Johnson has insisted that his investigation examining Hunter Biden’s role on the board of a Ukrainian energy company has nothing to do with the election, or the fact that the former vice president is all but certain to become the Democratic presidential nominee. But Democrats have argued that the probe is politically motivated, citing Trump’s efforts to parrot the allegations against Biden and his son, in addition to Johnson’s own statements about his investigation.
Committee staffers have been poring through documents provided by the State Department and the National Archives, according to Johnson. The latter tranche includes information from the Obama White House, a key target of Johnson’s investigation.
“I’ve got staff that have been devoted to that and they’re working on that stuff from home,” Johnson said, adding: “We — and I — can walk and chew gum at the same time here. This is not taking up massive amounts of staff time.”
But there are several actions the committee cannot take while staffers are working remotely and while the Senate remains on recess until April 20 at the earliest.
One outstanding matter is a subpoena to Blue Star Strategies, a Democratic public-affairs firm that, according to Johnson, might have sought to leverage Hunter Biden’s role on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, to influence the Obama State Department. Johnson is seeking documents from the firm that it has refused to voluntarily turn over, acting on allegations that Biden sought to protect his son from a corruption investigation into Burisma.
Democrats vehemently oppose the subpoena and the investigation as a whole, positing that the probe is based on unsubstantiated claims that have been advanced by Russian intelligence services. Democrats’ opposition to the subpoena triggered a formal committee vote to authorize the action — but that vote has yet to be scheduled while senators’ return to Washington for normal business remains in flux.
Additionally, senators and aides cannot receive classified briefings or view sensitive documents unless they are present at the Capitol, which is equipped with facilities specifically designed for the review of classified information.
Johnson leaned into the investigation while the elder Biden was surging in the early Democratic primary contests and appeared on track to secure his party’s presidential nomination.
“These are questions that Joe Biden has not adequately answered,” Johnson said at the time. “And if I were a Democrat primary voter, I’d want these questions satisfactorily answered before I cast my final vote.”
The issue has sparked heated discussions among senators, including during a March 10 classified briefing about election security.
During that briefing, several Democratic senators spoke up about Johnson’s investigation — in particular, his efforts to get information from Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian diplomat and consultant for Blue Star Strategies who has leveled unsubstantiated allegations about coordination between the Ukrainian government and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election.
Johnson initially sought to subpoena Telizhenko, but later changed the target of the subpoena to Blue Star Strategies after the FBI’s foreign influence task force briefed committee aides about Telizhenko.
Democrats have said the committee’s Biden probe could aid Russian disinformation campaigns and undermine U.S. national security. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) delivered a similar warning to Johnson during a private meeting in December, POLITICO previously reported.