House Republicans say their counterparts in the Senate need to do more to help President Trump on impeachment.
The House GOP lawmakers note their power is limited on impeachment hearings, but Senate Republicans have the authority to call witnesses and issue subpoenas. Republicans in the lower chamber have expressed frustration that little attention has been paid to allegations that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election and that former Vice President Joe Biden may have had a serious conflict of interest with regard to Ukraine because of his son Hunter Biden.
Major media outlets, with the exception of Fox News, have given little credibility to these allegations pushed by Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and their allies.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), after a marathon day of impeachment hearings Tuesday, complained that allegations that Ukraine interfered in U.S. politics and that Biden was conflicted in his dealings with Ukraine have been considered “debunked” without a more thorough review.
“The Democrats and some in the media like to just say the Burisma/Zlochevsky issue is just totally debunked, even though Burisma is a corrupt Ukrainian company run by a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch hiring Hunter Biden — by Hunter’s Biden own admission — solely because [of] his last name, solely because he’s the vice president’s son,” Zeldin said, referring to Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company that paid Hunter Biden generously to serve on its board, and the company’s owner, Mykola Zlochevsky.
Several Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee said Senate Republicans should delve into this side of the impeachment story.
While Senate Republicans have discussed the possibility of a Ukraine investigation focused on Joe and Hunter Biden, there has been little follow-through.
“I think that’s appropriate,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) when asked if the Senate needs to do more to investigate Ukrainian corruption and links to the Bidens. “The Democrats keep saying it’s some conspiracy theory.”
“I think it would be helpful to get the bottom of all that,” added Jordan, a staunch defender of Trump.
He pointed to a claim by a member of the Ukrainian parliament that many of the country’s political figures wanted Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 election, a critical 2016 op-ed aimed at then-candidate Trump by Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Valeriy Chaly, and criticism that Arsen Avakov, the former Ukrainian interior minister, leveled at Trump on Facebook.
“That’s serious,” Jordan said.
He expressed frustration that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has refused to call Hunter Biden or request that the whistleblower testify.
Asked if the Senate should step in and call witnesses left out of the House impeachment hearing, Jordan said “heck, yeah” and “sure they should.”
GOP leaders specially appointed Jordan to the Intelligence Committee last month to spearhead Trump’s defense.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), another member of the House Intelligence Committee, said “there really could be” a bigger role played by Senate Republicans because Schiff has blocked House GOP requests for witnesses who could show that Trump had a legitimate interest in pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate corruption.
“We’re really stymied here,” he said.
Wenstrup said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) could bolster Republican counterarguments by launching their own investigations.
“I would love for them to do it because that’s the only way I think we’re going to get to the whole truth,” he said.
Graham has given different statements on the need to investigate Ukrainian corruption and the Bidens.
In September, he and Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) floated the idea of investigating Biden.
Graham, who is up for reelection next year, told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt someone “should look at corruption” related to the Ukraine but said the probe should be conducted outside the Senate.
He then told reporters in late September that he didn’t call on Hunter Biden to testify because he didn’t “want to turn the Senate into a circus.”
But after coming back to Washington after a two-week recess in October, Graham said he hadn’t yet made a decision on bringing Biden before the Judiciary Committee and suggested it would depend on what information Giuliani, who had been invited to testify, would provide.
Graham and other Senate Republicans have also come under pressure from Fox News host Sean Hannity to do more.
“It’s right now time for Republicans to get tough. Senate Republicans need to pay attention,” Hannity said on his show last week. “Republicans have the power in the Senate, that means you have the power to subpoena people,” he said.
Hannity urged Senate Republicans to subpoena the whistleblower as well as Hunter Biden.
“Did he speak with his father about his Ukrainian business deals? Their statements we already know and it pointed out are in conflict with each other. We know The New York Times tipped off Joe Biden that his son was being investigated by the prosecutor in Ukraine,” he said.
Hannity also challenged Graham in an interview Tuesday evening about the need to investigate Ukrainian corruption and the Bidens.
When Graham said “nobody’s looked,” Hannity shot back: “I’m looking and what I see is really bad.”
Earlier this month, Graham said he hoped Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho) would take up a probe of Hunter Biden.
“We need to look at whether or not Hunter Biden corruptly engaged in lobbying. Did Joe Biden ask the prosecutor to be fired because he was investigating his son?” Graham said during an interview with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham.
Risch, however, has said he’s not interested in taking his committee down that path. On Wednesday he said the Senate Intelligence Committee would be more appropriate to investigate Ukraine issues related to the impeachment inquiry.
“In this instance the majority leader has assigned these issues to the Intelligence Committee to hear, so you want to talk to Sen. Burr,” he said.
But Burr on Wednesday said he right now is focused on the intelligence community’s handling of the whistleblower’s complaint against Trump and is stuck on trying to get the whistleblower to testify before his committee.
Burr said the jurisdiction more appropriately belongs to Risch’s Foreign Relations panel.
“We’re looking at the whistleblower complaint, the process as to who knew about it, how many people they talked to, and what did they do. That’s the extent of what we’re looking at right now,” he said.
The Senate Republican chairmen who have gone the furthest are Johnson and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who released a letter in September asking the Justice Department to investigate links between Ukrainian operatives and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Johnson and Grassley last week asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to release any State Department records that may exist related to Hunter Biden’s position as a Burisma Holdings board member. They also asked for information about what steps the Obama administration took to ensure policy decisions related to Ukraine and Burisma were not influenced by the financial interests of the senior officials’ family members.
House Republicans say these are steps in the right direction but they want to see more action.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a third Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the Senate should investigate the Ukraine- and Biden-related angles of the impeachment debate.
“I think they should and I think they will,” he said.
Stewart said if Democrats are going to argue it was improper to press Zelensky to investigate corruption, “we have to understand the basis of that.”
House Republicans last week submitted to Schiff a list of witnesses they wanted to call before the Intelligence Committee. It included Hunter Biden; Devon Archer, a former board member of Burisma Holdings; and Alexandra Chalupa, a former Democratic National Committee staffer who Republicans say worked with the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington to get “political dirt” on Trump’s campaign.
Senate Republicans have also come under pressure from other prominent conservatives to play a more active role in Trump’s defense.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a leading member of the conservative House dom Caucus, on Wednesday said Senate Republicans could use their subpoena power effectively.
“Certainly having a much more robust and fair process from the Senate standpoint on issuing subpoenas would be appropriate since we’re been denied a number of witnesses and due process over on the House side,” Meadows said.
Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) said it could help Republicans politically if Senate chairmen got more aggressive in investigating Ukrainian corruption and possible ties to the Bidens.
Asked if a Senate investigation of Ukraine and the Bidens would be helpful, Marchant responded, “From a political standpoint, for my grassroot voter, yes.”
He said “it would be a legitimate thing to do” to use the Senate’s investigative powers to balance the story that House Democrats are laying out through their impeachment probe.