Romney says U.S. Senate Republican probe of Biden appears political


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, the lone Republican to vote to convict President Donald Trump of abuse of power following his impeachment, said on Thursday that a Senate Republican probe of Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden appeared politically motivated.

U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) walks to board an elevator the U.S. Capitol ahead of the resumption and expected final votes in the Senate impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Utah Republican told reporters that a probe of businessman Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, by Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson would be better pursued by the FBI or another federal agency “if there’s something of significance that needs to be evaluated.”

Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican and Trump ally, is poised to issue the first subpoena in an investigation of Hunter Biden’s seat on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma at a time when his father was the U.S. vice president. Hunter Biden’s role has been attacked as corrupt without evidence by Trump and other Republicans in Congress.

“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, a member of Johnson’s homeland security committee, told reporters.

Trump was impeached on abuse-of-power and obstruction charges in the Democratic-led House of Representatives after he asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens in July. He was acquitted of the charges by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Democrats said he was trying to shore up his re-election prospects by targeting Biden, a leading candidate in the Democratic race to challenge his re-election.

Trump continues to question Hunter Biden’s position at Burisma. “That will be a major issue in the campaign,” Trump said in a Fox News interview Wednesday night. “I will bring that up all the time.”

Romney’s comments suggested that Johnson could have difficulty getting the Senate Homeland Security Committee to approve a subpoena for documents and an interview from Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian diplomat and consultant for Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying and consulting firm. Johnson alleges that Blue Star sought to leverage Hunter Biden’s Burisma role to make inroads with the State Department.

Johnson said he plans to have the committee vote next week on whether to issue the subpoena. Romney declined to say how he would cast his ballot. With Republicans holding a 8-6 majority on the panel, one Republican “no” vote could deadlock the subpoena question.

Democrats have warned that Johnson’s investigation could aid disinformation efforts by Russia. Senator Gary Peters, the committee’s top Democrat, said he believes Republican members have qualms about the probe.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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