US Senate committee revives impeachment fight with Biden subpoena

Committee votes to subpoena firm that consulted with Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that employed Hunter Biden.

    Former United States Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden attend an NCAA basketball game in Washington, DC in 2010 [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
    Former United States Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden attend an NCAA basketball game in Washington, DC in 2010 [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

    A Republican-led United States Senate committee has voted to issue a subpoena as part of its investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden's son, a move that met immediate opposition from Democrats who said the panel should be focused on overseeing the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

    The Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted 8-6 along party lines to subpoena Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying firm that was a consultant to Burisma, a gas company in Ukraine that paid Hunter Biden to serve as a board member.

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    There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens, and Hunter Biden has denied using his influence with his father to aid Burisma. But Republicans coming to President Donald Trump's defence during and after last year's impeachment trial have encouraged investigations of Hunter Biden's activities, questioning whether his highly paid job created a conflict of interest for Joe Biden as the former vice president worked on Ukraine policy in the Obama administration.

    The chairman of the Republican-led panel, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, has repeatedly insisted that the investigation is not designed to hurt Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee in this year's US presidential election.

    Senator Mitt Romney, the only Republican who voted to convict Trump of abuse of power during the impeachment process, said in March that he thought Johnson's investigation of Hunter Biden appeared political. But on Wednesday, Romney joined other Republicans in approving the subpoena. A no vote by Romney would have deadlocked the committee.

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    A Biden campaign spokesman said in a statement that Johnson was "running a political errand" for Trump.

    "Senator Johnson should be working overtime to save American lives - but instead he's just trying to save the president's job," said Andrew Bates.

    Democrats decried the investigations as politically motivated and said they are a distraction from work the committee could be doing to try to help mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.

    "At this moment when Americans need us to work together, this extremely partisan investigation is pulling us apart," said Michigan Senator Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the committee.

    Peters noted a letter from Blue Star Strategies to the committee in which the CEO, Karen Tramontano, said the company has already cooperated with the probe and is willing to cooperate further. Johnson told Peters that he would allow the letter to be added to the committee's official record, but said he disagreed that the company has been cooperating.

    Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused Republicans of promoting "conspiracy theories".

    "It appears the subpoena is just for show, a way to create the false impression of wrongdoing," Schumer said Wednesday from the Senate floor. "It's like in a third-world dictatorship: a show trial with no basis in fact, with no due process, with no reality."

    Trump has been clear about his intentions to use Hunter Biden's work in his re-election bid, saying in March that it will be a "major issue" in the campaign. "I will bring that up all the time," he said then.

    The president's efforts to have Ukraine investigate Hunter Biden's role as a board member for Burisma were at the heart of House Democrats' impeachment probe last year. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate the Bidens during a July phone call that was later revealed by a whistle-blower's complaint.

    The US House impeached Trump in December for pressuring the Ukrainian government on investigations while withholding military aid to the country. The Senate acquitted him in February.

    SOURCE: AP news agency