But Democrats have accused Johnson, a Republican in Wisconsin, of using both investigations to try to smear Trump̵
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah expressed concern that the Ukrainian investigation “had the earmarks for a political exercise.”
“It is not the legitimate role of the government that Congress or taxpayers’ spending should be used in an attempt to harm political opponents,” Romney said at Wednesday’s committee meeting.
“I do not think it will reflect well on him,” Johnson told reporters Tuesday.
Johnson accused Democrats of even spreading misinformation by claiming he was working with Derkach, saying they carried out a “coordinated ironing out” to “repeat, distort and embellish false accusations.”
The panel’s ranked Democrat, Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, accused Wednesday that Johnson’s investigation was “designed to influence the presidential election.” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said Johnson had “admitted the true purpose of this scam: to save Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.”
Romney said Wednesday that the Ukrainian probe “from the beginning had the earmarks for a political exercise.”
“I’m afraid media comments recently have only confirmed this perspective,” he added, nodding to Johnson’s comments earlier this week.
Romney told CNN on Wednesday that his previous vote for Ukrainian investigative subpoenas allowed him to “get some protections” within the scope of the investigation. Romney opposed Johnson’s original plan to sue Andrii Telizhenko, a Ukrainian who has been spreading election conspiracy theories in 2016 and who Derkach has worked with the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Romney says he has not yet seen the committee’s report or the testimony the panel has given.
Austin Altenburg, a spokesman for Johnson, said in response to Romney’s comments: “This is Congress. Everything here has implications for politics and elections. The committee is explicitly empowered to investigate conflicts of interest, and its investigation into Burisma and US-Ukraine policy began. long before the Democratic presidential candidate has been decided. The American people have the right to know what happened and did not happen. ”
The committee has previously approved the subpoena of documents to most of the same officials it is nominating for deposit on Wednesday. The party line vote on Wednesday added seven new officials to the list, including former FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
The committee planned to issue a subpoena to a Obama-era State Department official, Bridget Brink, who is now U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, but Johnson said Tuesday that the interview was scheduled voluntarily.
A person familiar with the investigation said Obama State Department official Amos Hochstein should also be interviewed by the committee on Thursday. The panel has already interviewed several officials from the Obama-era prime minister, including George Kent, a key witness under the prosecution.
This story has been updated with further development on Wednesday.
CNN’s Kara Scannell and Manu Raju contributed to this report.