Senate Homeland Security Committee chair Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) backed down on issuing a subpoena to a controversial witness in his investigation of Joe Biden, just one hour before a hearing on the demand was set to take place.
The subpoena was to be sent to Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian diplomat and political consultant who has peddled explosive, unsubstantiated allegations about the Democratic Party and the Biden family since President Trump’s January 2017 inauguration.
Johnson said in a statement that he had chosen to “postpone” a vote on subpoenaing Telizhenko for records and testimony “out of an abundance of caution.”
Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), the ranking member on the committee, had tried to block a subpoena to Telizhenko in part due to concerns that his testimony would form part of “disinformation efforts by Russian or other actors.” Peters had demanded defensive briefings from the FBI and the intelligence community “specifically regarding Mr. Telizhenko.”
Telizhenko was caught unawares by the senator’s decision to pull back, and apparently only learned of it when TPM asked him for comment.
“Did not see that,” Telizhenko told TPM in a Facebook message. “I though it was at 2:30 pm.”
A Committee markup to issue the subpoena was scheduled to be held at 2:30 p.m.
The panel is still considering a subpoena to Blue Star Strategies, a D.C. lobbying firm hired by Ukrainian gas company Burisma to burnish its image. Burisma also hired Hunter Biden, the Democratic frontrunner’s son, onto its board in 2014 after its founder had fled Ukraine amid allegations of embezzlement.
In a statement, Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates told TPM that Sen. Johnson was “diverting the attention and taxpayer-funded resources of the Senate Homeland Security Committee away from the coronavirus outbreak, which was just designated a global pandemic, to clutch at a conspiracy theory that every fact-checker has debunked.”
“He has as much credibility on this issue as Bernie Madoff did on pension funds,” Bates said.
Telizhenko was hired by Blue Star as a consultant in the effort. The investigation has ramped up in recent weeks as Biden surged back into the headlines as he came close to securing the Democratic nomination.
After being shown a copy of the statement from Johnson, Telizhenko sent TPM a thumbs up emoji.
This story has been updated with a comment from the Biden campaign.