Romney: Fine, I'll vote for a subpoena in the Senate's Burisma investigation

Sorry, Mitt. I’m afraid I’m going to have to confiscate your Never Trump card now.

No, no, I kid. After he voted for removal in the Senate trial, Romney is chairman for life of Never Trump. You can’t ask for his card back. He can ask for yours.

Read this post for background if you missed it, describing Romney’s reluctance to have the Senate rather than the DOJ investigate Burisma at a moment when the Democratic primary is giving the GOP a very clear electoral reason to want to chase this rabbit. As a member of Ron Johnson’s Homeland Security Committee, he has the power to block a subpoena from issuing; the committee is split 8-6 between Republicans and Democrats and a subpoena requires a majority vote. Romney sounded iffy 24 hours ago about whether he’d stick with his party but today brings news that he will. For now.

Liz Johnson, a spokeswoman for Romney, said Friday that he would support the subpoena — which is expected to request documents and an interview with former Blue Star Strategies consultant Andrii Telizhenko — during Wednesday’s committee meeting after getting assurances from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

“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. He will therefore vote to let the Chairman proceed to obtain the documents that have been offered,” Johnson said…

Romney and Johnson [recently] met in the Senate’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) to discuss the probe and review information that Johnson has already collected.

Romney, after the meeting, still appeared skeptical, telling reporters that he was “considering” his vote and that “there’s no question the appearance is not good.”

It’s fun sifting through lefty reactions on social media this afternoon to his decision, especially so soon after the big impeachment vote. Lotta “I thought you were a decent man with integrity, Mitt!” caterwauling, sprinkled with a bit of “Romney’s holding a grudge against Biden for 2012!” theorizing. Yesterday the shrieking was coming from righties convinced that Romney was blocking the subpoena because he’s holding a grudge against Trump over 2016 and/or because a former Romney advisor worked for Burisma and Mitt is now covering up for him or whatever. Each side will take turns hating him as circumstances warrant. Today it was the left’s turn.

It sounds like Romney forced Johnson into a compromise. Presumably Republicans on the committee wanted to interview Telizhenko in an open hearing, to maximize the circulation of any damaging material produced in testimony about the Bidens and Burisma. It appears now it’ll happen behind closed doors, in a less formal setting. It may be that Romney also warned Johnson that his willingness to support new subpoenas isn’t infinite. If the Telizhenko interview produces a meaningful lead that’s worth chasing then they’ll chase it. If Telizhenko doesn’t give them much of anything useful about Hunter Biden then maybe Romney will decide that the fishing expedition is over. The whole point of his impeachment vote was that he thought using official power to squeeze Ukrainians for electoral advantage this fall was dirty pool. It’d be weird if he was willing to remove Trump from office for doing that while greenlighting an attempt by his own Senate committee to something similar.

If he did start voting against subpoenas it would put McConnell in a spot. Trump will doubtless be furious if “his” Homeland Security Committee isn’t pursuing all leads to help him gain an advantage over Biden. If Romney becomes an immovable obstacle, Trump will demand that he be yanked from the committee and replaced with someone more “loyal.” What will McConnell do in that case? Maybe he’ll comply. If he thinks the Burisma probe will give Susan Collins and Cory Gardner a useful talking point in Maine and Colorado, it’d be in their — and his — interest to free Johnson’s hand to start investigating more aggressively.

Exit question: Is Romney going to endorse Biden this fall? Nah, c’mon. Even though he is the candidate of many Never Trumpers

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