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."