Save for a New York Times profile on Hunter Biden’s newfound passion for psychedelic floral art, Joe Biden’s son has mostly avoided the media spotlight since spending months under the right-wing microscope during Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings and trial. But less than 24 hours after his father reignited his presidential campaign by decisively winning the South Carolina Democratic primary, Republican Senator Ron Johnson tried reviving the Biden-Burisma storyline.
Hunter Biden’s work for Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings, where he served as a board member from 2014 until the spring of last year, was central to the impeachment scandal. Trump, of course, was impeached after attempting to strong-arm Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky into publicly announcing a corruption investigation into the Bidens, despite no evidence of wrongdoing by father or son. Throughout the impeachment inquiry, the president—who was acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate in early February—alleged, without evidence, that Hunter Biden received a “payoff” from Ukraine. Now, with Joe Biden suddenly trailing front-runner Bernie Sanders by just six delegates and rejuvenated speculation that he could still earn the nomination, Burisma and Hunter Biden are back in the news.
Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter on Sunday announcing that he’s planning a “meeting to consider a committee subpoena” for Andrii Telizhenko, a former consultant for Blue Star Strategies who represented Burisma in the U.S. “As part of the committee’s ongoing investigation, it has received U.S. government records indicating that Blue Star sought to leverage Hunter Biden’s role as a board member of Burisma to gain access to, and potentially influence matters at, the State Department,” Johnson wrote in a letter first obtained by CBS News (A spokesperson for Johnson told the Hive that the “premise that Sen. Johnson’s letter yesterday notifying members of an upcoming vote to subpoena documents is related to the [South Carolina] primary is misinformed. Sen. Johnson sent a letter to Sen. Gary Peters on [February 24] informing him of his intent to subpoena.”) He went on to note that Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat serving on the committee, has pushed back against the subpoena while voicing concerns that the Senate could be unwittingly “used to further disinformation efforts by Russian or other actors.” Johnson fired back in a letter to Peters last Monday: “Blocking the receipt of relevant records, and any committee member voting against this subpoena would be doing, only heightens the risks of ‘disinformation’ because the committee would not have access to all pertinent information.”
If approved, the subpoena of Telizhenko would mark the first such action in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s conflict-of-interest probe, which it’s carrying out in conjunction with the Senate Finance Committee to investigate corruption claims leveled by Trump and allies against the Bidens. Telizhenko has said he’ll “cooperate fully” with a subpoena, but explained that a nondisclosure agreement may limit what he can tell the Senate. “Because Mr. Telizhenko’s records and information would be responsive to the committee’s requests, and Blue Star has refused to provide them, a subpoena to Mr. Telizhenko for these records is appropriate at this time,” Johnson wrote in his letter, addressing the roadblock.
Following Biden’s win in South Carolina on Saturday, Trump offered a backhanded congratulations “to Sleepy Joe,” tweeting that “Mini Mike now has Biden split up his very few voters, taking many away!” Insults aside, Trump may once again see Biden as a threat to his reelection chances. Fortunately for the president, the same Republican senators who acquitted him are now carrying out the strategy that brought about his impeachment in the first place.
This article has been updated to include a statement from Ron Johnson’s office.
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