New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz got into a heated exchange Tuesday after Shaheen shut down Cruz’s questions for an ambassador nominee concerning allegations that then Vice President Joe Biden pressured Ukrainian officials to fire the country’s top prosecutor in 2016.
Cruz accused the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairwoman of “covering” for Biden after Shaheen prevented nominee George Kent from answering his questions during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Kent, who is Biden’s choice to be the next ambassador to Estonia, had previously testified as a witness during former President Trump’s first impeachment inquiry and told lawmakers that he raised concerns about Hunter Biden’s lucrative service on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company – only to be rebuffed by the Biden administration.
The gas company, Burisma Holdings, was under investigation in 2016 by Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who himself faced allegations of corruption. In 2018, Biden admitted that while he was vice president, he pushed Ukrainian officials to fire Shokin by threatening to cancel $1 billion of loan guarantees.
Cruz asked Kent, “Do you think Joe Biden holding a billion dollars hostage to force the Ukrainian government to fire the prosecutor that is investigating the corrupt oligarch who’s paying his son a million dollars a year? Did getting that prosecutor fired benefit that oligarch?”
President Biden waves alongside his son Hunter Biden after attending Mass at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Johns Island, South Carolina, on Aug. 13, 2022.
(Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)
However, before the nominee could answer, Shaheen intervened.
“Are you going to allow him to answer the question, Madam Chairman?” Cruz asked.
“I am not going to allow him to answer the question,” she replied.
“Why are you covering for the vice president? Do you not want to answer that question?” Cruz followed up. Shaheen responded by saying she thought it was “unfortunate” that Cruz was putting Biden’s ambassador nominees in “uncomfortable” positions.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., March 8, 2022.
(Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Cruz again accused Shaheen of covering for Biden. “Was his testimony true or false that Biden did nothing to benefit the oligarch? Let him answer the question. Why are you afraid of him answering the question?”
“I’m not,” Shaheen said. “I just want to move on.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, July 28, 2021.
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
However, Cruz pushed for Kent to be allowed to answer his “yes or no” question, to which Shaheen finally assented.
“The prosecutor who was fired by the Ukrainian Parliament did nothing to investigate Zlochevsky and everything the Vice President Biden, the State Department and the U.S. Embassy did acted in good faith to reduce corruption and help the Ukrainians,” Kent told Cruz.
“So firing him did not benefit the oligarch?” Cruz asked, but Shaheen ended his time and moved on.
“You’re protecting the president well,” Cruz told her.