Romney: This new Biden/Burisma probe by Senate Republicans sure does smell political

I don’t know what he’s talking about. Just because congressional Republicans took zero interest in the Bidens for two years, until Joe entered the race last spring and suddenly the president and his lawyer were scrambling to pressure Ukraine into reopening an investigation into Burisma?

What smells political about that? Why, it’s just a big coincidence.

The rote denials that there are partisan motives behind these clearly partisan investigations irritates me at this point more than the investigations themselves do. Democrats never would have followed through on impeachment if they hadn’t convinced themselves that they’d benefit on Election Day by doing so; Republicans wouldn’t waste a moment on Biden and Burisma if they didn’t think it’d be useful in holding down Joe’s numbers in swing states this fall. But each has to pretend that they care only for The Republic at a moment when the entire political leadership class seems never to have given less of a collective sh*t about the country. Publicly, I mean; privately, TrumpWorld is pretty open about the fact that, yes, they’re going to try to use Burisma to weaken Biden.

Ron Johnson, who’s leading this effort, has taken to spinning it as something for which the opposition should be grateful: “If I were a Democrat primary voter, I’d want these questions satisfactorily answered before I cast my final vote.” I’d respect him more if he answered questions about the timing by simply saying, “Politics ain’t beanbag.” House Democrats have spent the past 14 months conducting investigations of Trump with hopes of a payoff in November. The favor’s now being returned.

Unless Mitt Romney stops it:

The Senate Homeland Security Committee is set to vote next Wednesday on a subpoena for records from a Democratic public relations firm related to the panel’s investigation of conflict-of-interest allegations against the Bidens.

But Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a member of the panel, has hinted that he could vote against issuing the subpoena, noting the committee’s investigation might look political in nature given Biden’s resurgence and the increasing likelihood that he’ll become the Democratic presidential nominee…

Republicans hold a slim 8-6 majority, and if just one GOP senator joins all Democrats, it would mean a 7-7 tie that would result in a failure to issue the subpoena.

“I would prefer that investigations are done by an independent, nonpolitical body,” said Mitt. Okay, but that logic’s not going to fly with righties. Bill Barr’s Justice Department gave Trump a clean bill of legal health last September within days of the Ukraine story breaking big and that didn’t stop House Democrats from launching a months-long investigation. If Democrats won’t treat the DOJ’s verdict on wrongdoing as gospel, why should Republicans? Of course, Democrats would say that the DOJ under Barr isn’t an “independent, nonpolitical body” in any meaningful sense, in which case (a) House Dems had to investigate Ukraine themselves and (b) there’s no reason to believe they’d be evenhanded in investigating Burisma. And Romney might say that just because House Democrats won’t refrain from highly politicized investigations of the president is no reason for the GOP to stoop to the same depths. (A key difference between Romney Republicanism and Trump Republicanism.)

Although given that Romney was the one Republican in Congress to actually validate the impeachment probe by voting to remove, that’d be an awkward argument for him, huh?

I’m intrigued at the possibility that he might block the subpoena, just because a second vote to handicap Trump so soon after his removal vote would be the clearest sign yet that Romney intends to operate as a right-leaning independent for the remainder of the Trump presidency, if not beyond. I stress: A right-leaning independent…

…but an independent nonetheless. He voted in Utah’s presidential primary on Tuesday night and was asked afterwards whom he voted for. “A Republican,” he answered. Trump, he was asked? “Not saying,” he answered. Ahem.

He may end up getting some political cover on blocking the subpoena from an unlikely source. Politico reported last week that Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intel Committee, had huddled recently with Johnson to warn him to be careful with the Biden probe:

In a Dec. 5 meeting, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Finance committees — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, respectively — that their probe targeting Biden could aid Russian efforts to sow chaos and distrust in the U.S. political system, according to two congressional sources familiar with the meeting.

Even a Trump loyalist as devoted as Lindsey Graham has expressed concerns about Russian disinformation ending up as part of Rudy Giuliani’s “fact-finding” efforts in Ukraine. Romney could try to justify a vote against the subpoena on grounds that he’s worried it’ll end up as a tool to inject more Kremlin nonsense into the country’s information bloodstream. “One dossier is enough,” something like that.

Exit question: What do we make now of the hot takes that were circulating three weeks ago that Trump’s Ukraine gambit had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, tempting Democrats into an impeachment saga that ended up promoting the Burisma stuff and ultimately badly damaging Biden’s campaign? My read on it was that Burisma hadn’t hurt Biden much; rather, his campaign was failing because he was an underwhelming candidate who’d never proved his national viability in three runs for the presidency. Three weeks later the guy is posed for a 50-point win in Florida. Pretty safe to say that Burisma hasn’t hurt Joe much. Yet.

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