A recently leaked phone call between then-Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko directly after the 2016 presidential election shows that Biden sought to sabotage the incoming Trump administration before Donald Trump even took office, and much worse.
During the course of the call, Biden badmouthed the incoming administration, saying, “The truth of the matter is that the incoming administration doesn’t know a great deal about [Ukraine]” and that they were unprepared for the transition. This in itself is inappropriate, but it was meant to set the stage for Biden’s next statement and future plans.
Biden then told Poroshenko, “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.” In a matter of moments, Biden undermined the incoming administration, branded them as not knowing anything about Ukraine, and attempted to set up a foreign policy backchannel for himself after he left office as a private citizen, which could violate the Logan Act.
The Logan Act bars private citizens from engaging in U.S. foreign policy, although its constitutionality remains questionable and no person has ever been convicted of violating it since it was signed into law in 1799. Ironically, this is the same act that, at Joe Biden’s suggestion, the FBI accused National Security Advisor Michael Flynn of violating as a result of a discussion Flynn had with the Russian ambassador to the United States around nearly the same time as Biden’s call with Poroshenko.
To fortify his position and to make Poroshenko more confident that he should continue to deal with Biden once he left office, in the call Biden also intimated that there is a problem with the incoming administration: “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.”
While Biden blamed this on a late start to the transition process, we now know he said this at the same time the FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies were conducting a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, known as “Crossfire Hurricane,” of which Ukraine was a part.
Since it was leaked by a Ukrainian member of Parliament, the phone call was obviously recorded by the Ukrainians, and almost certainly by Russian intelligence services. Biden would have been aware of this from his time on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and as vice president.
So Biden, the sitting vice president of the United States, told a foreign leader whose country was part of a highly classified FBI counterintelligence investigation that there were things he couldn’t share about his country with the incoming administration and that they weren’t cleared. We now know from subsequent investigations that the Trump administration did not in fact collude with Russia, but at the time, Biden didn’t and he was privy to the fact that the FBI had opened the investigation.
If Russian intelligence had actually penetrated the incoming Trump administration, Biden’s comments would have almost certainly tipped them off that something was amiss, placing our national security in grave danger.
Additionally, it is mind-boggling that the vice president felt comfortable telling a foreign leader that there were things he was unable to tell the incoming administration at the same time the Department of Justice and the FBI failed to notify President-elect Trump of potential counterintelligence risks (that ended up not being true) posed by members of his campaign team who might join his administration in official capacities.
In the end, it is clear that Biden exercised incredibly poor judgment, placing a highly classified counterintelligence operation at risk; undermined the incoming administration; and attempted to set up a foreign policy backchannel for himself so he could remain involved in U.S-Ukrainian policy even though he was not sanctioned to do so by law.
All of this took place while his son, Hunter Biden, was on the payroll of a Ukrainian energy firm for which he admitted he had no related experience.
Alex Plitsas is a national security professional, Bronze Star Medal recipient, and U.S. Army combat veteran of the Iraq War. He served previously in the Pentagon as chief of sensitive activities for the assistant secretary for special operations. Follow him on Twitter @alexplitsas and Parler @alexjplitsas.