Sen. Mitt Romney could be key to Joe Biden probe

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Sen. Mitt Romney speaks to Republican representatives at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020.

Washington • Sen. Mitt Romney says a possible Senate investigation into a Ukrainian energy company with ties to Vice President Joe Biden “appears political” and the Utah Republican could be a key vote in blocking the inquiry that surfaced among Republicans after Biden took the lead in the Democratic primaries.

Romney won’t say yet how he would vote on issuing a subpoena to Burisma — a Ukrainian company whose board once included Biden’s son Hunter — but Romney says a Senate investigation may not be the proper approach.

“There’s no question that the appearance of looking into Burisma and Hunter Biden appears political,” Romney said Thursday. “I think people are tired of these kind of political investigations.”

Romney is a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has signaled renewed interest in Burisma since Biden’s resurgence as a possible Democratic presidential nominee to challenge President Donald Trump this fall.

“These are questions that Joe Biden has not adequately answered,” Johnson said this week about Burisma. “And if I were a Democrat[ic] primary voter, I’d want these questions satisfactorily answered before I cast my final vote.”

Trump, too, raised the issue in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity on Wednesday, noting that Biden's link to Ukraine “will be a major issue in the campaign.”

“I will bring that up all the time because I don’t see any way out,” Trump declared.

The Senate committee is expected to take a vote next week on whether to issue a subpoena to Burisma, but Republicans only hold a two-seat majority on the committee. If Romney and another Republican oppose the subpoena, the vote fails.

The Utah senator said Thursday that he would talk to Johnson about his reasonings for opening a congressional probe but sounded as though he was against using the Senate to muddy the presidential election.

“I would hope that if there’s something of significance that needs to be evaluated that it would be done perhaps by the FBI or some other agency,” Romney said.

“We also have a lot of work to do on matters that are not related to Burisma,” Romney added. “We probably ought to focus on those things.”

Burisma had been a little-known foreign company until Republicans raised concerns about why it had added Hunter Biden to its board when his father served as vice president and was pushing out a Ukrainian prosecutor.

Trump and his supporters have argued that Joe Biden was covering for his son, leading Trump to ask Ukraine’s new leader for a “favor” to look into Burisma during a phone call that was at the center of the impeachment charges against Trump.

Biden had claimed credit for getting rid of the prosecutor but at the behest of the U.S. government and European allies because the prosecutor was widely seen as an obstacle to anti-corruption efforts in the country. Burisma was not under investigation when the prosecutor was fired.

After his impeachment by the House, Trump was acquitted by the Senate of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, with Romney the only Republican senator to vote that Trump was guilty of one charge.