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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.

5 mins ago - World

Scoop: Ukraine tells senators post-invasion sanctions are no help

Zelensky. Photo: Johanna Geron/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told U.S. senators visiting Kyiv this week that waiting to impose sanctions on Russia until after an invasion is of no use to Ukraine, according to four sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: The Senate is currently working on a major sanctions package to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine. Democrats and Republicans are united in their support for Ukraine, but divided over whether it would be more effective to sanction Russia now to signal resolve, or hold up the threat of future sanctions to demonstrate the high costs of an invasion.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks has dropped plans to require that U.S. workers get the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly testing, the company announced Tuesday in a memo to employees.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.