and Europe and boosting the company's reputation. Biden and Archer received more than $80,000 a month to serve on the board.
Burisma hired Blue Star in late 2015 to try to kill bribery investigations into Burisma's owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, a former minister of ecology and natural resources. Zlochevsky was under investigation in the United Kingdom for allegedly paying bribes to secure drilling contracts in Ukraine.
Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi emailed Biden and his partners on Nov. 2, 2015, with a list of "deliverables" he hoped Blue Star could provide the Ukrainian company. Pozharskyi said he wanted Blue Star to arrange for U.S. officials to express support for Zlochevsky. He said the "ultimate purpose" of the initiative was to shut down cases against Zlochevsky in Ukraine.
Biden responded on Nov. 5, 2015, telling Pozharskyi that he was confident Painter and Tramontano would deliver on the project and that Burisma should sign a contract with Blue Star.
"You should go ahead and sign. Looking forward to getting started on this," wrote Biden, who served with Painter on the board of the Truman National Security Project, a prominent national security think tank.
Biden and one of his Rosemont Seneca partners, a former Clinton administration official named Eric Schwerin, spoke with Painter on Nov. 11, 2015. Schwerin advised Pozharskyi in an email to execute the agreement with Blue Star. He said that he and Biden planned to meet with Painter the following week to discuss meetings she had already had on Burisma's behalf.
Pozharskyi asked the Biden consortium on Nov. 18, 2015, to forward a consulting contract to Blue Star so that the firm could sign it. He said that a $60,000 retainer would be wired to Blue Star that same day. On Nov. 23, 2015, a Blue Star associate sent an email to Biden, Painter, and Pozharskyi arranging a conference call to discuss "the action plan" for Burisma.
Blue Star would later arrange for Burisma to form a partnership with the Atlantic Council, a prominent foreign policy think tank. Tramontano had served on the council's board of directors. Painter joined the think tank's board in April 2017.
Blue Star Strategies and a lawyer for Biden did not respond to requests for comment.