As he prepares to complete his Senate investigation into Joe Biden and Ukraine, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is making no secret of how he wants his report to be seen by voters in the 2020 election.
“What our investigations are uncovering, I think, will reveal that this is not somebody that we should be electing president of the United States,” Johnson said of Biden, the Democrat who’s leading President Donald Trump in the polls.
“I just don’t think Joe Biden ever should have run for president,” Johnson said in the same interview with Janesville, Wisconsin, radio station WCLO Tuesday.
Johnson’s public comments about his investigation are drawing fire from Democrats who accuse him of using the Senate committee he chairs to pursue a partisan probe aimed at helping Trump’s reelection bid.
And a committee member in Johnson’s own party echoed that criticism when the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel met Wednesday, days before the expected release of Johnson's report on Biden.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said the inquiry involving Biden has “had the earmarks of a political exercise, and I’m fearful that comments made in the media recently have only confirmed that perspective.”
Romney appeared to be referring to Johnson’s own recent statements about the investigation.
In a radio interview last month, Johnson said that exposing “corruption” in the Obama administration “would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection and certainly be pretty good, I would say, evidence about not voting for Vice President Biden.”
In a video conference with GOP supporters Monday, Johnson said of his forthcoming report, “Stay tuned. In about a week we're going to learn a whole lot more of Vice President Biden's unfitness for office.”
And in the interview Tuesday with WCLO, Johnson said his investigation would show that Biden should not be elected president.
Committee Democrats and the Biden campaign have jumped on these statements, saying they demonstrate that Johnson’s investigations are not about congressional oversight but influencing the election, as Romney suggested.
"Senator Johnson cannot refute this because he himself has explicitly admitted that Senator Romney is correct, saying that his charade 'would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection' and that it will speak to 'Vice President Biden's unfitness for office,'” said Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates, who accused Johnson of prioritizing partisan politics over conducting oversight of “the failed federal response to the pandemic.”
Asked to respond to Romney’s comments, Johnson spokesman Austin Altenburg issued this statement:
“This is Congress. Everything here has implications for politics and elections. The Committee is expressly authorized to investigate conflicts of interest, and its investigation into Burisma and U.S.-Ukraine policy began well before the Democratic nominee for President had been decided. The American people have the right to know what did and did not happen.”
Johnson’s investigation is centered on Biden’s son Hunter and his ties to a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, while Biden was helping direct U.S. policy toward Ukraine. The Wisconsin Republican has called that a "glaring and obvious conflict of interest," while the Bidens denied any improper influence was exerted on Ukraine policy.
At one point in Johnson’s interview with WCLO Tuesday, radio host Tim Bremel suggested to Johnson that “these constant investigations of presidents and presidential candidates these days, in my opinion, Senator, damages our political system.”
Johnson rejected that.
“You can say this is corrosive to our politics, these investigations, but what’s corrosive to our politics is when we have two totally different systems of justice where Hillary Clinton and Democrats – they just never face the music. They never get indicted. They don’t get investigated well. But a Republican – we end up trying to impeach him over a phone call between two presidents that never should have even seen the light of day,” he said of the Trump impeachment.
Johnson said, "What’s corrosive is ... also the massive bias in the media that refuses to point out all the accomplishments of this administration and only focuses on tweets and false narratives.”
Johnson’s committee voted along party lines – with every Democrat voting no -- to issue subpoenas Wednesday in a separate investigation Johnson is conducting into the presidential transition from Obama to Trump and the origins of the Mueller investigation.
Before the vote, top committee Democrat Gary Peters of Michigan told Johnson, “This is a partisan fishing expedition … I’m asking you to stop the inappropriate use of our committee resources and recommit to our primary focus, which is safeguarding homeland security.”
Romney supported those subpoenas. But the committee scrapped a vote on another subpoena involving the Biden-Burisma probe. Romney told the committee he would have opposed that subpoena because of his concerns about the politics of that investigation, saying it was “not the legitimate role of government, for Congress or for taxpayer expense, to be used in an effort to damage political opponents.” Romney, one of Trump's few GOP critics in Congress, had previously voiced concerns about the Biden investigation, but these were his strongest comments to date.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., took to the Senate floor after the committee meeting to accuse Republicans of “using the power of Senate in effect to conduct opposition research for the president’s campaign” while “the rest of the country is busy fighting COVID.” Schumer also repeated Democratic charges that Johnson is purveying Russian “disinformation" aimed at damaging Biden.
Johnson called that charge a “smear."
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ron Johnson: Mitt Romney questions his investigation of Joe Biden