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Senate committee renews probe into Burisma and role of Biden’s son

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). (Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS)

A Republican-led U.S. Senate panel voted Wednesday to subpoena records from a company linked to a Ukrainian energy company, resurfacing an investigation aimed at the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson sought the subpoena for Blue Star Strategies, a firm that represented Burisma Holdings Ltd. when Hunter Biden was on Burisma’s board, as part of his probe into potential conflicts of interest involving the Bidens. The panel approved it on an 8-6 party-line vote.

It’s one of several efforts by allies of President Donald Trump in the House and Senate in the last few weeks to accelerate probes into the Bidens and the Obama administration with less than six months until the general election.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham is seeking authority to subpoena numerous former Obama-era officials including ex-FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch as part of his panel’s review of the origins of the investigation into Russian election interference.

Trump has promoted an unfounded conspiracy theory that the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president, and anti-Trump factions within the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department improperly tried to undermine his campaign in 2016.

Trump’s attempt to prod Ukraine’s president into investigating whether Biden put pressure on Ukraine to help Burisma was at the center of his impeachment by the Democratic-led House last year.

The president has said he’s planning to use the questions being raised in the investigations as part of his reelection effort.

The Biden campaign has previously dismissed GOP-led investigations as a political ploy. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that Johnson’s committee is trying to “smear” Biden and is issuing a subpoena to a company that is already cooperating.

“It appears the subpoena is just for show, a way to create the false impression of wrongdoing,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “It’s like in a Third World dictatorship, a show trial with no basis in fact, with no due process, with no reality.”

Johnson has denied the probe is politically motivated, and committee spokesman Austin Altenburg said a bipartisan group of members recommended the subpoena.

“The American people deserve to know the extent to which the U.S.-based, Democrat-led consulting company leveraged its connections within the Obama administration to try to gain access and potentially influence U.S. government agencies on behalf of its corrupt client, Burisma,” Altenburg said.

Blue Star sent a letter to the committee saying that it is cooperating with the probe so a subpoena isn’t necessary.

Democrats demanded hearings on the coronavirus pandemic instead. The committee has oversight over the Department of Homeland Security, the Postal Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Democrats said top officials should be brought in for hearings on their response.

“There are literally matters of life and death waiting for our committee’s attention, but instead this committee is doing the president’s personal bidding,” Sen. Kamala Harris of California said.

Johnson said he disagreed with Blue Star’s characterization of its cooperation and said the suggestion to subpoena the firm was originally bipartisan.

Sen. Rick Scott, meanwhile, spoke in favor of digging into Joe Biden ahead of the election.

“The public deserves to know how a guy who was vice president of the United States, 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,” the Florida Republican said.

Bloomberg has previously reported that while Biden did pressure Ukraine’s then-president to fire the country’s top prosecutor with the support of U.S. allies, a probe into Burisma had already been shelved.

The proposed subpoena follows up a request for information originally sent to Blue Star in December 2019.


© 2020 Bloomberg News

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