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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senate Republicans, led by Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), on Wednesday released an interim report on their probe into Joe Biden and his son's dealings in Ukraine.

Why it matters: The report's rushed release ahead of the presidential election is certainly timed to damage Biden, amplifying bipartisan concern that the investigation was meant to target the former vice president's electoral chances.

  • The Senate Homeland Security Committee and GOP staff for the Senate Finance Committee investigated Hunter Biden's work for Ukrainian gas company Burisma at a time when Joe Biden was leading the Obama administration's Ukraine policy.

The state of play: The report ultimately fails to support one of Republicans' top claims about the Burisma affair — that, as vice president, Joe Biden fought for the ouster of Ukraine's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to protect Burisma and his son from scrutiny on corruption issues.

  • In fact, European countries and international bodies had contemporaneously accused Shokin of failing to pursue corruption, including in the Burisma case, and wanted him fired.
  • The report also leans on a statement from senior U.S. diplomat George Kent that Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine was "very awkward" — a sentiment he already expressed last year during President Trump's impeachment hearings.
  • Kent also told impeachment investigators that Joe Biden had done nothing wrong with his Ukraine work.

The other side: Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said that Johnson's investigation served to "subsidize a foreign attack against the sovereignty of our elections with taxpayer dollars — an attack founded on a long-disproven, hardcore right-wing conspiracy theory."

  • Democrats have called the probe a "fishing expedition" intended to damage Biden ahead of the election, while intelligence officials have warned that some of the sources Johnson relied on may be laundering Russian disinformation.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said last week that the investigation had the "earmarks of a political exercise." He added, "It’s not the legitimate role of government, for Congress or for taxpayer expense, to be used in an effort to damage political opponents."

The bottom line, via Politico's Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney: The report "is largely a compilation of previously public information — some of it rehashed anew by witnesses who already testified during the House’s impeachment inquiry last year — as well as news articles and strongly worded insinuations with little evidence to back them up."

Read the report.

Go deeper

Romney: White House should "say something aggressive" on Russian cyberattack

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called on the White House to “aggressively” condemn a suspected Russian cyberattack in an interview with SiriusXM on Thursday evening.

Why it matters: Since news broke that hackers tied to Russia penetrated U.S. government networks and companies, public officials including President-elect Biden have come forward with rebukes. President Trump has been largely silent, though the White House has held emergency meetings with officials across agencies to address the breach, per Bloomberg.

UN poll: Most see climate change as global emergency amid pandemic

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) fronts a Fridays For Future protest at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm in September. Photo: Jonathan Nacksrtrand/AFP via Getty Images

64% of people from around the world say climate change is a global emergency, a United Nations poll published Wednesday finds.

Why it matters: It's biggest global survey on climate change ever conducted, with some 1.2 million participants from 50 countries — including the U.S. where 65% of those surveyed view climate change as an emergency.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.