Senate panel approves subpoena in Hunter Biden probe

Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., gavels a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee meeting to a close on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, after voting to issue a subpoena to Blue Star Strategies. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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WASHINGTON (AP) - A Senate committee has voted to issue a subpoena as part of its investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden's son. The move met immediate opposition from Democrats who said the panel should be focused on overseeing the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted 8-6 to subpoena Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying firm that was a consultant to Burisma, a gas company in Ukraine that paid Hunter Biden to serve as a board member.

Hunter Biden has denied using his influence with his father to aid Burisma. But Republicans have encouraged investigations of Hunter Biden's activities, questioning whether his highly paid job created a conflict of interest for Joe Biden as the former vice president worked on Ukraine policy in the Obama administration.

The committee chairman, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, insists the investigation is not designed to hurt Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee in this year's presidential election. Another Republican on the committee, Florida Sen. Rick Scott, said at the vote that "we need to get to the truth about the Bidens' relationship with Burisma. These hearings will provide the Senate with the full picture."

A Biden campaign spokesman said in a statement that Johnson was "running a political errand" for Trump.

Democrats decried the investigations as politically motivated.

Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the committee, noted a letter from Blue Star Strategies to the committee in which the CEO, Karen Tramontano, said the company has already cooperated with the probe and is willing to cooperate further. Johnson told Peters that he would allow the letter to be added to the committee's official record, but said he disagreed that the company has been cooperating.

The president's efforts to have Ukraine investigate Hunter Biden's role as a board member for Burisma were at the heart of House Democrats' impeachment probe last year. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens on a July phone call that was later revealed by a whistleblower's complaint.

The House impeached Trump in December for in its words pressuring the Ukrainian government on investigations while withholding military aid to the country. The Senate acquitted him in February.

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