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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Wednesday criticized his Republican colleagues on the Senate Homeland Security Committee for their probe into Joe Biden and his son's dealings in Ukraine, saying that it has the "earmarks of a political exercise."

Why it matters: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who is leading the investigation, told supporters on Monday that "in about a week we’re going to learn a whole lot more of Vice President Biden’s unfitness for office." The committee is investigating Hunter Biden's work for Ukrainian gas company Burisma at a time when Joe Biden was leading the Obama administration's Ukraine policy.

What he's saying: "[The investigation] from the outset had the earmarks of a political exercise," Romney said at a hearing on Wednesday. "I'm fearful that comments made in the media recently have only confirmed that perspective."

  • “It’s not the legitimate role of government, for Congress or for taxpayer expense, to be used in an effort to damage political opponents."
  • "I do believe it's very important that the committees of Congress, and ours in particular, not fall into an increasing pattern that we're seeing, which is using taxpayer dollars and the power of Congress to do political work. That's the role of campaigns."

The big picture: Romney's comments came after Johnson cancelled a vote that would have issued a subpoena to U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Bridget Brink as part of the Burisma probe.

  • The committee did, however, authorize subpoenas on Wednesday targeting former Obama administration officials' roles during the transition to the Trump administration. Romney voted in favor of those subpoenas.
  • Romney said the probe on the Obama officials could dodge "obvious political implications" by focusing on specific allegations alleged in a report by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Flashback: Romney in March said the investigation "appears" politically motivated. But a spokesperson for the senator said the next day he changed his mind after receiving assurances from Johnson that the probe would be handled behind closed doors.

Go deeper: Ron Johnson denies that theory of Ukrainian election interference is "debunked"

Go deeper

Dec 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Sen. Ron Johnson blocks Hawley bill proposing $1,200 stimulus checks

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Friday objected to Sen. Josh Hawley's (R-Mo.) motion to pass a bill via unanimous consent that would provide $1,200 to Americans in the form of direct stimulus checks, citing the ballooning national debt.

Why it matters: Hawley has teamed up with an unlikely partner, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), in a push to include direct payments in Congress' next coronavirus relief package, which has entered the final stages of negotiations.

Updated 52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Biden holds first phone call with Putin, raises Navalny arrest

Putin takes a call in 2017. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty

President Biden on Tuesday held his first call since taking office with Vladimir Putin, pressing the Russian president on the arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the Russia-linked hack on U.S. government agencies.

The state of play: Biden also raised arms control, bounties allegedly placed on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine, according to a White House readout. The statement said Biden and Putin agreed maintain "consistent communication," and that Biden stressed the U.S. would "act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies."