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Senate Votes to Subpoena Ukrainian Firm Where Hunter Biden Sat on Board

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Senate Votes to Subpoena Ukrainian Firm Where Hunter Biden Sat on Board

2020-05-20 16:39:37

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Hunter Biden (Image source: Screenshot)

A year after Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, made it public that he was going to travel to Ukraine to look into possible misdeeds of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, a Senate committee has voted to subpoena documents that related to Hunter Biden's time on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.

After votes along party lines, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the subpoena more than two months after the panel's chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), indicated he would be seeking the documents related to Biden's time with Burisma. 

Giuliani never made that trip, but two months later, Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate both Bidens. He indicated aid for Ukraine would be withheld until the investigations were announced publicly.

The former vice president pursued a Ukrainian prosecutor, widely seen as corrupt, to push him out of office. Trump has been pushing a debunked conservative theory that Biden pushed the prosecutor out of office because it would help his son and Burisma. 

Ultimately, House Democrats pursued an investigation regarding Trump's call to Zelensky, and he was impeached last December. The Senate acquitted him at the beginning of February.

Democrats have objected to Johnson's work to force this inquiry into Hunter Biden, arguing it's just meant to harm Biden before the November election.  

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), and others have suggested the chairman is nothing but a pawn in a Russian disinformation campaign. On Wednesday he said the panel is "going down a dangerous road" while the world is suffering from a public health crisis.

He added, "At this moment, when Americans need us to work together, this extremely partisan investigation is pulling us apart." 

Johnson defended his efforts by stating, "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."

At the same time this subpoena is being requested, the GOP has ramped up efforts to investigate the Obama administration, with Trump terming it "Obamagate." He contends the prior administration and former President Barack Obama spied on his campaign in 2016. Democrats see it as another way to insert a wedge into Biden's campaign. 

Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is working on obtaining a list of Obama administration officials who may have tried to reveal the names of people connected to Trump that had Foreign intelligence connections to target him before he was elected.

Experts say, however, that hidden names in intelligence materials are regularly "unmasked" by the government when it's looking to get a better understanding of what they are investigating and that it's not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing. 

Trump has been pushing Republicans to pursue his "Obamagate" and also vowed earlier this year to make Hunter Biden's time with Burisma a "major issue" in the 2020 election.

A spokesman for Joe Biden's campaign, Andrew Bates, referred to Johnson's effort during the coronavirus pandemic as misguided. "We're in the middle of the worst public health and economic crisis in a century, and what is Senator Johnson focused on?" he asked. "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," 

The subpoena is after documents and testimony that Blue Star Strategies may have. Blue Star is a lobbying firm that acted on behalf of Burisma and employed Ukrainian national Andrii Telizhenko, who is linked to the energy company.

Some Trump administration officials testified under oath during the impeachment inquiry that Biden did nothing wrong. Yet, Johnson has been pushing this since early March. It was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats have objected to his efforts and have suggested any information from Telizhenko could be suspect. They asked Johnson to schedule "defensive briefings" with intelligence officials to prevent the Senate panel from spreading disinformation that was planted by Russian intelligence. 

Blue Star said in a letter to the panel on Wednesday the subpoena was not necessary. "At no time have we ever stated or indicated in any way that we would not cooperate," read the letter. "Therefore, we are puzzled, despite our willingness to cooperate, why the Committee is proceeding to vote on a subpoena."

Johnson disputed that claim on Wednesday and moved ahead with the subpoena. He said earlier this year he plans to publish a report before the election that is focused on Hunter Biden's involvement with Burisma and Ukrainian matters. 

A Johnson spokesman said Blue Star delayed the Senate committee's efforts for more than five months and only responded when it was announced there would be a vote on a subpoena.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) slammed the GOP on Wednesday for pursuing the subpoena, stating they were "using Russian propaganda to try and damage a political opponent." 

"It appears the subpoena is just for show, a way to create the false impression of wrongdoing," he said. "It's like in a third-world dictatorship, a show trial with no basis in fact, with no due process, with no reality."

Democrats on Johnson's panel sent a letter to him demanding the committee focus on the pandemic and not the Bidens. 

"Our committee has a responsibility to ask tough questions on the pandemic response and get answers for the American people at a time when they are most in need," the Democrats wrote. They requested information from a collection of federal officials, including the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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