Senate chairman subpoenas FBI Director, ex-State official as Russia-Ukraine probe intensifies

Sen. Ron Johnson says evidence shows Joe Biden's family engaged in a 'glaring conflict of interest.'

Updated: August 10, 2020 - 12:48pm

A powerful Senate committee chairman has subpoenaed FBI Director Chris Wray and a former State Department official in an intensifying investigation into possible U.S. corruption in Russia and Ukraine and declared there is evidence Joe Biden's family engaged in a "glaring conflict of interest."

Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson announced the actions Monday, strongly accusing Democrats of levying false allegations against him and other GOP investigators to distract from the evidence his committee has gathered about Joe and Hunter Biden's dealings in Ukraine.

"We didn't target Joe and Hunter Biden for investigation; their previous actions had put them in the middle of it," Johnson wrote in a letter released Monday that provided a detailed timeline of Joe Biden's Ukraine policy actions and his son's hiring with the Ukraine natural gas company Burisma Holdings.

"Many in the media, in an ongoing attempt to provide cover for former Vice President Biden, continue to repeat the mantra that there is 'no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity' related to Hunter Biden's position on Burisma's board," the senator wrote. "I could not disagree more."

Johnson noted evidence gathered by his committee showed Joe Biden met with his son's business partner, Devon Archer, in April 2014 and within a month the vice president then visited Ukraine and both his son Hunter and the business partner were put on the Burisma board as the firm faced multiple corruption investigations.

"Isn't it obvious what message Hunter's position on Burisma's board sent to Ukrainian officials?" Johnson asked. "The answer: If you want U.S. support, don't touch Burisma. It also raised a host of questions, including: 1) How could former Vice President Biden look any Ukrainian official (or any other world leader) in the face and demand action to fight corruption? 2) Did this glaring conflict of interest affect the work and efforts of other U.S. officials who worked on anti-corruption measures?"

You can read Johnson's letter here.

Sources familiar with Johnson's investigation say the committee has secured testimony from at least one State Department official who worked in Ukraine saying the Bidens' conduct created the appearance of a conflict of interest and undercut U.S. efforts to fight corruption in Kiev.

Johnson also divulged that late last week he issued a formal subpoena to Wray demanding he immediately surrender records from the Russia collusion probe that the committee has been seeking for months.

The subpoena gives Wray until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20 to comply and demands all records from the probe known as Crossfire Hurricane, including those provided for a damning report by the Justice Department inspector general.

You can view the subpoena here

Johnson also announced his committee has prepared a subpoena for Jonathan Winer, a former Obama State Department official who had extensive contact with British intelligence operative Christopher Steele, the author of a flawed dossier that helped propel the FBI probe into now disproven Trump-Russia collusion.

"Mr Winer's counsel has not responded since Thursday as to whether he would accept service of the subpoena," Johnson said. "If he does not respond by tomorrow, we will be forced to effect service through the U.S. Marshals. More subpoenas can be expected to be issued in the coming days and weeks."

Johnson and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley have been pursuing a two-track investigation for more than two years, examining both failures and corruption in the FBI's Russia probe as well as the issue of the Bidens' conflicts in Ukraine.

As the 2020 election draws nearer and the committee's evidence mounts in the Biden portion of the probe, Democrats have repeatedly attacked Johnson and Grassley accusing them of accepting evidence with Ukrainian officials tied to Russia.

In his letter, Johnson adamantly denies he has talked with or received documents from the Russian-tied Ukrainians, accusing Democrats like Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut of knowingly fomenting disinformation.

"The only problem with their overblown handwringing is that they all knew full well that we have been briefed repeatedly, and we had already told them that we had NOT received the alleged Russian disinformation," Johnson wrote. "The very transparent goal of their own disinformation campaign and feigned concern is to attack our character in order to marginalize the eventual findings of our investigation."

Johnson's letter identifies 14 questions he believes Joe Biden should answer and said the dealings documented by his committee — all from U.S. government documents — follow a larger pattern of family members appearing to cash in on the vice president's policymaking.

"The appearance of family profiteering off of Vice President Biden’s official responsibilities is not unique to the circumstances involving Ukraine and Burisma," the senator wrote. "Public reporting has also shown Hunter Biden following his father into China and coincidentally landing lucrative business deals and investments there.

"Additionally, the former vice president's brothers and sister-in-law, Frank, James and Sara Biden, also are reported to have benefited financially from his work as well. We have not had the resources to devote investigatory time to these other allegations, but I point them out to underscore that Ukraine and Burisma seem more of a pattern of conduct than an aberration."

Johnson's announcement follows one day after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham released a document Sunday he says shows the FBI misled senators on the Intelligence Committee during the Russia probe by falsely suggesting Steele's dossier was backed up by one of his key sources.

"Somebody needs to go to jail for this," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) the panel's chairman, told the Fox News program Sunday Futures with Maria Bartiromo. "This is a second lie. This is a second crime. They lied to the FISA court. They got rebuked, the FBI did, in 2019 by the FISA court, putting in doubt all FISA applications."

The document in question contains the draft talking points the FBI used to brief the Senate Intelligence Committee in February 2018, including an assessment that the primary sub-source of the information contained in the Steele dossier had backed up the former MI-6 agent's reporting.

The primary sub-source "did not cite any significant concerns with the way his reporting was characterized in the dossier to the extent he could identify it," the FBI memo claimed. "... At minimum, our discussions with [the Primary Sub-source] confirm that the dossier was not fabricated by Steele."

In fact, by the time the FBI provided senators the briefing, agents had already interviewed Steele's primary sub-source, who disavowed much of what was attributed to him in the dossier as in "jest" or containing uncorroborated allegations.

You can read the FBI memo Graham released here.

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