Who the Hell Cares if Hunter Biden Testifies?
The Republican-led threats to call him as a witness in Trump’s impeachment trial may not lead to the outcomes they want
We all already know Joe Biden’s son got himself a cushy gig in Ukraine with questionable characters at the energy company Burisma. And even if Hunter Biden did nothing wrong during the time he sat on that company’s board of directors, he still put himself in a position where there would at least be the appearance of impropriety. Especially since the company and its owner had been the subject of fraud and money laundering investigations before Biden came into the picture, not to mention how his father was vice president at the time. The fact that he’d almost certainly be perceived as falling in with a shady bunch is a sin unto itself. But demanding that Biden testify in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, as top Republicans have done, isn’t going to change or edify that.
That trial is now underway in the Senate, and so far, Democrats have been blocked from subpoenaing documents and key witnesses. The White House has refused to allow witnesses to appear before the Democrat-controlled House, including former national security adviser John Bolton, who’s said publicly he’ll testify before the Senate if subpoenaed. Bolton’s reputation makes him impossible to rely on, but this impeachment was and still is a huge political risk for Democrats. If they don’t succeed in creating a downside to supporting Trump, then after this, he can get away with anything.
Hunter Biden’s testimony might not even be that much of a threat to Joe Biden either.
Trump himself has said he’d be fine with some of his close advisers testifying as part of his Senate trial, including even Bolton, as long as either Joe or Hunter Biden is also questioned. But even if Hunter Biden testifies, it’s not going to change what the president is accused of. Trump withheld already-granted U.S. aid to Ukraine’s new president with the intention of digging up dirt on a political enemy. Trump is also under scrutiny for obstruction of Congress — ignoring subpoenas in defiance of the Constitution and blocking the House from accessing witnesses and documents. (Indeed, those are the same witnesses Trump is now lying about and saying the House didn’t want to testify.) Whether his conspiracy theories about Biden and his son are right or wrong, it doesn’t make what Trump did any more right.
Hunter Biden’s testimony might not even be that much of a threat to Joe Biden either. At first, it seemed the whole Ukraine entanglement definitely would batter the Democratic candidate. But now, we’re not so sure—mainly because it hasn’t so far. Though it hasn’t really been a spotlight issue yet, Americans have historically given a lot of leeway to relatives of presidents who did wacky, inappropriate, or even borderline illicit things. Why? Because everybody’s got one of those kinds of folks in their family.
So bring on Hunter Biden, Sen. Rand Paul!
Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, is telling his colleagues that if they’re intent on hearing witnesses as part of Trump’s trial, then Hunter Biden will be on the list too. Paul’s thesis is that if senators vote against hearing from Biden, their reelection chances will go up in smoke. And Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas wants to tee up Joe Biden as some kind of tit-for-tat in exchange for another witness of Democrats’ choosing, who would almost certainly be a Republican previously or currently in the employ of Trump.
For that matter, bring on Joe Biden too. If he can survive that gauntlet, it’ll give him some immunity to nonstop attacks by Trump on the subject of his son, which are sure to happen should Biden be the Democrats’ nominee. Biden is going to have to spend a lot of time explaining his and his son’s actions whether he wants to or not (and regardless of whether allegations of impropriety are valid or not). If Biden comports himself well and has the fortitude and political skill to come out of a Senate “showdown” with his respectability relatively intact, then, by all means, nominate him. And get it out of the way now instead of letting Trump draw it out as he does.
Sure, testimony by either or both Bidens might shift focus for a while, but it wouldn’t change the key facts of Trump’s impeachment or why there’s a trial going on in the Senate right now: that the president threatened to withhold already approved military aid until a foreign government agreed to announce an investigation solely into a chief political rival and his son and then blocked Congress from fully investigating that in a timely way.