Two swing-vote Republican senators declined to say whether they believe the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a top 2020 Democratic candidate, should testify in the coming impeachment trial in the Senate.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters that the fight over witnesses should wait until after the opening arguments and added that it’s too soon to make a decision on calling up Hunter Biden, the vice president’s son, who has been pulled back into the spotlight after House Republicans and President Donald Trump argued that he should be called as a witness. The younger Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas firm, Burisma Holdings, which had been investigated for corruption, and Trump asked Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call if he could “look into” Joe Biden’s apparent connection to the investigation being halted.
“There will be this time in the process where we will have an opportunity to make a determination as to what further information we need. Whether it is for Hunter Biden or Ambassador Bolton,” Murkowski told reporters. “Until that point in time I’m not thinking about each individual witness and who I’m putting in a bucket.”
When she was asked about Hunter Biden having information that could be relevant for the impeachment trial, Collins asked: “How can I tell? You’re asking me to pre-judge the evidence.” She added, “It’s clearly not the right time for us to judge which specific witnesses should be called.”
After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named impeachment managers who would prosecute the case in the Senate, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) panned the idea of having Hunter Biden testify.
“Any witness who has information about whether that is true or not true, is a relevant witness,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “Anybody, like Hunter Biden, who has no information about any of that, is not a relevant witness.”
He added that “any trial judge in this country would rule such a witness as irrelevant and inadmissible.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and other Republican senators said they want to compel a vote on Biden if Democrats can compel votes to call up their favored witnesses, including former Trump adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
“My colleagues can’t have it both ways. Calling for some, while blocking others,” Paul wrote on Twitter.
Last year, a whistleblower reported that Trump had allegedly pushed Zelensky to investigate the Biden family’s dealings in Ukraine, namely after Joe Biden said publicly that he pressured former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire a top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who had been investigating Burisma.
During the inquiry, Republicans have noted that during former Department of State official George Kent’s testimony, he had a “concern” about “the possibility of a perception of a conflict of interest” stemming from Hunter Biden’s position on the board.
Democrats then alleged Trump withheld military aid to Kyiv in exchange for the investigations into the Bidens, Burisma, and alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump and Zelensky have both denied there was any pressure during the call. But on Dec. 18, House Democrats voted to approve two articles of impeachment against the president, saying he abused his power and obstructed Congress. No republican voted in favor of the articles and a handful of Democrats broke ranks with their party on the vote.
On Wednesday, the House voted to transmit the articles of impeachment and managers to the Senate in a party-line vote. Senators have said they expect to be sworn in as jurors this week, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that the trial likely won’t start until next week, possibly Tuesday.