GOP shows limited appetite for pursuing Biden probes
Republicans are showing little appetite for aggressively pursuing GOP investigations into President-elect Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden if they keep their Senate majority in 2021.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who led a joint investigation of Hunter Biden this year, are signaling they will take a tough stance on the incoming administration.
But other GOP senators are taking a wait-and-see approach.
One of the considerations among Republicans is a desire by some to lower the partisan temperature and possibly explore common ground with Democrats on infrastructure, trade and other issues.
Those sentiments are being reflected off Capitol Hill as well, with billionaire Republican donor Charles Koch telling The Wall Street Journal that his decades-long partisanship was a mistake and that he now wants to work with the Biden administration on “as many issues as possible.”
Another consideration for Senate Republicans is the defeat of President Trump, the chief proponent of corruption allegations against the former vice president and his son.
But Grassley and Johnson don’t appear to be slowing down in their scrutiny of the Biden family.
Grassley sent a seven-page letter to Attorney General William Barr on Monday asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the business dealings of Hunter and James Biden — Joe Biden’s brother — and whether they require registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Grassley asked for information on whether Hunter or James Biden ever asked for an advisory opinion from the Justice Department about whether they needed to register under FARA.
He also asked for a complete record of prosecutorial memoranda and correspondence between the agency and the Bidens on their FARA obligations or “other criminal activity for which the DOJ and FBI are reviewing their conduct.”
Grassley will be stepping down as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in January because of term limits. He will resume his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Johnson told The Hill that he will continue to investigate the Bidens’ business dealings as the incoming chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He is stepping down as chairman of the full committee because of term limits.
“I’m not going to turn a blind eye,” he said, citing a list of what he views as key developments.
Johnson said the FBI may initiate its own investigation.
“Tony Bobulinski coming forward, the computer being revealed, the FBI possibly starting an investigation. We had a hard enough time getting what evidence we got to even write a report, and then all of a sudden our report sort of opened up this logjam,” Johnson said, referring to a former business associate of Hunter and James Biden.
“I’m very confident there are probably more financial transactions that will probably be revealed,” he said.
Johnson said that immediately after he and Grassley issued a report in September on Hunter Biden’s business dealings, his committee’s investigators were contacted by a computer store owner in Delaware who had a copy of Hunter Biden’s laptop computer hard drive.
The computer repairman gave the hard drive to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani because he grew impatient over how long it would take committee investigators to verify its contacts, Johnson said.
No evidence has indicated any criminal wrongdoing by the Bidens. A narrative, seized on by Trump, that Joe Biden worked to oust Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin to protect his son has been widely discredited, though Hunter Biden has said joining the board was “poor judgment.”
Johnson is also looking into whether irregularities within the Postal Service may have impacted the vote count in key battleground states in this month’s election.
“We put [something] reminding everybody of our whistleblower account, particularly postal workers,” he said. “It’s kind of natural to reach out.”
He cited Richard Hopkins, who claimed a postmaster in Pennsylvania told postal employees to backdate ballots mailed after Election Day and then recanted the allegation.
Johnson called the episode “odd.”
The Trump campaign has yet to provide any hard evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud during this year’s election.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee will take on a somewhat different tone in January, when Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is poised to take over as chairman.
Portman has a reputation as a pragmatist who makes it a priority to work with colleagues to rack up legislative accomplishments, such as new funding the 21st Century CURES Act to address the opioid crisis in Ohio and the Great American Outdoors Act, which address the maintenance backlog in national parks and recreation areas.
Portman, the current chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has favored using his investigative authority on bipartisan work such as an 18-month probe and report on fentanyl and other synthetic opioids getting shipped into the United States through the Postal Service.
The Ohio Republican will have his own investigators as the new committee chairman, but he is expected to leave the investigating of the Bidens to Johnson.
Portman also has other priorities, such as oversight of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic and addressing the supply chain issues that hampered the distribution of protective and testing equipment earlier this year.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is expected to step down as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to be the next chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said he plans to continue his examination of the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
But once Trump leaves office, there are growing doubts about whether Graham will be able to muster much interest among GOP colleagues in delving further into what Trump has dubbed “Obamagate.”
Trump’s allegations that the Obama administration spied on his campaign four years ago, which he has called “the biggest political crime in American history,” are further undermined by his unfounded allegations that the 2020 election was rigged.
With coronavirus cases surging and the economy struggling to sustain a recovery, many Senate Republicans are ready to turn the page and tackle policy problems, at least for a while.
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