‘The American people have a right to know … whether any apparent or actual conflict of interest unduly influenced U.S. policy…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said he planned to subpoena the head of a lobbying organization that acted as a liaison between the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and the U.S. State Department during the Obama administration.
The company came into public spotlight due to its hiring of Hunter Biden, the son of current presidential candidate Joe Biden, who acted as the point-man on U.S.–Ukraine policy while serving as vice president.
“The American people have a right to know how their government officials conducted official business, whether certain parties received special treatment, and whether any apparent or actual conflict of interest unduly influenced U.S. policy,” Johnson wrote Sunday in a letter to committee members, according to CBS News.
President Donald Trump’s efforts to re-open the Ukrainian government’s investigations into Burisma—which Biden had successfully pressured the previous Ukrainian administration to drop—became the principal subject of partisan House Democrats’ recent impeachment efforts against the Republican president.
After the former Ukrainian prosecutor–general Viktor Shokin raided several sites associated with Burisma in early 2016, the company dispatched Blue Star, described as a U.S.-based government affairs firm, to advocate on its behalf.
It also tapped Hunter Biden and his business partner Devin Archer, both of whom received a million dollars a year for “consulting” services as Burisma board members, to meet with then-Secretary of State John Kerry and others.
Not long afterward, Joe Biden threatened the Petro Poroshenko administration that he would withhold a billion-dollar loan guarantee if Shokin were not fired.
In the wake of Trump’s recent acquittal by the Senate, Johnson noted that his committee alread “has been investigating matters related to Burisma for nearly a year.”
His subpoena was intended for Andrii Telizhenko, a former consultant with Blue Star who led the Burisma lobbying efforts.
However, despite Telizhenko’s having “expressed his willingness to ‘cooperate fully,'” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the ranking minority member of the committee, adamantly opposed the subpoena, noted CBS News.
“Our intelligence community, national security officials and a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report have all confirmed that it was the Russian government—and not Ukraine—that interfered in our 2016 election,” Peters claimed in a December statement expressing his opposition. “This isn’t about rehashing the 2016 election or partisan politics—it is a matter of national security.”
Johnson and other GOP committee members sought records of the correspondence between Telizhenko and members of the State Department, as well as other Obama officials.
They also requested records of his exchanges with Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian activist and Democratic National Committee staffer who coordinated with the Ukrainian embassy to spread misinformation alleging Trump’s collusion with the Russian government during the 2016 election.
Peters continued to deflect on the question of whether Ukraine may have engaged in a coordinated disinformation campaign to hurt Trump by pointing to Russia, which was proven to have engaged in interference efforts independent of the Trump campaign.
“Russia, a foreign adversary, struck at the very heart of our democracy, and we know they are already trying to interfere in the 2020 election,” Peters said in his statement.
“Obscuring this key fact only further enables Russian efforts and undermines our ability to safeguard our democracy,” he continued. “Members of both parties must come together to pass legislation strengthening election security and ensure no foreign adversary can meddle in our elections again.”