In Ukraine subpoena, Romney revives questions of flip flops and double standards

Senator conditions support on closed testimony to avert 'public spectacle'

Published: March 6, 2020 3:56pm

Updated: March 7, 2020 8:23am

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney is coming under scrutiny for a double standard with his apparent demand for closed-door witness testimony in a Senate investigation into Hunter Biden’s work for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.

Romney supported open witness testimony in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, when he was the sole Republican senator to vote for additional witnesses — with no stipulation that interviews be closed. 

Romney, a frequent foil to the president, now faces questions about whether he is inconsistent in his apparent demand for transparent government in the latter case but not the former. 

Romney is a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and had previously expressed concerns about the panel’s plans to issue subpoenas to obtain testimony in its Biden-Burisma investigation.

The committee is comprised of 8 Republicans and 6 Democrats, so a Romney vote with the Democrats would have resulted in a 7-7 tie blocking subpoenas.

After discussions with committee chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Romney signaled he would support the subpoenas on the condition that any Biden-related witnesses testify in a private or closed setting, “without a hearing or public spectacle,” according to Romney’s spokeswoman Liz Johnson. 

With this latest wrinkle, Romney faces a renewal of the criticism for "flip-flopping" that has long dogged him, especially during his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. 

For example, Business Insider catalogued “14 Bald-Faced Mitt Romney Flip-Flops That Were Dug Up By John McCain.” Rolling Stone wrote about “Mitt Romney’s Biggest Flip Flops.” And PolitiFact issued “PolitiFact's guide to Mitt Romney's flip-flops.”

Romney, Johnson, and the White House did not respond to requests for comment. 

Romney’s reported concern is that the Burisma case could be used to politicize the 2020 presidential election against Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden, Hunter’s father.

Johnson has insisted that his probe has nothing to do with the presidential election. But on Wednesday, a day after Biden’s Super Tuesday rout, he said he would likely release an interim report on the investigation within one to two months.

The subpoena seeks documents from Blue Star, a Democratic public affairs firm, as part of the committee’s investigation into conflict-of-interest claims surrounding the younger Biden’s role on the board of Burisma.

Romney was also the sole Republican to break party ranks on impeachment. He voted for one of the two articles of impeachment to remove Trump from office, saying he thinks Trump violated his oath of office when he asked Ukrainian officials to investigate the Biden controversy.


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