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Romney to vote for Burisma subpoena

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Hogan 'embarrassed that more people' in the GOP 'aren't speaking up' against Trump Democrats gear up for last oversight showdown with Trump MORE (R-Utah) will vote to subpoena a former consultant linked to Burisma Holdings, as part of a GOP probe into Hunter Biden and the Ukraine gas company.

Liz Johnson, a spokeswoman for Romney, said Friday that he would support the subpoena — which is expected to request documents and an interview with former Blue Star Strategies consultant Andrii Telizhenko — during Wednesday's committee meeting after getting assurances from Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Wis.).

“Senator Romney has expressed his concerns to Chairman Johnson, who has confirmed that any interview of the witness would occur in a closed setting without a hearing or public spectacle. He will therefore vote to let the Chairman proceed to obtain the documents that have been offered," Johnson said.

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Romney's support means Johnson, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is expected to have the simple majority on the panel needed to subpoena Telizhenko.

Romney's decision is a blow to Democrats, who have warned that Johnson could inadvertently help spread Russian misinformation or use the investigation to target former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE as his presidential campaign has a burst of new momentum.

Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersLeadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns Hillicon Valley: Peters criticizes deficient healthcare cybersecurity investment | Apple defends delay of data privacy feature | Children groups warn about Parler Peters criticizes Trump for not taking action after cyberattacks on hospitals, COVID-19 researchers MORE (Mich.), the top Democrat on the panel, said Thursday that he had not yet talked with Romney or other Republicans but that it was "possible" they could pick up bipartisan support for rejecting a subpoena.

"I'm sure they're evaluating the facts, like I evaluated the facts, and I'm sure they're also looking at a Homeland Security Committee that should be focused on the important issues related to defending our country," Peters said.

Because Peters is opposed to the subpoena, Johnson is having to win over a majority of his committee where Republicans hold a slim 8-6 advantage. Romney's opposition would have resulted in a 7-7 tie, if every Democrat also voted against it, resulting in the subpoena request failing.

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Romney's decision comes as he's been publicly skeptical of the probe, telling reporters on Thursday that it appeared "political."

“There's no question but that the appearance of looking into Burisma and Hunter Biden appears political, and I think people are tired of these kind of political investigations,” Romney told reporters Thursday morning.

Romney and Johnson subsequently met in the Senate's Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) to discuss the probe and review information that Johnson has already collected.

Romney, after the meeting, still appeared skeptical, telling reporters that he was "considering" his vote and that "there's no question the appearance is not good."

“I would prefer that investigations are done by an independent, nonpolitical body," Romney added.

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Republicans have questioned if Hunter Biden's work constituted a conflict of interest given his father's work on Ukraine during the Obama administration.

The former vice president has denied wrongdoing, and there is no evidence that either of the Bidens engaged in any criminal wrongdoing. Fact-checkers have also debunked claims that Biden was working with his son's interest in mind.

Johnson, asked about Romney's concerns that the probe appeared political, sidestepped the question on Thursday while also defending his decision to issue a subpoena.

"I don't see why anybody would object to getting information from a U.S. company that was engaged in certain lobbying efforts on behalf of a very corrupt oil and gas company in Ukraine," he said.