Lefty pundit: Hunter Biden's going to have to take one for the team if calling him at trial means we get to call Bolton and Mulvaney

I bet a lot of progressives share this opinion.

Whether a lot of Democrats do is a separate question. The two groups overlap considerably, but not entirely.

Here’s Elie Mystal, editor of Above the Law, sounding off on the “witness reciprocity” demand being pushed by Ted Cruz. If Democrats get to call John Bolton, we get to call Hunter Biden, Cruz insists.

To which Mystal says: Fantastic, where do I sign? “Go ahead, call Joe Biden! Call Tito Biden, call Elmo Biden, I don’t care!”

If you’re a progressive, Bolton for Hunter is a pretty sweet deal. You’re pretty sure Bolton has info that will strengthen the House’s case, even if there’s no smoking gun, which will make Trump’s eventual acquittal look that much more dubious. Meanwhile, you couldn’t care less what happens to Hunter Biden and by extension what it means for Joe. If anything, watching Hunter get torn apart on direct examination is a twofer for you: Not only do you get Bolton as a witness but maybe Trump’s lawyers can cast enough suspicion on Joe’s behavior towards Ukraine as vice president that Joe will begin to nosedive in the early states, with Dem voters newly convinced that he’s not as electable as they thought. The Bidens’ loss is Bernie’s gain, potentially.

So, sure, for a lefty this trade is a no-brainer. Call Bolton and Lev Parnas in exchange for Hunter and Joe Biden. Go get ’em, Trump defense team! Show no mercy.

If you’re a rank-and-file Democrat, it’s a closer call. Maybe you like Joe. Or maybe you’re iffy on Joe but have been watching the polling and are convinced that he has the best chance of beating Trump and therefore should be nominated as a matter of pure strategy. You might feel confident that Trump’s lawyers wouldn’t be able to prove corruption by Joe Biden or even by Hunter Biden if Hunter were called to the stand (apart from the plain fact that he owed his seat on Burisma’s board to being the vice president’s son). So, arguably, you agree with Mystal that Bolton-for-Hunter is a trade worth making.

But you also know how politics works, that a mere accusation does its own damage even if it’s not substantiated. You know that lots of Americans are going to watch the trial or read the coverage about it casually and inattentively. They’ll hear chatter about Joe Biden leaning on the Ukrainian government to remove a prosecutor while his son’s company was under suspicion of corruption. If it turns out those suspicions are unfounded, they might miss that detail. You also know that Trump will amplify any damaging testimony by Hunter Biden to cast aspersions on Joe. It’s unclear what undecided voters will do with that information, whether they’ll tune it out or simply assume that there must be fire to this Biden/Burisma thing if there’s smoke. Hunter’s testimony could meaningfully impact Joe’s chances next fall given how close everyone expects the race to be in battleground states.

Is that really a trade a rank-and-file Democrat wants to make? On the one hand you get to hear from John Bolton, who may or may not have something truly damaging to say about Trump’s conduct towards Ukraine. And no matter what Bolton says, Trump still gets acquitted. There’s no changing the verdict. On the other hand you’re forced to hear from Hunter Biden and run the risk that the aspersions cast on Joe’s integrity at the trial will ruin the public’s perceptions of him, driving down his popularity to Hillary levels. If Biden comes away from the trial damaged and Trump defeats him narrowly next fall then the trial will have ended up achieving for Trump what the entire Ukraine operation was allegedly designed to achieve, convincing voters that Biden’s a crook and that “draining the swamp” means denying him the presidency.

You sure you want to make that trade?

In lieu of an exit question, here’s Reince Priebus last night on Fox insisting that it … just doesn’t matter if Lev Parnas is telling the truth or not. That sounds a bit like the “bad but not impeachable” theory of acquitting Trump, in which Senate Republicans acknowledge that what he did was unethical but not quite a high crime or misdemeanor. But that’s not how Reince means it, I think, and it’s not a position a GOP senator could take at this point without incurring Trump’s wrath. Priebus seems to mean that everything’s cool and fine even if Adam Schiff’s worst suspicions — pressuring Ukraine to damage the Democratic frontrunner for president — are confirmed.

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