May 20, 2020

Senate Hearing Transcript on Biden-Burisma Subpoena & Inspector General Nominee

Senate Hearing on Burisma Hunter Biden
RevBlogTranscriptsCongressional Testimony & Hearing TranscriptsSenate Hearing Transcript on Biden-Burisma Subpoena & Inspector General Nominee

The Senate held a hearing today, in which the committee authorized a subpoena into the Hunter Biden & Burisma investigation. Read the full transcript of the hearing here.

 

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Senator Ron Johnson: (06:07)
The committee meets to consider subpoena. I note the presence of a quorum. Again, I want to thank the members for coming here and providing a quorum. I do want to announce that we will not be voting on Brian Miller who’s nominated to be the Special Inspector General for the pandemic recovery. I really do appreciate the cooperation we got from the ranking member in the minority. This is an important position in terms of oversight of the CARES Act, a massive spending bill and we’ll fully support those type of oversight efforts. I worked with the Senator Peters on a different version of oversight on this prior to the passage of the CARE Act, and I certainly appreciate that as well. So we will just be able to discharge the nominee from our committee. Hopefully, get him confirmed before the holiday weekend would be nice. It’d be nice to get to the oversight efforts, starting on the CARE Act as quickly as possible. The other business item we’ll be conducting here is the motion to subpoena Blue Star. The subpoena to Blue Star Strategies is for documents to January 1st of 2013, or January 1st, 2013, to present related to work for Burisma or those associated with Burisma. Also, for the attendance of CEO, Karen Tramontano, for a deposition regarding that work and the attendance of COO, Sally Painter, for a deposition regarding that work. That’s what we’re here to meet today and to vote on. And with that, I’ll turn it over to Senator Peters if you have any opening comments.

Senator Gary Peters: (07:34)
I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As is obvious to all of us, we’re in the middle of an unprecedented public health and economic emergency. More than 90,000 Americans have died during this pandemic and nearly 36 million Americans are currently out of work. This committee has a long standing nonpartisan tradition of oversight of our nation’s disaster response and safeguarding our homeland security. And I believe that should always be our top priority.

Senator Gary Peters: (08:11)
We should be working together to hold oversight hearings on the pandemic response efforts with the administration. We should be working together to reassure worried families that the federal government is capable of moving us towards reopening safely. And at this moment when Americans need us to work together, this extremely partisan investigation is pulling us apart. We are all here today in close proximity with each other and our staffs in close proximity to each other in the middle of an ongoing crisis that has already cost far too many American lives and costs Americans more jobs than the Great Recession. To cast a single vote on a partisan subpoena to obtain some documents from…

Senator Gary Peters: (09:03)
On a partisan subpoena, to obtain some documents from four years ago, documents that are already being substantially provided to the committee.

Senator Gary Peters: (09:10)
Mr. Chairman, I’d like at this point to enter into the record a letter from Blue Star Strategies received. And I’ll just quote one paragraph here, “At every opportunity, we have indicated to the committee that it is our intention to cooperate. At no time have we ever stated or indicated in any way that we would not cooperate. Therefore we are puzzled, despite our willingness to cooperate, why the committee is proceeding to vote on this subpoena.” Without objection, if I can enter into the record?

Senator Ron Johnson: (09:37)
Without objection, it’ll be entered into the record. But I will refute what they’re saying in that letter. But without objection it will be entered.

Senator Gary Peters: (09:46)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is not a serious bipartisan investigation in the tradition of this committee. And I believe we should not be going down this dangerous road.

Senator Gary Peters: (09:58)
We are the Homeland Security Committee. And we have jurisdiction over election interference. And we should be working together to strengthen our national security and fight against foreign influence. Unfortunately, this misguided subpoena risked amplifying efforts of our foreign adversaries to interfere in the 2020 election. This should not be about politics. What we need to be focused on is national security. And we should be acting that way as a committee.

Senator Gary Peters: (10:29)
I have been requesting, since December, that the members of this committee be briefed by both the FBI and the intelligence community. We can’t allow this committee to be taken advantage of, by adversaries who are seeking to subvert our democracy. And I again ask, Mr. Chairman, if we could arrange briefings before we go further down the road, with both the FBI as well as the intelligence community.

Senator Gary Peters: (10:54)
And, with that in mind, I’d like to offer a motion to put on the table. Mr. Chairman, I move to table consideration of this subpoena, until members of this committee receive briefings related to this investigation, and foreign intelligence efforts from the FBI and the intelligence community.

Senator Ron Johnson: (11:13)
Your motion is noted. Does any member wish to discuss the motion? If not, the committee will proceed to consideration of the motion to table the subpoena vote.

Speaker 2: (11:24)
May I ask for a roll call vote?

Senator Ron Johnson: (11:26)
Okay, clear to call the vote of the roll.

Clerk: (11:29)
Senator Portman.

Senator Portman: (11:31)
No.

Clerk: (11:32)
Senator Paul.

Senator Paul: (11:33)
No.

Clerk: (11:35)
Senator Lankford.

Senator Lankford: (11:36)
No.

Clerk: (11:38)
Senator Romney.

Speaker 3: (11:42)
Oh, no by proxy.

Clerk: (11:44)
Senator Scott.

Senator Scott: (11:45)
No.

Clerk: (11:47)
Senator Enzi.

Senator Enzi: (11:49)
No.

Clerk: (11:50)
Senator Hawley.

Senator Hawley: (11:51)
No.

Clerk: (11:53)
Senator Peters.

Senator Peters: (11:54)
Yes.

Clerk: (11:56)
Senator Carper.

Senator Peters: (11:57)
Yes, by proxy.

Clerk: (11:59)
Senator Hassan.

Senator Hassan: (12:00)
Yes.

Clerk: (12:02)
Senator Harris.

Senator Kamala Harris: (12:02)
Yes.

Clerk: (12:05)
Senator Sinema.

Speaker 4: (12:06)
Yes, by proxy.

Clerk: (12:08)
Senator Rosen.

Senator Rosen: (12:09)
Yes.

Clerk: (12:10)
Senator Johnson.

Senator Ron Johnson: (12:12)
Yes. I mean, no. Kind of get on a roll there.

Clerk: (12:29)
Mr. Chairman, on the vote of those present, the yeas are four, the nays are seven. On the vote by proxy, the yeas are two, the nays are one. On this vote, the yeas are six, the nays are eight. And the motion is not agreed to.

Senator Ron Johnson: (12:43)
The motion on the subpoena is not tabled. So the committee will proceed to the consideration of the motion to issue a subpoena to blue star strategies, as described in Schedule A. Does any member wish to discuss the motion? If not, the question’s on the motion before us. The clerk will call the roll.

Speaker 5: (12:59)
Mr. Chairman?

Senator Ron Johnson: (13:00)
Oh. Senator Hassan.

Senator Hassan: (13:04)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Our nation is in the midst of a crisis, the likes of which we have not seen in my lifetime. More than 90,000 Americans are dead. And more than 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment.

Senator Hassan: (13:19)
In my state of New Hampshire, our nursing homes tell me that they still don’t have rapid testing and personal protective equipment, at the levels that would help them truly protect their residents and their workers. We lost 10 people yesterday, nine of whom were in nursing homes. And we don’t yet have the nationwide public health strategy in place that we need, to allow our economy to begin to recover.

Senator Hassan: (13:41)
There is much urgent work for this committee, and the Senate as a whole, to carry out. This markup is not that work, to put it politely. This committee oversees the federal emergency management agency, as well as the entire department of Homeland security. It also oversees how the federal government interacts with states and localities and the Postal Service.

Senator Hassan: (14:08)
All of these functions are key to a robust, coordinated federal response to the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis. We should hold hearings with all relevant administration officials on topics, including the plan to fix continuing supply chain issues, our national testing capacity, how the federal government is working with states, and the future of the Postal Service. We need to keep pressing for a strategy to quickly ramp up production and distribution of a vaccine, once we have one, to avoid the unacceptable shortages we have seen with personal protective equipment and testing supplies. That is to say nothing of the after action review that will be needed, once we get through this, to answer why the United States of America is being hit harder than any other country on the face of earth by this pandemic. The kind of broad government wide review that led to the creation of the Department of Homeland security, that this committee oversees.

Senator Hassan: (15:08)
Instead of focusing on those urgent tasks, this committee is spending its time on partisan nonsense and conspiracy theories. Today’s markup fails to further the health and economic wellbeing of the American people, which should without question be our focus right now. It also actually risks amplifying Russian disinformation efforts, to further erode our democracy. We should work together to help our fellow Americans through this crisis, not further Russian interests.

Senator Hassan: (15:44)
This is a sad day for our committee, with its long standing record of strong and non-partisan oversight. It is a privilege to serve with each of you on this committee, to help keep the American people safe, secure, and free. Let’s get back to this mission, rather than spend one more second on this charade, a charade that would be silly if it were not so insidious, a charade that is beneath this committee and the United States Senate. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Senator Ron Johnson: (16:20)
Any other Senator wish to speak to this? Senator Harris.

Senator Kamala Harris: (16:25)
Mr. Chairman, this committee has the responsibility, dare I say the duty, to investigate threats against the homeland, and watch over how federal government and our federal government is preparing to respond to them. This clearly includes how government agencies are addressing COVID-19.

Senator Kamala Harris: (16:45)
These agencies, for which we have oversight jurisdiction, and a duty of oversight, include FEMA, which is tasked to coordinate and lead the entire federal government’s response, including procuring testing materials, distributing PPE, and ensuring the public is receiving accurate information about the virus. It also includes ICE, which is responsible for protecting the health and safety of those in its custody, a population that is particularly vulnerable to infection by COVID-19.

Senator Kamala Harris: (17:23)
Our oversight and duty of oversight includes the Office of Personnel Management, which is responsible for federal workers and their benefits, many of whom are on the front lines and do not have the option to telework. Our oversight responsibilities include the United States Postal Service, which has become an even more vital resource during this time, by ensuring that people have access to essential goods like medicine, toiletry, and voter ballots.

Senator Kamala Harris: (17:57)
It is this committee’s responsibility, and this committee alone, to determine how effective-

Senator Kamala Harris: (18:03)
… this committee alone to determine how effective these agencies have been at fulfilling their responsibilities to the American people. On February 12th of this year, Mr. Chairman, you convened a round table entitled, “Are we prepared protecting the US from global pandemics?” At that time, I asked you why we did not have even one current administration official testifying, why there was not even one current member of the Trump administration that was testifying so that we could have accurate and current information about the plan, if one exists, to protect the American people against this pandemic. 98 days later from that day, today, our country has 1,000,528 cases and 91,938 deaths. We are the world leader in confirmed cases and deaths. Our country makes up 4% of the world’s population and over 30% of the cases. Based on recent numbers we’ve seen, every day that we fail to schedule an oversight hearing, Mr. Chairman, every day you fail to schedule an oversight hearing, an average of at least 20,000 people in America will become infected because of this virus, and an average of at least 1000 Americans will die each day from the virus.

Senator Kamala Harris: (19:44)
Our committee must provide oversight, because the American people and our constituents deserve to know what is going on. They demand to know why there is still no national testing strategy for COVID-19. They demand to have accurate and transparent death toll statistics based on expert methodology, free from political influence. They demand to know if the Postal Service will be able to avoid bankruptcy and continue to deliver medicine to seniors through the duration of this pandemic. They demand to know why more than 1000 people in ICE custody have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 2 have died. They demand to know how the Office of Personnel Management is protecting frontline workers. They demand to know whether the Department of Health and Human Services has been able to ensure that testing and treatment is free for all Americans, including communities of color and the uninsured. They demand to know why a disproportionate number of deaths are happening in the African American community. In fact, in Milwaukee County, I know you know, black people make up 27% of the population, but 52% of the deaths. This pandemic is the biggest crisis our country has faced since this committee was created. How the government responds to this crisis will define the future of our country. Yet, Mr. Chairman, you made a unilateral decision to convene this meeting on a matter wholly unrelated to the threat, the deadly threat facing our constituents. You made the decision to force a vote on a purely political matter that will do absolutely nothing for those at risk of contracting COVID-19. The matter you want us to consider is to grant you additional legal authority to demand documents from a public relations firm that I understand is willing to give those documents to this committee. This is not nearly as urgent as COVID-19 and our duty to perform oversight over the federal agencies that are supposed to be helping the American people. It is not helpful for the Homeland Security Committee to prioritize divisive political subpoenas which will only so further distrust among the American people and fuel skepticism about our democratic system of government.

Senator Kamala Harris: (22:21)
Today’s agenda reveals a lot about the Senate majority’s priorities, sadly. There are literally matters of life and death waiting for our committee’s attention, but instead, this committee is doing the President’s personal bidding. Members of this committee, I urge you to vote against this political side show so that we can focus our attention on the pandemic that is threatening the lives and livelihood of the American people. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Senator Ron Johnson: (22:57)
Thank you, Senator Harris. I will give any member that wants to speak to this chance to speak after we vote. I want to be mindful of everybody’s time. At this point in time …

Senator Carper: (23:06)
Mr. Chairman?

Senator Ron Johnson: (23:06)
Yes?

Senator Carper: (23:06)
Mr. Chairman?

Senator Ron Johnson: (23:09)
No, we’ll do it after the vote. The motions on the question before us-

Senator Carper: (23:16)
Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that I have an opportunity to speak for five minutes?

Senator Ron Johnson: (23:18)
Sorry, I couldn’t understand you.

Senator Carper: (23:19)
I ask unanimous consent to speak for five minutes.

Senator Ron Johnson: (23:23)
I’m sorry. I can’t understand the muffled …

Senator Carper: (23:25)
I ask unanimous consent to speak for five minutes, please.

Senator Ron Johnson: (23:29)
After we take the vote.

Senator Carper: (23:32)
Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman?

Senator Ron Johnson: (23:37)
No more than five minutes, and this will be the last member speaking before we actually take the vote. Go ahead, Senator Carper.

Senator Carper: (23:45)
Thank you.

Senator Ron Johnson: (23:46)
Put the clock on.

Senator Carper: (23:49)
Blue Star Strategy, who is Blue Star Strategy? I have no idea. They’re led by a woman named Karen Tramontano. Who is she? She used to be a Deputy Chief of Staff in the Clinton administration his last term. She worked alongside Erskine Bowles. She worked alongside former Secretary of Health and Social Service, Sylvia Burwell. I called Erskine Bowles and said, “Who is this woman?” He said, “I worked with her for years. She’s a very fine woman. One of the finest people I’ve worked with.” That’s who she is. She’s willing to meet with this panel, this committee, anytime. They’ve provided the information. They’ve been responsive to the request for information, not once, not twice, as recently again as this week. They’re willing to come and talk with you. Ask any questions that you want.

Senator Carper: (24:34)
Their attorney is a guy named Peter Kadzik. Who is he? I didn’t know who he was so I found out. He was a partner for 30 years at the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro. He was a US attorney. For the last several years, he’s been a partner at Venable. He’s the fellow that we’ve been working with, that your team has been working with.

Senator Carper: (24:58)
Yesterday, a wonderful woman died. Her name was Annie Glenn. Who is she? She’s the widow of John Glenn, who used to lead this committee. He used to lead this committee with people like Bill Roth. You know what? They worked together. They got all kinds of stuff done. When I was elected to the United States Senate, I asked Joe Leiberman, I said, “What committee should I try to get on?” He said, “Get on governmental affairs. You’re a treasurer. You’re a governor. You’ll be good at this. Do oversight, save money. You’ll like it.” Little did I know that later that year, 9/11 would come along. We’d face the biggest crisis we’d face probably since World War II. You know what happened? We pulled together. This committee, under the leadership of Susan Collins, under the leadership of Joe Lieberman, pulled together. 9/11 Commission gave us 40 unanimously approved recommendations. We adopted them, almost all of them. We implemented almost all of them. You could walk into a room, a staff meeting between Susan’s staff and Joe’s, you wouldn’t know who was whose side. It was just that good.

Senator Carper: (26:10)
Look, we face the biggest crisis we faced, I think, since 9/11, since 9/11. Kamala has already shared with us some of the challenges that we face in this pandemic. We’ve already lost more people, more lives than we lost in the Vietnam War. Before this is over, we’ll lose twice as many. Excuse me just for a second. Our unemployment rate will soon reach what it was in the Great Depression. We [inaudible 00:26:52] up more new debt in four months than we have in four decades. There’s a crying need for oversight on all this stuff, and we’re not doing it. Postal Service going down again. Meanwhile, what are we going to focus on? We’re going to-

Senator Carper: (27:03)
… the service going down again. And meanwhile, what are we going to focus on? We’re going to focus on this, which rally divides us. I’ll close with this, Mr. Chairman. My first year in the Senate, I was presiding over the Senate and a guy named Mike Enzi got up to speak and he talked about the 80-20 rule. I didn’t know what he was talking about. And I asked him to come and talk to me as the presiding officer. I said, “So, what is the 80-20 rule?” He said, “The 80-20 rule is what makes Ted Kennedy and me so successful in leading the health committee.” And I said, “What is it?” And he said, ” Ted and I agree on 80% of the stuff. We disagree on 20% of the stuff. We focus on the 80% where we agree. We set aside the other 20% and we’ll come back and deal with that some other time.”

Senator Carper: (27:42)
We should abide by Mike Enzi’s advice. Let’s focus on where we agree. There’s so much to be done in the wake of this pandemic. So much to be done. We should focus on that, not the stuff that divides us. And last, I want to say, your words, Mr. Chairman, this is your words from last week, and you said, at the end of our hearing, you said to me, “I appreciate your comments. And I appreciate really the way you have approached your chairmanship when you were the ranking member as well. And I think we have all continued attrition as Susan Collins, Senator Lee and myself, yourself, Tom Coburn, laid out for this committee.” You thanked me for my work. I thanked you for those words. I want you to be that chairman who spoke that day. We need you to be that chairman. Our country needs. Be that chairman. Thank you.

Senator Ron Johnson: (28:26)
As the committee members are well aware, this is not my choice to spend any amount of time on this vote. I would have issued the subpoenas quietly, would have gathered the information. We would’ve moved on. I would remind everybody when we spoke about the [Telashanko 00:28:44] subpoena down in the skiff, it was actually bipartisan suggestion. If you want the records from Blue Star, why don’t you just subpoena Blue Star. I said, “So I will.” And so that’s what we’re doing here. So now we’ll vote. The question is on the motion before us. The clerk will call the roll.

Speaker 7: (29:01)
Senator Portman.

Senator Portman: (29:02)
Aye.

Speaker 7: (29:04)
Senator Paul.

Senator Paul: (29:05)
Yes.

Speaker 7: (29:07)
Senator Lankford.

Senator Lankford: (29:07)
Aye.

Speaker 7: (29:09)
Senator Romney.

Senator Romney: (29:11)
Aye by proxy.

Speaker 7: (29:12)
Senator Scott.

Senator Scott: (29:13)
Aye.

Speaker 7: (29:15)
Senator Enzi.

Senator Enzi: (29:15)
Aye.

Speaker 7: (29:17)
Senator Hawley.

Senator Hawley: (29:18)
Aye.

Speaker 7: (29:20)
Senator Peters.

Senator Peters: (29:21)
No.

Speaker 7: (29:23)
Senator Carper.

Senator Carper: (29:24)
No.

Speaker 7: (29:25)
Senator Hassan.

Senator Hassan: (29:27)
No.

Speaker 7: (29:27)
Senator Harris.

Senator Kamala Harris: (29:28)
No.

Speaker 7: (29:28)
Senator Sinema.

Senator Ron Johnson: (29:31)
No by proxy.

Speaker 7: (29:33)
Senator Rosen.

Senator Rosen: (29:34)
No.

Speaker 7: (29:35)
Senator Johnson.

Senator Ron Johnson: (29:36)
Aye.

Speaker 7: (29:48)
Mr. Chairman on the vote of those present, the yeas are seven, the nays are five. On the vote by proxy, the yeas are one, the nays are one. On this vote, the yeas are eight, the nays are six, and the motion is agreed to.

Senator Ron Johnson: (30:02)
Before I give any other member a chance to speak, I only add that this committee has obviously done all kinds of oversight. Two weeks after the hearing that Senator Harris referred to, we had administration officials come before us. Most of us are participating on multiple conference calls this administration has made available where we can ask all kinds of questions. So that has been by far what most of us have spent our time on is addressing this horrific crisis that faces this nation. Again, it was not my desire to even publicize these subpoenas. I just wanted to gather the information. I just wanted to make sure the American people understand the truth. With that statement, anybody else wish to speak? Senator Scott. Can you turn your …

Senator Scott: (30:53)
Mr. Chairman, I’m supporting this probe today because we need to get to the truth about the Biden’s relationship with Burisma, and these hearings will provide the Senate with the full picture. The public deserves to know how a guy who was vice president of the United States, who is currently trying to be president, got away with using the US government to force a foreign country to stop investigating a company that was paying his son over $30,000 or $80,000 a month. Thank you.

Senator Ron Johnson: (31:20)
Anyone else wishes to speak? This business meeting is adjourned.