Ron Johnson Drops Subpoena Vote in Hunter Biden Probe, Changes Target

March 12, 2020 Updated: March 12, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on March 11 postponed a scheduled vote on a subpoena of a former Ukrainian embassy official stemming from an ongoing probe into Burisma Holdings, a gas company in Ukraine that paid Hunter Biden to serve as a board member, The Hill reported.

The committee had been preparing to vote on Wednesday afternoon to subpoena Andrii Telizhenko, who worked as a consultant to Blue Star Strategies, the U.S. firm that lobbied on behalf of Burisma, for documents and an interview. Johnson said that Telizhenko wanted to cooperate with the committee, but was unable to do so because of a non-disclosure agreement, according to outlet.

Instead, Johnson told his colleagues in a letter on Wednesday that he would “postpone” the vote out of an “abundance of caution” and that they would receive “additional briefings,” on the matter, indicating that he will instead subpeona Blue Star Strategies for records and a testimony.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and to allow time for you to receive additional briefings, I will postpone a vote to subpoena records and an appearance from former Blue Star Strategies consultant Andrii Telizhenko about his work for the lobbying firm,” Johnson wrote in a notice to committee members.

“While we work through those questions, at the suggestion of both Republican and Democrat Committee members, we will instead go straight to the source and compel the same records and an appearance directly from Blue Star Strategies,” he added.

Johnson later told reporters that he was pulling the vote because of “some discrepancies brought up in what we had been told.”

“There were issues raised. There were discrepancies in what had been told in one briefing versus the next briefing, and then even greater discrepancies in staff notes,” Johnson said.

The decision to postpone the subpoena vote came amid accusations from Democrats that the probe was politically motivated to damage former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid. Biden notched wins on Super Tuesday II in Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho, delivering a major blow to his rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

However, Johnson has insisted the investigation is focused on looking into conflict-of-interest claims against the Bidens and has nothing to do with the election.

Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma while his father Joe Biden was in office and leading the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy. Some senators have suggested that Hunter Biden got the job because of his father and that there was a conflict of interest.

Hunter and Joe Biden have both denied the allegations, but the issue became a central portion of the impeachment fight that led to President Donald Trump’s acquittal in February.

In a statement to TPM, Joe Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates slammed the investigation and said that Johnson was “diverting the attention and taxpayer-funded resources of the Senate Homeland Security Committee away from the coronavirus outbreak, which was just designated a global pandemic, to clutch at a conspiracy theory that every fact-checker has debunked.”

“He has as much credibility on this issue as Bernie Madoff did on pension funds,” Bates said.