Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is gearing up to issue the panel's first subpoena in its efforts to investigate corruption questions surrounding Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that formerly employed Hunter Biden as a board member.
In a letter to his colleagues Sunday, Johnson said he planned to hold a committee meeting to issue a subpoena to Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian diplomat who also used to work for the public firm, Blue Star Strategies, as a consultant. Johnson noted that committee ranking member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) disapproved of issuing the subpoena.
"Blue Star, a U.S.-based government and public affairs firm founded by Karen Tramontano (former deputy chief of staff to President Clinton) and Sally Painter (a former senior adviser for the Clinton administration), was a U.S. representative for a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma Holdings," the letter explained. "As part of the Committee's ongoing investigation, it has received U.S. government records indicating that Blue Star sought to leverage Hunter Biden's role as a board member of Burisma to gain access to, and potentially influence matters at, the State Department."
Blaze Media obtained a copy of the letter, which was first reported by CBS on Monday.
In November, Johnson — along with GOP Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (Iowa) — sent a letter to the State Department requesting records in an effort to "better understand what actions, if any, the Obama administration took to ensure that policy decisions relating to Ukraine and Burisma were not improperly influenced by the employment and financial interests of family members." That letter pointed to a news report that Tramontano tried to set up a meeting with an Obama State Department official in March 2016.
While the joint November letter says it was "unclear" if the 2016 meeting ever happened, the senators added that "later that month Tramontano and other members of Burisma's legal team reportedly met with Ukrainian prosecutors."
In his Sunday letter, Johnson said that the committee has received some records from Blue Star and from Telizhenko, but that the supplied information is not enough.
"Although Mr. Telizhenko expressed his willingness to 'cooperate fully' with our investigation, he identified a limited subset of relevant records from his work with Blue Star that are responsive, but subject to a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) in his employment contract," Johnson's letter said. "In other words, he cannot provide this responsive information unless he is compelled to do so by subpoena."
Johnson also told his colleagues that Blue Star has not provided the relevant information and has told the committee "that they will not be producing any more documents," despite being informed that the committee considers their response incomplete.
"In fact, although the Committee asked Blue Star twice to identify its employees and contractors who worked on the Burisma matter, it never identified Mr. Telizhenko," the letter continued. "Because Mr. Telizhenko's records and information would be responsive to the Committee's requests, and Blue Star has refused to produce them, a subpoena to Mr. Telizhenko for these records is appropriate at this time."
It isn't clear precisely what kind of work Telizhenko did for Blue Star or what he would have known about the company's efforts on behalf of Burisma. However, his name has also come up in other Ukraine-related stories. He helped President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani with efforts to look into the Bidens and Burisma; he also told Politico in 2017 that — while working at the Ukrianian Embassy during the 2016 campaign — he was instructed to assist then-DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa with efforts to dig up dirt on the Trump campaign.
In order to issue the subpoena, Johnson would need the support of a simple majority from the Republican-controlled committee. He is one of a trio of Senate committee chairman who have been looking into questions surrounding Hunter Biden's Ukrainian Business dealings since last year. The other two include Grassley and Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).