GOP senator announces intention to subpoena firm tied to Burisma

GOP senator announces intention to subpoena firm tied to Burisma
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRemembering Tom Coburn's quiet persistence Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner GOP seeks up to 0 billion to maximize financial help to airlines, other impacted industries MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is formally notifying the panel's top Democrat that he wants to subpoena a firm linked to Ukraine gas company Burisma Holdings. 

Johnson sent a letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill, to Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Group pushes Trump for creation of manufacturing chief GOP challenger outraises Michigan's Sen. Peters in first quarter MORE (Mich.), the top Democrat on the committee, saying he wants to compel Blue Star Strategies to turn over records and documents. 

"This subpoena is in furtherance of the committee's ongoing work to address the many unanswered questions about potential conflicts of interest and the extent to which representatives of Burisma—including officials at Blue Star—used individuals with close personal connections to high-level officials within the Obama administration to gain access to and potentially influence U.S. government agencies," Johnson wrote in the letter. 

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Johnson, in a draft of the subpoena shared with Peters, is asking for records from Jan. 1, 2013, to the present of Blue Star strategies "related to work for or on behalf of Burisma Holdings or individuals associated with Burisma." He's also requesting an interview with top Blue Star officials to discuss the subpoena. 

The Senate committee had been expected to vote on Wednesday to subpoena former Blue Star consultant Andrii Telizhenko. But Johnson announced shortly before the committee vote that he was canceling, citing "discrepancies" in briefings the committee had received on the issue. 

He told reporters on Wednesday that his intention is to now try to subpoena Blue Star Strategies. 

The shift in strategy reflects a suggestion Johnson got from members of the committee. 

"The suggestion was made by both Democratic and Republican members of our committee that we should issue a subpoena directly to the source of the documents relevant to our work: Blue Star," Johnson wrote in the letter to Peters. 

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"The chairman has always said he would conduct this investigation in a methodical, responsible manner. We will continue to do that. In the meantime, we believe a subpoena to Blue Star is a bipartisan path forward," a committee source added. 

It's unclear if the new subpoena will get bipartisan support. Peters is expected to issue a formal response but indicated on Thursday night that he is likely to oppose Johnson's new effort. 

“This is an inappropriate use of Committee resources, especially as we confront a global pandemic that threatens the lives and economic security of Americans,” Peters said in a statement. 

If Peters objects, Johnson will have to win over a majority of the GOP-controlled committee. 

Democrats have railed against the GOP investigation, arguing it is meant to hurt former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSteyer endorses Biden for president Sanders 2020 press secretary: Democratic leadership interested in 'corporate status quo' or 'they're planning to replace Joe' Biden joins calls to release racial breakdowns of coronavirus cases, deaths MORE's 2020 presidential campaign and could also, inadvertently, spread Russian disinformation. 

Johnson and Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTwo Democrats roll out bill to protect inspectors general from politically motivated firing Trump's IG firings prompt questions of whether more are coming Senate 'unlikely' to return on April 20, top GOP senator says MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Finance Committee, are months into a broad investigation, part of which touches on Hunter Biden's work on the board of Burisma. In a letter sent earlier this year to the U.S. Secret Service, they said they were "reviewing potential conflicts of interest posed by the business activities of Hunter Biden and his associates during the Obama administration."

But the probe comes as Republicans have seized on a discredited narrative that suggested Joe Biden tried to remove Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin to protect his son. 

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, including Johnson — about corruption within Shokin's office.

Biden's campaign has been deeply critical of the probe, arguing that it underscores Republicans are concerned about a Trump-Biden matchup. 

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden's campaign, criticized Johnson on Wednesday for "diverting the attention and taxpayer-funded resources of the Senate Homeland Security Committee away from the coronavirus outbreak ...  to clutch at a conspiracy theory that every fact-checker has debunked."