Political strategies

Blue Star Strategies says DOJ investigation into its lobbying for Burisma Holdings closed, submits new filing detailing work for Ukrainian company linked to Hunter Biden

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According to an attorney for the company’s CEO, Blue Star Strategies, a Justice Department investigation into a Washington lobbying firm’s work for Burisma Holdings has been closed with no findings of wrongdoing.

The company’s work for Burisma has become a flashpoint in the debate over Hunter Biden’s role on the board of the Ukrainian oil and natural gas company, which has faced allegations of corruption in the national level as well as in Great Britain and the United States.

The conclusion of the investigation, which was not previously reported, involved the company submitting a new filing to the Justice Department detailing its lobbying activities on behalf of Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, in 2015 and 2016. A Department of Justice spokesperson declined to comment.

Blue Star Strategies, a bipartisan public affairs consultancy that touts its work for large corporations and foreign governments, took on Burisma as a client in November 2015, according to testimony handed over in 2020 by the firm’s CEO, Karen Tramontano, to Senate investigators.

Tramontano argued the company failed to coordinate with the then-vice president’s younger son, Biden, who was on Burisma’s board at the time. Blue Star’s service to Burisma involved a “range of government, public affairs and legal services,” she told Senate Republicans in response to a December 2019 letter, which included “discussions with organizations appropriate governmental and non-governmental organizations regarding Ukraine’s energy security needs. ”

At the time, Blue Star Strategies did not disclose its work for Burisma as part of the filings required of “certain agents of foreign principals” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Tramontano attorney Peter J. Kadzik said the firm had “fully cooperated” with the DOJ investigation, the existence of which was reported last year by Politico, which said one of the purposes of the federal investigation was to find out whether the lobbying store failed to meet disclosure requirements.

“There were no findings of wrongdoing,” Kadzik added in a statement to The Washington Post, sent in response to a question about the new filing. “In response to the DOJ’s request, Blue Star Strategies submitted an administrative filing to explain the purpose of the meetings that took place. Kadzik said the decision to close the investigation was communicated to him directly.

The new filing, stamped May 12 and made “in accordance with DOJ staff guidelines,” involves the company “retroactively adding a foreign principal for a specific, limited time in 2016.” The main foreigner was Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma and former minister of ecology and natural resources under Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych, who was forced into exile in 2014.

An attachment to the filing indicates that Blue Star Strategies “was asked in 2016 to schedule meetings with US government officials so that Mr. Zlochevsky’s lawyer could present an explanation of certain unfavorable proceedings in the UK and Ukraine. involving Mr. Zlochevsky”.

The company scheduled two such meetings, the exposition continues, and a company representative accompanied Zlochevsky’s lawyer to the meetings. The firm received a monthly retainer of $30,000 in March and April 2016, according to the filing, “a small portion of which was allocated to scheduling a meeting for Mr. Zlochevsky’s attorney.”

Blue Star Strategies was swept up in the partisan row over Burisma when President Donald Trump’s allies sought to smear his likely 2020 presidential campaign opponent by looking to Ukraine, which was among the foreign locations where Hunter Biden had done business. . Senate Republicans requested information from Tramontano in December 2019, and she was interviewed in August 2020 by members of the Senate Homeland Security and Finance Committees.

As part of their 2019 call for the State Department to release documents on Burisma’s transactions in Washington, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, cited an email from the State Department suggesting that Tramontano took note of “two high-level American citizens (including Hunter Biden as a member of the board of directors) affiliated with the company” when he requested a meeting with an American official.

Tramontano told Senate investigators that she did not use Hunter Biden’s name to obtain meetings with U.S. officials. She also said she had no intention of influencing US policy in her interactions with these officials and that none of her meetings resulted in policy changes toward Ukraine. A spokeswoman for Tramontano declined to comment further beyond the attorney’s statement.

Devlin Barrett and Aaron Schaffer contributed to this report.