Secretary of State Antony Blinken was briefly left speechless Monday after a House Republican lawmaker asked whether he had been interviewed by the FBI in connection with Hunter Biden or dealings involving Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) ambushed Blinken near the end of his five-minute question period during a marathon House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the recent US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“I just have a couple more questions for you,” Perry began. “Little off-topic here, but I think it’s interesting. How long was your recent interview with the FBI and was it a deposition?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know to what you’re referring,” Blinken answered.
“Are you saying that you have not had a recent interview with the FBI since becoming Secretary of State?” asked Perry. Blinken initially responded with three seconds of silence.
“I-I-I-I-I’m not sure what you’re referring to, and I’m happy to take that up with you offline,” the secretary of state finally spat out.
Perry pressed on, asking Blinken: “Did the State Department turn over documents to the FBI related to Hunter Biden, Burisma, and/or the Blue [Star] Strategies corporation?”
“Uh, you’ll have to ask —” Blinken began before Perry cut him off to ask: “So you have no knowledge of this? Are you saying you have not had an interview with the FBI since becoming secretary of state?”
“It would – It would not be appropriate for me to comment in a public forum on any legal proceedings that the department –” Blinken started before Perry interjected: “I’m not asking you to comment on the legal proceedings, I’m just asking if you’ve been interviewed by the FBI since becoming secretary of state.”
“Again, I’m not going to comment one way or another on any legal proceedings, or not, that may or may not have happened,” said Blinken.
At that point, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) stepped in to remind Perry that “the topic of this hearing is Afghanistan.”
“I appreciate it, Mr. Chairman, but the secretary generally refuses to answer questions about Afghanistan,” Perry sniped. “So I just figured we’d talk about something he should be intimately familiar with.”
Turning back to Blinken, Perry asked: “Have you sought to alter any of your testimony from last year’s Senate investigation regarding this topic?”
Meeks then brought down his gavel, signaling the end of Perry’s time.
Politico reported in June that the FBI was investigating Blue Star Strategies, which was hired in 2015 to burnish the image of Burisma, which was paying Hunter Biden $83,000 a month to sit on its board at the time. The investigation reportedly is focusing on whether Blue Star failed to disclose work on behalf of foreign officials and political parties in violation of federal law.
Emails recovered from Hunter Biden’s missing laptop detail the business relationship between the now-first son and Blue Star co-founder and CEO Karen Tramontano. In one email, written in November 2015, days before Burisma tapped Blue Star to spruce up the firm’s rep, Hunter Biden wrote: “I trust [Blue Star co-founder] Sally [Painter] and Karen implicitly so I believe we are all aligned but I want to have one last conversation with them to confirm before we proceed.”
Last year, Tramontano told Senate investigators that she had only met or spoken with Hunter Biden on two occasions before 2015 that she could recall. However, emails indicated the two were in touch about a variety of subjects.
In July 2014, after Tramontano passed her Series 79 exam to become a licensed investment banker, Hunter emailed her with congratulations.
“[T]hank you very much. [L]ook forward to working together,” Tramontano responded.
That September, Tramontano wrote Hunter again to thank him for traveling to New York City to meet with a Lativan bank owner named Valeri Belokon.
“It made a huge impact on Valeri that you traveled specifically to meet him,” she wrote. “Thank you for your efforts and kind words”.
In February 2015, Tramontano wrote in an email to a partner of Hunter’s at consulting firm Rosemont Seneca that “[a]dvocating for him [Hunter] is the easiest part of my life”.
There is no indication that Hunter Biden, who disclosed last year that his “tax affairs” are being investigated, is a target in the Blue Star investigation.
Blinken reportedly met with Hunter Biden in 2015 while Blinken was deputy secretary of state, but he has claimed that the two did not discuss Burisma.