A great trade to nail Donald Trump, or the worst deal since Ernie Broglio for Lou Brock in 1964? Some Senate Democrats apparently think forcing Hunter Biden to testify in order to get John Bolton on the record is a small price to pay for a long-shot bid for Trump’s removal. In fact, they’re willing to throw the dice by potentially throwing in a presidential nominee to be named later, according to the Washington Post:
But behind closed doors, a small group of Democratic senators and aides has begun to question that logic, sounding out colleagues on whether to back a witness deal that could lead to testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton or other administration officials with possible firsthand knowledge of the Ukraine controversy, according to multiple Democratic officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private discussions.
These Democrats said they believe having Hunter — or possibly Joe Biden — testify could backfire on Trump and the GOP, giving Biden and the party a platform to strike back and paint Republicans and the White House as obsessed with trying to damage one of Trump’s 2020 presidential rivals.
Best guess: this is an exceedingly small group of Senate Democrats. Anyone who has watched Hunter Biden answer questions in public while not under oath cannot possibly believe that his testimony would backfire in any way on Republicans. ABC’s Amy Robach did ask a few pointed questions during Hunter’s intended fluff piece to deflect attention away from his financial ties, and Hunter failed miserably at answering them. Under oath and answering questions from GOP attorneys who will be much more motivated to explore Hunter’s ties to oligarchs in Ukraine, China, and elsewhere? Fuhgeddaboudit.
Perhaps this small group consists of Sherrod Brown, along with Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar. That might be especially true if they offer up Joe Biden, who right now has the election road to himself. The Washington Post obliquely notes that electoral considerations are part of this question:
The discussions about the Bidens are being closely held, and the issue is fraught for Democrats, due to the differing levels of support for Biden in a chamber stocked with presidential candidates and the clashing views on impeachment strategy. In private conversations in recent days, there has been much loathing of the Republicans’ spotlight on the Bidens among Senate Democrats, but also a fear that unless a witness deal is eventually struck, the trial could proceed without witnesses, according to party officials and Senate aides.
That predicament has led to discussions about whether, down the line, Hunter Biden or Joe Biden should be considered as part of a witness proposal. But there is hesitancy to raise the issue publicly until Senate Democratic leaders signal interest, the officials and aides said.
Their sources claim that Joe Biden would be a dynamite witness, far better than Hunter would be. I’m sure they believe that too, but Biden’s never been good at that sort of interrogation, and he’s not quite the same person as he was for 36 years in the Senate, either. What political party would want to put their presidential frontrunner in a situation where he would have to testify under oath under questioning from his political opponents? That’s flat-out insane, even without his own questionable quid pro quo in Ukraine that Biden will have to explain under hostile and specific questioning.
This may be a deal floated for PR purposes only, though. Mitch McConnell is making clear that he will fight against calling any witnesses that the House did not call themselves:
On Tuesday, McConnell foreshadowed the case he is expected to reiterate in the coming days, warning that the Democratic demands for witness testimony would raise constitutional concerns and set a precedent to “incentivize” future House majorities to carry out “frequent and hasty” impeachment inquiries. And he made explicit reference to an argument that has circulated behind closed doors for several days, according to GOP sources: that subpoenas for senior Trump administration national security officials will open up a scenario akin to an executive privilege Pandora’s box that Republicans should fear.
“It could dramatically change the separation of powers between the House and the Senate if the Senate agrees we will conduct both the investigation and the trial of an impeachment,” McConnell told his colleagues on the floor Tuesday.
“What’s more, some of the proposed new witnesses include executive branch officials whose communications with the President and with other executive branch officials lie at the very core of the President’s constitutional privilege,” McConnell added. “Such litigation could potentially have permanent repercussions for the separation of powers and the institution of the presidency that senators would need to consider very, very carefully.”
It’s an argument McConnell allies hope will become a GOP rallying cry as they fight Democratic demands for subpoenas for four key witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
Finally, the Post notes that neither of the Bidens are exactly thrilled with the idea of getting tied up in the Senate trial. This “small group” in the Senate Democratic caucus are perhaps out over their skis on this deal, much like the Chicago Cubs were in 1964. The rest of them, noting that the idea first got floated by Ted Cruz last week in a private GOP caucus meeting, see this as a distraction, and perhaps a trap:
Most Democrats see the proposal by Cruz — which has been echoed by other supporters of the president — as an obvious gambit to prod Democrats toward a deal that would swing the spotlight away from Trump.
This is one trade that won’t happen. Or at least it shouldn’t.