“Senator Romney has expressed his concerns to Chairman Johnson, who has confirmed that any interview of the witness would occur in a closed setting without a hearing or public spectacle,” Romney’s spokeswoman Liz Johnson said. “He will therefore vote to let the chairman proceed to obtain the documents that have been offered.”
Romney has said in recent days that the committee’s investigation into the Bidens has the “appearance” of being politically motivated, given Biden’s resurgence in the Democratic presidential primary. Romney was the only Republican who voted to convict President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial last month, saying he believed Trump violated his oath of office when he pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens.
“There’s no question the appearance is not good,” Romney told reporters on Thursday, later adding: “I would prefer that investigations are done by an independent, nonpolitical body.”
The subpoena seeks documents from a former consultant for Blue Star, a Democratic public affairs firm, as part of the committee’s investigation into conflict-of-interest claims surrounding the younger Biden’s role on the board of Burisma. The ex-consultant, Andrii Telizhenko, has leveled unsubstantiated claims of coordination between the Ukrainian government and the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
The committee has an 8-6 Republican majority, meaning that if Romney were to oppose the subpoena, it would not be issued. The other seven GOP members of the panel are likely to vote in support of the subpoena.
Democrats have said such an investigation is politically motivated and could even aid Russian disinformation efforts. Some Republicans, too, have raised concerns about the type of information the committee receives as part of its probe, including the possibility that some of it is connected to Russian intelligence.
Later Friday, the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, sent a letter to Johnson calling for classified briefings about Telizhenko ahead of the subpoena vote. Peters said members of his staff recently “informed the FBI that they had questions about Mr. Telizhenko that could only be asked in a classified setting, and the FBI agreed to provide the committee with that opportunity.”
Peters similarly called for intelligence briefings on whether foreign actors are trying to use the committee’s investigation to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.
Johnson has insisted that his probe has nothing to do with the presidential election. But on Wednesday, a day after Biden’s Super Tuesday rout, he said he would likely release an interim report on the investigation within one to two months.
“If I were a Democrat primary voter, I’d want these questions satisfactorily answered before I cast my final vote,” Johnson said.
And Trump heightened Democrats’ criticisms of the effort when the president said in a Fox News interview earlier this week that he would use the Burisma issue against Biden in the general election if the former vice president becomes the Democratic nominee.