GOP Escalating Probes of Bidens, Obama Aides Before Election
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s allies in the House and Senate are ramping up investigations aimed at Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and some of his former Obama administration colleagues that are likely to reach a crescendo in the middle of the election campaign.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham on Thursday set up a vote following the Memorial Day recess to give him sweeping authority to subpoena numerous former Obama-era officials, including former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch as well as ex-FBI director James Comey as part of his panel’s review of the origins of the investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign’s role.
“See you in June,” he told the committee.
The line of inquiry is fully embraced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is in the middle of a battle to save his Republican majority in the November election.
“An American citizen’s campaign for the American presidency was treated like a hostile foreign power by our own law enforcement -- in part because a Democrat-led executive branch manipulated documents, hid contrary evidence, and made a DNC-funded dossier a launchpad for an investigation,” McConnell said on the floor of the Senate Tuesday. “The American people deserve answers about how such abuses could happen. And we intend to get those answers.”
The stepped-up GOP investigations are a flipped script from earlier in the year, when Republicans and the White House accused Democrats of being obsessed with impeaching the president and distracting the country from the growing coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has vowed that the origins of the Russia investigation will figure prominently in the election contest between him and Biden. The president long has promoted a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president, and anti-Trump factions within the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department improperly tried to undermine his election campaign in 2016.
The president had urged Graham, a South Carolina Republican, to call former President Barack Obama to testify, which Graham has resisted.
Trump also has said he plans to use Biden’s involvement with Ukraine at the same time his son Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company, as a campaign issue.
That would bring the issue full circle. The House impeachment investigation was triggered by the president’s attempt to prod Ukraine’s president into investigating whether Biden, as vice president, put pressure on Ukraine to help Burisma.
On Wednesday, another Senate panel approved a subpoena in its long-running investigation of alleged conflicts of interest related to Hunter Biden’s role on the Burisma board. And last week, Trump ally Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top House Judiciary Republican, asked Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to turn over documents linked to Hunter Biden and Burisma.
Both Graham and Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, have said they want to wrap up their investigations before Election Day.
Wednesday’s vote by the Homeland Security panel to approve a Burisma-related subpoena fell along party lines, 8-6.
Johnson sought the subpoena for Blue Star Strategies, a firm that represented Burisma when the younger Biden was on Burisma’s board, as part of his probe into potential conflicts of interest involving the Bidens.
The Biden campaign has previously dismissed the GOP-led investigations as a political ploy and Democratic leaders attacked the Republicans for diverting attention from the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Just for Show’
Blue Star sent a letter to the committee saying that it was cooperating with the inquiry so a subpoena isn’t necessary.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that Johnson’s committee was trying to “smear” Biden.
“It appears the subpoena is just for show, a way to create the false impression of wrongdoing,” Schumer said on 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.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was “sad that the GOP Senate has meekly and weakly chosen to be complicit in the president’s desperate and dangerous political tactics instead of passing legislation to save lives and livelihoods.”
Johnson has denied the probe is politically motivated, and committee spokesman Austin Altenburg said a bipartisan group of members recommended the subpoena.
“The American people deserve to know the extent to which the U.S.-based, Democrat-led consulting company leveraged its connections within the Obama administration to try to gain access and potentially influence U.S. government agencies on behalf of its corrupt client, Burisma,” Altenburg said.
‘Life and Death’
Democrats demanded hearings on the coronavirus pandemic instead. The Homeland committee has oversight over the Department of Homeland Security, the Postal Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Democrats said top officials should be brought in for hearings on their response.
“There are literally matters of life and death waiting for our committee’s attention, but instead this committee is doing the president’s personal bidding,” Democratic Senator Kamala Harris of California said.
But GOP Senator Rick Scott of Florida spoke in favor of Biden inquiries before the election.
“The public deserves to know how a guy who was vice president of the United States, who is currently trying to be president, got away with using the U.S. government to force a foreign country to stop investigating a company that was paying his son,” he said.
Bloomberg has previously reported that while Biden did pressure Ukraine’s then-president to fire the country’s top prosecutor with the support of U.S. allies, a probe into Burisma by Ukrainian authorities had already been shelved.
The proposed subpoena follows up a request for information originally sent to Blue Star in December 2019.
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