Senate Republicans issued their first subpoena on Wednesday into the Ukrainian energy firm that hired former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted along party lines to issue a subpoena for Blue Star Strategies, a firm with ties to Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings. The subpoena asks for records dating back to Jan. 1, 2013 of Blue Star Strategies “related to work for or on behalf of Burisma Holdings or individuals associated with Burisma” to review potential conflicts of interest in Biden’s role on the board of Burisma, and whether individuals at the firm improperly used the relationship to “influence” U.S. government agencies.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of Homeland Security panel said the subpoena includes documents and depositions with the top two officials at Blue Star Strategies.
Karen Tramontano, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Blue Star Strategies, sent a letter to Johnson on Wednesday saying the firm has been cooperative with the committee’s multiple requests for information and has provided documents about its “meetings with the U.S. government regarding Burisma.”
“At every opportunity, we have indicated to the committee that it is our intention to cooperate. At no time have we ever stated or indicated in any way that we would not cooperate,” Tramontano wrote. “Therefore, we are puzzled, despite our willingness to cooperate, why the committee is proceeding to vote on a subpoena.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) who had expressed opposition to the Republican investigation, voted in favor by proxy to issue the subpoena. Earlier this week, Romney told reporters he was “looking at” the subpoena issue and did not commit to how he would vote.
Senate Democrats angrily denounced the probe calling it politically motivated and argued the committee should be focused on investigating the coronavirus pandemic. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) renewed calls for another Coronavirus hearing, noting that the committee hasn’t held one since early March.
“Rather than prioritize providing important oversight that will protect Americans from the unprecedented threat posed by this pandemic, you have continued to pursue partisan political matters – such as the markup scheduled for this Wednesday on the issuance of a subpoena – that do nothing to help the millions of constituents that we serve,” Harris said. “This is a clear abdication of responsibility.”
They believe the GOP Senators are using this subpoena to target President Trump’s Democratic rival as an “extremely partisan investigation” to help Trump’s reelection bid.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Republicans are turning into the “conspiracy caucus.”
“They’re holding sham hearings about the family of the president’s political rivals. They’re turning Senate committee rooms into the studio of ‘Fox & Friends,'” Schumer said on the Senate floor on Wednesday. “Senate Republicans are not just ignoring the coronavirus, they’re practically sprinting towards a partisan election, making this chamber part of a re-election campaign, not what it was ever intended to be by the founding fathers or anyone else until this fever to bow down to President Trump’s wild conspiracy theories has overtaken just about every Senate Republican.”
After the vote, Johnson defended the investigation.
“The question I would ask is, ‘What is everybody worried about?’ If there’s nothing there, we’ll find out there’s nothing there. But if there’s something there, the American people need to know that,” Johnson told reporters after the hearing.
Republicans hold an 8-6 majority on the panel, allowing them to issue the subpoena despite opposition from Democrats as long as every GOP senator supported the move.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said he was supporting Johnson’s investigation because “we needed to get to the truth about the Bidens’ relationship with Burisma,” saying it will provide the Senate with the full picture of Biden’s relationship with Burisma.
“The public deserves to know how a guy was vice president of the United State, who is currently trying to be president, got away with using the U.S. government to force a foreign country to stop investigating a company that was paying his son over $30,000 or $80,000 a month,” Scott said. “These hearings will provide the Senate with the full picture.”
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden’s campaign, said Johnson is “running a political errand for Donald Trump” in the middle of the coronavirus health crisis and “trying to save the President’s job.”
“We’re in the middle of the worst public health and economic crisis in a century, and what is Senator Johnson focused on? Running a political errand for Donald Trump by wasting Homeland Security Committee time and resources attempting to resurrect a craven, previously-debunked smear against Vice President Biden,” Bates said in a statement. “Then again, this is consistent with how Senator Johnson has callously downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak while the death toll rises. Senator Johnson should be working overtime to save American lives — but instead he’s just trying to save the President’s job.”
Johnson said he wants to release a report on his investigation into Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings and Hunter Biden next month, but “certainly before the August recess.”
In addition to Johnson’s probe, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is set to have the Judiciary Committee vote on June 4 to conduct a review of the origins of the Russia probe.