Joe Biden

No evidence that Joe Biden is withholding aid to Ukraine to help his son Hunter

A Donald Trump ally who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the investigation of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election has accused President Joe Biden of withholding aid from Ukraine as a way of helping himself and his son Hunter Biden.

The claim was made by George Papadopoulos, an adviser in Trump’s 2016 campaign who served 12 days in prison for lying about his attempts to allegedly connect other campaign staff with officials representing Russia. He was pardoned by Trump near the end of Trump’s term as president.

In an April 12 tweet, widely shared on Facebook, Papadopoulos stated:

“Biden is now withholding $150 million in aid from Ukraine as tensions with Russia grow. I mentioned this a couple weeks ago. He wants to pressure Ukraine to drop all criminal investigations into him and his son, Hunter. Where’s the media on this extortion attempt?”

The Facebook post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

There is no evidence Ukraine is conducting criminal investigations of the president or his son.

Federal law puts restriction on aid

Congress approved and President Trump signed a bill appropriating $275 million for what is known as the Ukraine 

Security Assistance Initiative. The secretary of defense can use the money to provide assistance, such as training and intelligence support, as well as weapons to Ukraine.

In March, the Defense Department announced it was releasing $125 million of the aid in training, equipment and advisory efforts as part of the U.S. commitment to provide “defensive lethal weapons to enable Ukraine to more effectively defend itself against Russian aggression.”

The remaining $150 million will be provided when the Defense Department “certifies that Ukraine has made sufficient progress on key defense reforms this year, as required by the National Defense Authorization Act,” the announcement said. 

“The Department encourages Ukraine to continue to enact reforms that strengthen civilian control of the military, promote increased transparency and accountability in defense industry and procurement, and modernize its defense sector in other key areas in line with NATO principles and standards.”

Previous legislation also required that some assistance be withheld to Ukraine pending completion of certain reforms, said Steven Pifer, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution and a retired foreign service officer.

Lincoln Mitchell, a research scholar in war and peace studies at Columbia University said that “in general, it is not all that unusual to withhold money for specific reasons that are required by U.S. law or policy. That is what Biden is doing.”

No evidence Ukraine is investigating Bidens

Last July, we rated False a claim that Joe Biden was formally listed as a criminal suspect in a Ukraine case involving his son. 

A judge in Ukraine ordered that a criminal case file be opened regarding Biden’s efforts as vice president to get Ukraine’s top prosecutor removed from office. But the bar is low in Ukraine for opening a criminal case file; in this case, it was requested by a member of parliament. And the opening of the file does not mean that a criminal investigation was launched with probable cause, or that Biden is a suspect.

In November, Ukrainian authorities said they closed a criminal probe of Joe Biden over allegations that he improperly forced the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general in 2016.

Hunter Biden held a paid directorship with a Ukrainian natural gas company called Burisma Holdings, beginning in 2014. It drew attention because Burisma was owned by Mykola Zlochevsky, a minister under Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.

Pifer and Mitchell said they have seen no evidence that Ukraine is conducting a criminal investigation of the Bidens.

We tried to reach out to Papadopoulous through his book publisher and his LinkedIn account, but did not get a reply.

The claim has echoes of some of the same issues raised in Trump’s first impeachment in November 2019. The House impeached Trump, and the Senate later acquitted him, on charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress. A whistleblower’s complaint had sounded alarms about Trump’s efforts to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into Joe Biden before the 2020 election. The articles of impeachment charged that Trump held up security assistance and a White House meeting to put pressure on Ukraine, then obstructed Congress to cover it up.

Our ruling

Trump ally George Papadopoulos claimed Joe Biden is “withholding $150 million in aid from Ukraine” to “pressure Ukraine to drop all criminal investigations into him and his son, Hunter.”

There is no evidence of any such investigations. The Biden administration released $125 million in military aid to Ukraine but, following federal law, is withholding $150 million until Ukraine enacts military reforms.

We rate the claim False.

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