‘If there are new witnesses to be called, you would have to start with the ones who were not called to start with…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Senate leaders from both sides sought to re-calibrate their stances regarding new witnesses after House impeachment managers on Thursday appeared to bolster Republicans’ argument that former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter should be subpoenaed.
“What I don’t understand is for the last five hours it’s been a lot about Joe Biden and Burisma. They kind of opened the door,” said Trump co-counsel Jay Sekulow on Thursday, following a lengthy presentation on the Ukraine scandal by Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas.
Central to Trump’s likely defense—set to begin Saturday—is the contention that he was justified in asking newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, during a July 25 phone call, to resume the “dormant” Burisma probes.
According to Breitbart, Garcia’s very use of the word “dormant” marked a concession from Democrats, who previously had maintained, falsely, that the Bidens had been exonerated by the Ukrainian investigations.
Former Ukrainian prosecutor–general Viktor Shokin has affirmed under sworn affidavit that he was pressured by the Petro Poroshenko administration in Ukraine and the Obama administration in the U.S. to drop the Burisma investigations.
Some reports also have indicated that Shokin had recently conducted a series of raids on Burisma-related properties immediately prior to a lobbying campaign by well-connected Burisma “consultants”—Hunter Biden among them—to solicit the U.S. State Department’s support against the investigations.
A month later, in April 2016, Joe Biden visited the country and threatened to withhold a billion-dollar loan guarantee if Shokin wasn’t fired. He admitted to the quid-pro-quo extortion in a 2018 panel discussion with the Council on Foreign Relations.
Both Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham, R-SC, two of the leading voices for their respective parties, seemed to buckle in their earlier stances over whether the prospect of testimony from the Bidens could open the door to new evidence being introduced in the impeachment trial.
Schumer has sought, unsuccessfully, to gain the votes of at least four centrist Republican senators for his proposed amendments to the trial rules, which would allow the introduction of new witnesses and the admission of new evidentiary documents beyond what the House was able to obtain in its investigation.
While some GOP senators have indicated already that they would support hearing new evidence after the opening arguments, Schumer claimed in an MSNBC interview on Thursday that the odds were against it, Breitbart reported.
[H]ow it will have to happen is not one person doing it, but a couple of them, when they talk privately say, maybe we should do it and get a group together of five or six or seven, and they do it together,” he said.
“Is that certain to happen? Not at all,” he continued. “Is it more [likely] than not? I’d have to say no. … But do we have a chance, and if we keep fighting as hard as we’ve been fighting, might those chances improve? Yes.”
Graham, meanwhile, reaffirmed in a press conference Friday that he opposed new witnesses and sought a speedy resolution to the trial but saw compelling reason for the Bidens to be further investigated.
“I don’t want to call Hunter Biden. I don’t wanna call Joe Biden,” he said. “I want somebody to look at that when this is done.”
Graham said he would assume that role in the Judiciary Committee if nobody else did.
“I think I’ve got enough from the public record to believe that [Democrats’] assertion [that no wrongdoing occurred] falls short,” he said.
However, after media continued to press the matter of calling additional impeachment witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton, Graham appeared to backpedal and embrace the possibility.
“If there are new witnesses to be called, you would have to start with the ones who were not called to start with,” he said, noting that Democrats in the House had blocked a prior GOP-led resolution to subpoena the Bidens.
Schumer said earlier in the week that any sort of bargain allowing Hunter Biden’s testimony in return for Bolton’s was “off the table.”