Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared to — sort of — walk back a statement he made Friday that he would refuse to testify at the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump — even if he was subpoenaed.
“I would honor whatever the Congress in fact legitimately asked me to do,” Biden told CBS News on Saturday. He said he didn’t expect a subpoena from the Senate, which will hold the trial. But when asked whether he’d challenge an order to testify, Biden said he would “cross that bridge when it comes.”
He told the newspaper that his appearance would be a distraction designed to “take the focus off” Trump.
“This guy violated the Constitution,” he added, referring to Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son in exchange for military aid, which Trump was withholding at the time. Because of that, Biden said any subpoena would be based on “specious grounds.”
But in a tweet Saturday, Biden aimed to “clarify” his remarks.
“In my 40 years in public life, I have always complied with a lawful order and in my eight years as VP, my office — unlike Donald Trump and Mike Pence — cooperated with legitimate congressional oversight requests,” he wrote.
But he also suggested that a subpoena from the Senate would not be legal — leaving it unclear whether he would comply or not.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is among Biden’s competitors for the Democratic nomination, told New York Times reporter Astead Herndon that “if there is a lawfully issued order for a subpoena, then [Biden] should comply — and I assume he will.”
Warren added that, for now, the focus should be on the multiple subpoenas that Trump administration officials have ignored.
The Republicans have tried to shift focus away from Trump’s behavior by suggesting that Biden and his son, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while Biden was vice president, committed some sort of wrongdoing. There is no evidence supporting that accusation.
If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gets his way, it will be a speedy impeachment trial without any witnesses, and a subpoena for Biden to testify would be unlikely. But Democrats are pushing for a full trial with witnesses, including White House officials who know the details of the president’s relationship with Ukraine.
The House earlier this month approved two articles of impeachment against Trump for abusing his power and obstructing Congress after he pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden.
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