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Mitt Romney decides not to block subpoena in Senate Biden-Burisma probe he previously criticized

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'He will therefore vote to let the Chairman proceed'

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

After saying that a Senate committee investigation into corruption questions surrounding Ukranian energy company Burisma — which formerly employed Hunter Biden as a board member — "looks political," Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has said that he will not vote to block subpoenas in the effort.

According to a Friday statement from a Romney spokesperson, the Utah senator made his decision after receiving assurances from Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that interviewing the subpoenaed witness wouldn't happen in front of television cameras.

"Senator Romney has expressed his concerns to Chairman Johnson, who has confirmed that any interview of the witness would occur in a closed setting without a hearing or public spectacle," the statement read. "He will therefore vote to let the Chairman proceed to obtain the documents that have been offered."

Johnson announced his intention to issue the first subpoena of his Burisma-related investigation earlier this week. In a letter to his colleagues dated Sunday, the chairman said that he planned to hold a committee meeting to issue a subpoena to Andrii Telizhenko — a former Ukrainian diplomat who also used to work as a consultant for the public relations firm, Blue Star Strategies.

"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."

Johnson said the subpoena — the first of his committee's Burisma probe — was "appropriate at this time" because Blue Star had been uncooperative and Telizhenko claimed to be bound by a nondisclosure agreement.

Following Johnson's announcement, Romney — who sits on the Homeland Security Committee — signaled that he might vote against the subpoena.

"There's no question but that the appearance of looking into Burisma and Hunter Biden appears political," Romney told reporters on Thursday. "And I think people are tired of these kind of political investigations and would hope that if there's something of significance that needs to be evaluated, that it would be done by perhaps the FBI or some other agency that's not as political as perhaps a committee of our, of our body."

The committee is composed of eight Republicans and six Democrats, meaning that a single majority member voting with the minority would cause a 7-7 tie vote, thereby causing the subpoena effort to fail.

Countering claims that his investigative efforts are politically motivated, Johnson said Wednesday evening that he started looking into suspicions of Ukrainian election meddling with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) back in 2017.

"It's not our fault that Joe Biden, Hunter Biden got wrapped up in the whole Ukrainian story," Johnson said in an interview with Fox News' Martha McCallum. "We are not closing our eyes to this; and I have no idea why anybody would object to us obtaining records from a U.S. consulting firm run by former Clinton administration officials that is basically using Hunter Biden's name to strong-arm the State Department to curry benefits for a corrupt Ukrainian oil company."

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