Music to Mitch McConnell’s ears. Between this and the disapproving comments about witness reciprocity from Schumer and Schiff, it’s getting harder for the centrists in the GOP caucus to justify calling Bolton.
After all, what Susan Collins and the rest want from Democrats in return for agreeing to subpoena Bolton is credit. Credit for being fair, sort of. Credit for being independent. Credit for having done the right thing by trying to get to the truth of Trump’s intentions towards Ukraine. That credit is something they can tout to swing voters as proof of their independence and integrity.
Now here’s the Senate minority leader, the lead impeachment manager, and the leading Democratic candidate for president all suggesting on the same day that approving a Bolton-for-Hunter deal won’t get Collins et al. any credit after all. They’ll be attacked anyway as Trump’s lackeys, muddying the waters about whether the president engaged in misconduct by introducing the Bidens’ ethical scruples into the mix, even though Bolton-for-Hunter is the best centrist Republicans can do realistically for Democrats. Any GOPer who agreed to subpoena Bolton without giving Trump his own pick of witnesses to call would be attacked as a traitor by the right. It doesn’t do a RINO any good to pander to moderate voters at the cost of enraging their base.
So if Collins can’t afford to call Bolton without calling Hunter but she also can’t call Bolton without being attacked by Democrats for also calling Hunter, what’s left for her except to say, “To hell with it”? Democrats won’t agree to her own conditions for a fair trial so maybe she’ll just end up doing what McConnell has wanted all along and decline to call any witnesses. Dems don’t want Hunter on the stand? Fine, no problem. Then no Bolton either. Proceed to deliberations.
I don’t think Schumer’s worried about that, though. As I said in the earlier post, he doesn’t need to make any deal with Collins to achieve an acceptable outcome for his party here. If she decides not to call any witnesses because Dems won’t give her cover on Hunter, fine. Then lefties can proceed with attacking her for participating in a cover up and being a stooge for Trump. If she decides to call both Bolton and Hunter in the interest of looking “diligent” to voters back home, that’s also fine for Dems. They don’t need to provide a single vote on the question of whether to call Hunter. In the end they’ll get Bolton’s testimony with Collins’s help and then they can turn right around and slam her for doing Trump’s bidding by voting with Republicans to call Biden. If they’re lucky, Bolton will do some damage to the president in his testimony *and* Democrats will make enough hay about Collins’s willingness to subpoena Biden that they end up damaging her next fall.
Either way, they’re not going to make it easy for her.
Of course, Joe Biden’s running a risk of his own by insisting that Hunter shouldn’t testify. Aaron Blake of WaPo imagines how testimony from Hunter or even from Joe himself could work to his advantage:
Biden is, as mentioned, on the eve of asking voters for the Democratic nomination. What better argument to make to them than that he took one for the team — that he went to Capitol Hill and withstood Republicans’ questions in the name of getting the fuller version of the truth from Bolton? If Biden thinks he can handle himself and that he has nothing to hide, there’s an argument to be made that it could accrue to his benefit. Add on top of that the fact that it’s still nine-plus months until the election — time during which lesser subplots in the Ukraine matter will inevitably fade — and maybe there’s an argument that there’s more upside in the short term (the primaries) than the long term (the general election) for Biden.
If instead Joe is reluctant to that, Trump will spin it as proof that he and Hunter have something to hide — the same argument Democrats have made repeatedly about his refusal to let the likes of Bolton and Mulvaney testify. What’s the less risky option for Biden, to go answer questions in a deposition and hope that his testimony doesn’t come off as incriminating or to refuse to dignify the accusations (unless subpoenaed) and hope that people don’t conclude from his silence that he’s guilty of something?
Here’s Biden, along with a little bonus from George Conway’s and Rick Wilson’s “Lincoln Project” PAC, turning up the heat on Collins in Maine.
Asked if he or his son would consider testifying in Senate impeachment trial as part of any possible witness swap, Joe Biden says, "This is a constitutional issue. And we're not going to turn it into a farce, into some kind of political theater." https://t.co/UHjSh58OUn pic.twitter.com/vGXePBUQce
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 22, 2020
. @SenSusanCollins, do your job or Maine will find someone who will.
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) January 22, 2020