Plan to probe Bidens sparks GOP divisions
A pledge to investigate the Bidens and Ukraine once the impeachment trial wraps is sparking divisions among Senate Republicans.
President Trump and top allies have homed in on former Vice President Joe Biden’s push to oust a top Ukrainian prosecutor and Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company, as they’ve sought to counterprogram on the sidelines of the months-long impeachment drama.
Now, with the trial in the rearview mirror, that chatter is set to move to center stage as Republicans strategize over their next steps. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a vocal ally of Trump’s, is pledging “oversight.”
Other GOP senators are warning that it’s time for the Senate to move on after a weeks-long divisive fight that left scars on the chamber’s normally clubby atmosphere.
“I know there’s been some discussion about the Judiciary Committee taking a look at that. I think what I would like to see happen around here is a return to normalcy,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, in response to a question from The Hill about talk within the caucus about investigating the Bidens.
“People just kind of put their spears down and let’s get back to work and focus on I think what most people in the country think we ought to be doing,” he added.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said Graham might feel “obligated” as the Judiciary Committee chairman to investigate the Bidens and Ukraine but added he thought the Senate’s focus should be on other priorities.
He said people when he goes home are not talking about impeachment or the Bidens.
“They are talking about … the cost of their insulin, they’re talking about the fact that the roads need to be built,” Cassidy said. “That’s what they’re concerned about. I think we need to speak to the American people’s concerns.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of Graham’s committee, asked if he had any interest in investigating the Bidens, said: “I think an election is the best way to handle that.”
Still, Graham isn’t the only Republican who is interested in digging into Hunter Biden and Ukraine.
Minutes after the impeachment trial wrapped this week, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) — the chairmen of the Finance and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, respectively — announced they were asking for details of any travel Hunter Biden took with a protective detail when his father was vice president.
The two chairmen, sometimes in conjunction with Graham, have been sending letters to a slew of departments for months asking for details on Ukraine, Burisma Holdings, Hunter Biden and their respective associates.
The Treasury Department is handing over documents to Grassley and Johnson as part of their probe, a spokesman for Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, said on Thursday.
A GOP aide noted that they’ve also been told the State Department and the National Archives, who also received letters, have documents related to their requests and are expected to hand them over.
But it’s Graham that has stolen the spotlight after talking daily during the impeachment trial about the need for someone to look into the Bidens.
“When this is over the Congress will do it, if we can’t have an outside entity do it. … I don’t want it to be Lindsey Graham, because it will be hard for me, but if I have to, I will do it,” Graham said late last month during one of his many gaggles and press conferences during impeachment.
He added during an interview with Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade on Thursday that “the Bidens need to be looked at for what they did. There was an obvious conflict of interest. Hopefully … the Senate will perform that oversight.”
Trump and his GOP allies have sought to tie Joe Biden’s push in 2016 for the dismissal of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin to Hunter Biden’s business interests. They’ve also argued that allowing Joe Biden to work on Ukraine policy while his son was on the board of Burisma was a conflict of interest.
Fact-checkers have debunked claims that Joe Biden was acting with his son’s interest in mind. The former vice president has denied wrongdoing, and there’s no evidence that either Biden engaged in any criminal wrongdoing.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said senators shouldn’t “turn a blind eye to corruption” but stressed that Congress’s focus should be on things that unite the country.
“As a matter of focus and emphasis and priority, we have a lot to do legislatively, policy-wise. … That ought to be where we focus, certainly as a body,” Cramer said.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who got a shoutout from Trump during a White House event on Thursday, noted that Trump’s legal team had made an issue of it during the trial, where they repeatedly brought up Hunter Biden and Ukraine, but that he had “no particular interest in it myself.”
Senate Republicans aren’t the only ones planning follow-up investigations after impeachment.
House Democrats are weighing their own probes and haven’t ruled out subpoenaing former national security adviser John Bolton.
Bolton emerged as a key figure in the impeachment trial, despite never appearing before lawmakers, after The New York Times reported that he will claim in his forthcoming memoir that Trump tied Ukraine aid to the country announcing investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sidestepped when asked during a press conference this week if Senate Republicans would now focus on the Bidens.
“I don’t tell the committee chairmen what to look at. One of you suggested earlier the House is probably still in the investigatory business. I can only suggest that the Senate could choose to do that as well, but we don’t have a dictatorship over in the Senate,” McConnell said. “I don’t instruct the committee chairmen as to what to take a look at.”