A senior State Department official involved in events connected to the surveillance of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign was directly involved in concocting a plan to have Vice President Joe Biden force the firing of the top prosecutor in Ukraine, by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, according to the impeachment inquiry testimony of George Kent, a senior State Department official.
State Department Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland worked with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt in late 2015 to create a plan to force the firing of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, according to Kent. Nuland was also among a network of Obama administration officials involved in the distribution and recirculation of the infamous Steele dossier, the document used by the FBI to secure a maximally intrusive spy warrant to surveil a Trump-campaign associate.
“My understanding is that the conversations that were near-daily between Ambassador Pyatt and Toria Nuland regarding what to do on the way forward then included pitching the office of the Vice President to push President Poroshenko to remove Shokin,” Kent told lawmakers on Oct. 15.
Biden ultimately carried out Nulands plan during a visit to Ukraine in December 2015 and has since bragged, on at least two occasions, about forcing Shokins firing by threatening to cut off the loan guarantees. At the time Biden exerted pressure on Ukraine, Shokin was investigating Burisma, the Ukrainian gas giant that was paying Bidens son Hunter Biden to serve on its board of directors. The Ukrainian president asked for Shokins resignation two months after Bidens overture. The Ukrainian Parliament approved the resignation on March 29, 2016.
Nulands involvement in the controversy about the Bidens dealings in Ukraine may raise new questions about the motivations of the officials involved in the circulation of the Steele dossier, the document which for three years fueled the debunked narrative that then-candidate Donald Trump colluded with Russia in 2016 to influence the 2016 presidential election. Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, compiled the dossier by paying second- and thirdhand sources with ties to the Kremlin. The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee ultimately funded Steeles work.
Nuland told CBS that she received a copy of the Steele dossier in July 2016 and forwarded it to the FBI. She has argued that she did right to forward the dossier to the bureau, but in doing so became one of many Obama administration officials who helped, wittingly or unwittingly, to launder Steeles allegations by adding credibility to the unverified document in acting as a highly-placed conduit.
“He [Steele] passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding, and our immediate reaction to that was, This is not in our purview,'” Nuland told CBS. “This needs to go to the FBI, if there is any concern here that one candidate or the election as a whole might be influenced by the Russian federation. Thats something for the FBI to investigate.'”
Between Sept. 26, 2016, and Dec. 10, 2016, Nuland received Russia-related information from Steele via State Department official Jonathan Winer, according to documents released as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch. During these three months, the FBI obtained the secret court warrant to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The Steele dossier served as the core of the evidence used in the Obama administrations application for the warrant.
In December 2016, Nuland received a briefing about the Steele dossier from David Kramer, a longtime associate of late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), according to Kramers deposition (pdf). McCain specifically directed Kramer to brief Nuland about the dossier. The extent of Kramers outreach lay bare a coordinated plan to widely disseminate the dossier among highly placed officials, lawmakers, and the media. In addition to briefing Nuland, Kramer briefed 17 members of the media, Senior Director for Russian Affairs at the National Security Council Celeste Wallander, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), and House Speaker Paul Ryans chief of staff, Jonathan Burks.
Nulands ties to Steele arent limited to 2016. Starting as early as June 2014, she received, via Winer, dozens of Steeles reports on Russia and Ukraine, according to documents obtained bRead More – Source