Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign hit back at the GOP-led investigation into his son Hunter Biden’s dealings with Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.
After the Senate Homeland Security Committee voted along party lines on Wednesday to authorize a subpoena against Democratic public relations firm Blue Star Strategies, which represented Burisma, the Biden campaign called the inquiry an attempt to reignite a “smear” and accused Sen. Ron Johnson, who chairs the committee, of trying to provide cover for President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re in the middle of the worst public health and economic crisis in a century, and what is Senator (Ron) Johnson focused on? Running a political errand for Donald Trump by wasting Homeland Security Committee time and resources attempting to resurrect a craven, previously-debunked smear against Vice President Biden,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates told CNBC in an email. “Then again, this is consistent with how Senator Johnson has callously downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak while the death toll rises. Senator Johnson should be working overtime to save American lives — but instead he’s just trying to save the President’s job.”
Johnson defended the subpoena against criticism from Democrats, saying it wasn’t mean to be a “big deal.” The Wisconsin Republican also claimed to Fox News that Democrats and Republicans know the committee remains mainly focused on the pandemic.
The vote fell 8-6 on party lines to subpoena Blue Star Strategies, including for depositions with the firm’s leadership.
Burisma became a household name during the impeachment saga after Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and other Democrats in a July 25 phone call, according to a transcript released by the White House. Democrats cried foul over what they interpreted to be a “quid pro quo.” Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, but he was acquitted by the GOP-led Senate in February.
Hunter Biden was employed on Burisma’s board while his father was serving as vice president and leading the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy. Trump and his allies alleged the elder Biden improperly leveraged his position to shield his son from a Ukrainian investigation.
Blue Star Strategies co-founder and CEO Karen Tramontano wrote in a letter to Johnson earlier in the day that said she was “puzzled” by the need for a subpoena when, she argued, the firm has been compliant with all information requests.
“At every opportunity we have indicated to the committee that it is our intention to cooperate,” Tramontano wrote. “At no time have we ever stated or indicated in any way that we would not cooperate.”
Other Democrats have raised concerns over the timing and motives of Wednesday’s subpoena vote and the investigation as a whole.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused his Republican colleagues of ignoring the coronavirus for partisan matters.
“Senate Republicans are not just ignoring the coronavirus, they’re practically sprinting towards a partisan election, making this chamber part of a reelection campaign, not what it was ever intended to be by the founding fathers or anyone else until this fever to bow down to President Trump’s wild conspiracy theories has overtaken just about every Senate Republican,” the New York Democrat said earlier on the Senate floor.
Sen. Kamala Harris also expressed her disagreement with the vote, tweeting that Johnson’s motives were purely political.
“[Johnson’s] Senate Homeland Security Committee subpoena vote today is just another way to score cheap political points,” the California Democrat said. “We should be prioritizing protecting Americans during this pandemic — not partisan political matters. This is a clear abdication of responsibility.”
Johnson told reporters on Wednesday he wants to release a report on the investigation “in the June time frame, personally, certainly before the August recess.”
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