Democratic senator requests classified briefing ahead of Burisma-related subpoena vote

Democratic senator requests classified briefing ahead of Burisma-related subpoena vote
© Greg Nash

Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersComey, Rice, Clapper among GOP senator's targets for subpoenas amid Obama-era probe GOP chairman to seek subpoena power in investigation of Russia probe, 'unmasking' requests Michigan GOP candidate's Senate petition deemed 'insufficient' over signatures MORE (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is requesting a classified briefing before a vote next week on subpoenaing a former consultant with a firm linked to Burisma Holdings. 

Peters sent a letter to Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death Schumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the committee, on Friday, noting that he had previously requested a classified briefing, but that had not yet happened. 

"This is a matter of national security, and our committee members must have the opportunity to get classified updates from our law enforcement and intelligence community experts to prevent the committee from being used to advance information that could benefit foreign adversaries and undermine the integrity of our elections," Peters wrote in the letter. 

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Peters noted in his letter that staff from the Homeland Security Committee, Finance Committee and Judiciary Committee previously had an unclassified call with the FBI "to address concerns about interacting with" former Blue Star Strategies consultant Andrii Telizhenko. 

During the call, the FBI agreed to hold a classified briefing to address additional questions, Peters said. 

The committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether or not to subpoena Telizhenko. 

It's the first subpoena vote to occur during the months-long probe by Johnson and Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Is Trump encouraging the world's use of national security as stealth protectionism? Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Finance Committee, into Hunter Biden and Ukraine gas company Burisma Holdings. 

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests Congress flying blind: Why now is the time to revive the Office of Technology Assessment Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE (R-Utah) announced on Friday that he would vote to support the subpoena, which is expected to be for documents and an interview with Telizhenko.

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With Romney's support, Johnson is expected to have the simple majority needed to issue the subpoena along party lines. 

Peters, in a statement, appeared to tip his hand to the decision, saying that "every member of the committee has their own decision to make about this vote."

"[But] this is a matter of national security," he added, "and I have called on Chairman Johnson to ensure that Committee members have the opportunity to hear from the experts in a classified setting before making a final decision on whether it is appropriate for the Committee to move forward with this investigation."

Republicans have homed in on Hunter Biden's work on the board of Burisma and whether then-Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPresidents and 'presidents' Biden to blast Trump's church photo op in Philadelphia speech Rudy Giuliani calls on Cuomo to remove Bill de Blasio MORE tried to remove Ukrainian Prosecutor Viktor Shokin in an effort to protect his son. Those questions have been echoed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE, who pledged during a recent Fox News interview that it would be a "major issue" during the White House race. 

But the narrative has been widely discredited; no evidence has indicated that either of the Bidens engaged in criminal wrongdoing, and there was widespread concern at the time both internationally and from a bipartisan coalition in Congress about corruption within Shokin's office. 

Democrats, meanwhile, have publicly warned that the investigation could inadvertently spread Russian misinformation, in addition to accusing Republicans of trying to undermine former Vice President Biden's current White House bid. 

Johnson has repeatedly said his investigation is not political. Though Johnson initially wrote to Peters in late February about wanting to issue a subpoena, the March 1 date of his letter to committee members announcing the decision raised eyebrows because it came a day after Biden won in South Carolina. 

“If things are breaking now, I can’t control that. But these are questions that Joe Biden has never adequately answered," Johnson told reporters this week. "And if I were a Democrat primary voter, I would want these questions satisfactorily answered before I cast my final vote."