The blue wall protecting Hunter Biden is starting to crack.
Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) told MSNBC on Wednesday that Hunter Biden is a relevant witness as the Senate barrels toward a vote Friday on witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. According to the Daily Caller, Manchin is the first Democrat to voice support for calling Biden, who Democrats have insisted did nothing wrong when he worked at a gas company in Ukraine while his father was then-President Barack Obama’s point man on Kyiv.
Dem senator: Hunter is “relevant”
For months, President Trump and his Republican allies have coveted the chance to cross-examine former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in front of the nation over their dealings in Ukraine, where Hunter Biden worked at gas company Burisma Holdings despite having no relevant experience. Republicans allege that Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who had investigated the company.
But Democrats are impeaching Trump for “abuse of power” by pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, and they insist that Republican demands for Hunter’s testimony are a distraction from Trump’s alleged misconduct. But they were caught off guard when Manchin, in an interview with MSNBC, said that Hunter is pertinent to the trial even if he can prove he did nothing wrong.
“I think so, I really do,” Manchin said when asked if Hunter is a “relevant witness,” according to The Hill. The Democrat added, “I don’t have a problem there because this is why we are where we are. Now I think he can clear himself, what I know and what I’ve heard, but being afraid to put anyone that might have pertinent information is wrong, no matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican.”
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) January 29, 2020
Manchin, who represents a red state, has been known to cross party lines. He was the only Democrat who voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, according to The New York Times.
Dems slam “distraction”
Manchin’s comments come as the Senate heads toward a vote Friday that will decide whether to allow additional witness testimony or quickly wrap up Trump’s trial. Amid talk of a witness swap, Democrats have been obstinate about calling witnesses they see as possibly damaging to Trump, like former National Security Adviser John Bolton, while leaving the Bidens far away from the proceeding.
The Dems would need four votes to clear a 51 vote threshold to admit witnesses, and at least two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Mitt Romney (UT), have said they may cross party lines after a “bombshell” book by Bolton was leaked to the press. Democrats insist that the book – which reportedly mentions a direct link between aid to Ukraine and Trump’s desire to have the Bidens investigated – strengthens their case for Bolton’s testimony.
Even if Democrats are successful, it appears unlikely that they will get the one-sided witness deal they are seeking. Frustration was evident when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) dismissed Manchin’s comments Wednesday, insisting that Hunter Biden is “irrelevant and a distraction,” according to the Washington Examiner.
Republicans regain momentum?
After some initial turbulence from the Bolton surprise, Republicans have expressed increased optimism that they have the votes to block witnesses, Fox News reported Thursday. If they are successful, then the trial could move quickly to a conclusion.
The Friday vote will follow more than a week of marathon trial sessions, which saw Democrats and Trump’s lawyers present their cases for Trump’s conviction and acquittal, respectively. The Senate spent Wednesday and Thursday asking questions of the Democrats’ impeachment managers and Trump’s counsel, with topics ranging from Hunter Biden to the so-called “whistleblower” who sparked the impeachment inquiry in the first place.
Meanwhile, Manchin is part of a group of Democrats, including Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Doug Jones (AL), who are considering acquitting Trump, according to Politico. But with the possibility of a rapid acquittal looming, Democratic leaders are already planting the seeds of the narrative that Trump’s exoneration won’t count.
“A trial without truth, without key evidence, without witnesses and documents would render the president’s acquittal meaningless,” Schumer said, according to Fox. “A giant asterisk next to it, because the trial was so rigged in his favor.”