GOP Senator Pushes For Biden-Ukraine Probe After Former VP Overtakes Sanders In Democratic Race

Republican Senator Ron Johnson is pushing forward with a probe into the Ukraine business dealings of Joe Biden's son Hunter as the former vice president enjoys his new front-runner status following his victories on Super Tuesday.

When President Donald Trump was impeached in December by the Democratic-controlled House, the charges cited efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into Biden, as well as his son's involvement with Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Democrats alleged that Trump's actions amounted to an abuse of power, arguing he had solicited a foreign government to corrupt a U.S. election. However, the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted the president in early February.

"If there's wrongdoing, the American people need to know. If there is no wrongdoing or nothing significant, the American people need to understand that as well," Johnson told reporters on Wednesday, discussing the investigation. But he insisted that he wasn't "targeting the Bidens," noting that the probe has already been in the works and it was not his "preference to publicize this." He said there would be an interim report on the investigation in a month or two.

Joe Biden in Ukraine
Joe Biden speaks during a press conference while visiting Kyiv, Ukraine, on January 16, 2017. Vitaliy Holovin/Corbis/Getty

The Wisconsin senator, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also accused Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, the committee's ranking member, of making the subpoena request "such a public display." Notably, the date on Johnson's official letter outlining his request for the subpoena, which was first reported by CBS News, was March 1, the day after Biden won big in the South Carolina primary.

Johnson plans to force a vote next week on a subpoena involved with the investigation. Although he asserted that the probe into the Bidens and Burisma is ongoing and unrelated to the former vice president's surge after Tuesday's multistate voting, Democrats quickly questioned the timing of the renewed effort.

"After hearing nothing about Burisma over the course of the last couple weeks, the Republicans will revive it in a perfect demonstration of what this means to them, which is to be a cudgel to beat Joe Biden with," said Representative Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, Politico reported.

But Johnson told reporters: "These are questions that Joe Biden has not adequately answered. And if I were a Democrat primary voter, I'd want these questions satisfactorily answered before I cast my final vote."

Newsweek reached out to the Biden campaign for comment on the probe but did not receive a response before publication.

Johnson's announced effort to push for the subpoena and the plan for the interim report came Wednesday, after Biden surged past Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination. While the contest is still close, momentum appears to have shifted in favor of Biden for the time being.

Biden's son served on the Burisma board while the former vice president took the lead on Ukraine policy for President Barack Obama's administration. There is no evidence that Biden or his son acted corruptly, but Trump has repeatedly pushed forward that unfounded narrative. Ethics experts have noted, however, that the situation did give the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Former top Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who was widely viewed by the U.S. government and European allies as failing to adequately address corruption, was removed at Biden's urging. While the former prosecutor reportedly had an open investigation into corruption at Burisma, the case appears to have never moved forward. Analysts have argued that Biden's actions actually made it more likely, not less, that the Ukrainian company would face serious scrutiny.

But on Wednesday, a close Trump ally, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized Biden's and his son's actions regarding Ukraine and voiced support for Johnson's investigation.

"If you're going to run for president and you were in charge of the Ukrainian anti-corruption campaign as VP and your son's sitting on the most corrupt company in the country while you're trying to clean up the country, yeah, that'll come up," Graham told CNN.

GOP Senator Pushes For Biden-Ukraine Probe After Former VP Overtakes Sanders In Democratic Race | U.S.