Joe Biden’s 2016 call with ex-Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko is leaked
A phone call between Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was leaked Tuesday showing the two former leaders discussing what the then-vice president could and couldn’t tell the incoming Trump administration, with Biden telling the foreign leader that he wants to stay “deeply engaged” in their diplomatic work as a private citizen.
The call, revealed by Ukrainian politician Andriy Derkach, took place on Nov. 16, 2016, just a week after then-candidate Donald Trump won the presidential election.
During the exchange, the outgoing vice president and the then-president of Ukraine discussed the topic of visas, “something we have tried to sell to the Ukrainian people,” Poroshenko said.
“Hey, Petro. It’s Joe. How are you?” the conversation between the two began.
“Very well indeed, as usual, when I hear your voice, my dear friend,” Poroshenko responded.
The call then went dark and picked back up with Poroshenko saying, “And if President [Obama] can also support us, not only with the means, but with visa-free, that is something we have tried to sell to the Ukrainian people. And still hoping that you can come, maybe on the 21st of November, on our anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity and that would be very big delivery.”
The vice president told Poroshenko that he was not able to visit on the date in question before warning that a future visit at a later date was dependent on how the Ukrainian responded to the incoming Trump administration.
“With regard to my coming on the 21st, as I told you I can never come … the 21st. I am going to try to come immediately after, in early December. But here’s where I am now, part of my answer to that depends on what was your conversation with our president-elect?” he asked the Ukrainian president.
The former vice president went on to divulge his view that the Trump campaign did not believe they were going to win the 2016 election and because of this, their transition team was not up to the job.
“One of the things I’ve been doing is spending — they are not making the — I’m not being critical, but they, the new administration, the incoming administration has been very, very slow on getting ready for transition. Quite frankly, like most of America, they didn’t think they were going to win the election, so they did not have a fulsome transition team. As a matter of fact, they changed their transition team. Transition is a very, very delicate and precise dance, it goes on from administration to administration over the last 100 years and it requires the exchange of classified information and the like,” Biden continued, knocking his incoming successors for their handling of the transition.
As a result, he said, he had withheld some information regarding Ukraine from his counterparts in the Trump transition team.
“And the people they put forward to be part of the transition have to be cleared to do that, just as we had to be cleared after the Bush administration, etc. They have not done that, they’re trying to catch up and do it now since they fired the guy who headed up the transition just last week. The reason I bother to tell you that is I have been somewhat limited on what I am able to tell their team about Ukraine,” he admitted.
“The truth of the matter is that the incoming administration doesn’t know a great deal about the situation. So I am meeting with the vice president-elect, who is the only one who has any foreign policy experience,” he added, speaking of Vice President Mike Pence.
During the Obama administration, Biden handled policy on Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan and China, something he was selected to handle due to his 30 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
His handling of Ukraine policy came under the microscope last year during President Trump’s impeachment trial.
The president was impeached by the Democrat-controlled House over his actions related to Ukraine, specifically that he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about investigations of Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company heavily involved in corruption.
Derkach, responsible for leaking the call, is facing his own legal problems. Derkach, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department last week on charges of foreign interference in the US election.
Derkach has been repeatedly identified as a malign actor by US intelligence agencies, notably gaining attention after meeting with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani last year to provide information on Biden.
While speaking to the then-vice president, Poroshenko could be heard saying that Biden played “an enormous role in bringing peace to my country, and actually save my country. This is my real feeling.”
Biden thanked Poroshenko for his kind words before divulging some of his plans for after he left the White House.
“Well, you’re awfully generous. I don’t plan on going away. As a private citizen, I plan on staying deeply engaged in the endeavor that you have begun and we have begun.
“At least that’s my objective, that’s my objective. But if I go beforehand, I’m worried that they don’t know enough, they will think I’m trying to game them. They will think I am trying to put them in a corner. They will question my motives in going before they are fully briefed. And I’m sure you understand that, you’re a good negotiator,” Biden said toward the end of the leaked conversation.
The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.