WASHINGTON (CN) – Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who last month broke ranks with Republicans by voting to convict President Donald Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, said Friday he will back a subpoena in an investigation into presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son.
The subpoena is expected to be issued next week to former Ukrainian embassy official Andrii Telizhenko. He also served as political consultant for the Democratic consulting agency Blue Star Strategies, which has represented the interests of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy firm, in the United States.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., along with other Republicans positioned on powerful congressional committees, are searching for documents they claim will reveal in-depth information about Hunter Biden’s activities while serving on Burisma’s board.
Their investigation, however, is rooted in allegations that Republicans peddled without direct evidence over the entirety of Trump’s impeachment inquiry in the House last year and when the proceedings moved to the Senate in January.
The GOP lawmakers claim former Vice President Joe Biden pushed to remove Ukraine prosecutor Viktor Shokin to hide his son’s business dealings in Ukraine. Shokin was widely considered to be corrupt by the Obama administration when Hunter sat on the Burisma board. Shokin’s ouster was not a decision led by Biden but was instead part of international anti-corruption reforms led by the State Department, International Monetary Fund and members of the European Union.
Last week, Romney hedged on the idea of voting for the committee’s subpoena, citing concerns that the Republican probe would appear as illegitimate or overtly political given Biden’s recent ascendancy in the Democratic presidential primary.
But on Friday, the Utah Republican and former presidential candidate had an apparent change of heart after Johnson assured him that testimony related to the probe would take place behind closed doors.
“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’s decision to stand alongside fellow Republicans is a critical one because of the Sente Homeland Security Committee’s makeup of eight Republicans and six Democrats. If all Democrats were to vote against issuing the subpoena – a very likely outcome – then the only lawmaker who has publicly expressed hesitation about the investigation would be left as the tie-breaker.
A subpoena for Telizhenko has been on the committee’s agenda for weeks. Telizhenko is also an associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and like Giuliani, he holds fast to the theory that it was Ukraine who meddled in the 2016 election, not Russia.
The onetime low-level political officer at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington also alleged in 2017 that he was asked to develop opposition research into Trump’s 2016 campaign as well as then-chairman Paul Manafort, now a convicted felon.
Republican calls for ramping up investigations into the Bidens have only grown louder in the month since Trump’s acquittal. Johnson told reporters this week that he would issue a report in the coming months about what the committee has unearthed in its probe.
The report’s release could cause some consternation for Democrats who will be inching ever closer to the Democratic National Convention in July, where a nominee will finally be selected to square off against Trump in November.
A spokesperson for Biden’s campaign did not immediately return request for comment Friday.