Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair Ron Johnson blamed fellow Republicans on his committee Wednesday for blocking him from subpoenaing former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan and other figures involved in the investigation of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and its contacts with Russia.
"We had a number of my committee members that were highly concerned about how this looks politically," the Wisconsin GOP senator told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who pressed Johnson to identify Republicans standing in the way of a wave of high-profile subpoenas.
Johnson emphasized that he needs the unanimous support of his committee's eight Republicans to advance any subpoenas — one defection would likely result in a 7-7 deadlock with the committee's six Democrats. "If I lose one, I lose the vote," Johnson said.
Hewitt repeatedly asked Johnson to name the Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security Committee who would oppose subpoenaing Comey.
"Hugh, I'm just not going to be naming names that way," Johnson replied.
"If there's a senator who is blocking a subpoena, we need to know who that is so we throw them out," Hewitt said later.
Johnson, who said he's working on the investigation "non-stop," also refused to commit to calling a vote on a Comey subpoena the next time his committee meets. "Not on a radio show, Hugh. Sorry," Johnson said, prompting Hewitt to demand an apology from Johnson "to the American people."
The interview underscores the degree to which there's a reluctance among some Senate Republicans to advance an investigation that Democrats have viewed as a conduit for foreign disinformation aimed at former Vice President Joe Biden less than three months before the election as well as to amplify allegations of corruption by the FBI in its Trump-Russia probe. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of the eight Republicans on Johnson's panel, raised concerns about the investigation's political overtones in the spring, though he ultimately has backed some of the panel's subpoena requests.
Johnson said Republican resistance had delayed his effort to subpoena Blue Star Strategies, a Democratic public relations firm that did work for Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company that Hunter Biden served on the board of. He also cited the lengthy criminal investigations and the coronavirus pandemic for delaying his committee's ability to get documents from the FBI, which he said were essential before seeking live testimony from central witnesses.
Johnson said he's not interested in holding a "show trial" with high-profile witnesses without the documents his committee needs to ask effective questions.
When Hewitt pressed Johnson on whether his committee is working hard enough — questioning why the Senate goes home on weekends and isn't in Washington, D.C., seven days a week — Johnson rejected the premise.
“Whether I'm in D.C. or not, I'm working on this almost nonstop," Johnson said. "So is my staff. I don't need to be in D.C. here."
Johnson also revealed that he hasn't ever met with U.S. attorney John Durham, who is leading a Justice Department probe of the origins of the FBI Russia investigation. Though Johnson said he has met multiple times with Attorney General William Barr, he said he hasn't discussed — and doesn't know — whether Durham has convened a grand jury.