WASHINGTON ― Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, breaking ranks with most of his Democratic colleagues, says he’d like to hear from former Vice President Joe Biden’s son in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
“I think so, I really do,” Manchin ― one of his party’s more conservative lawmakers ― said Wednesday when asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” whether Hunter Biden would be a relevant witness in the trial.
Trump is on trial in the Senate after being impeached by the House for pressuring the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into the Bidens that could benefit him in the 2020 presidential election and withholding military aid until it did so, and then obstructing Congress’s efforts to look into the matter. Trump himself has said he wanted Ukraine to launch an investigation into the Bidens.
As Democrats have pushed for allowing testimony from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, whose upcoming book essentially confirmed the House allegations against Trump, some Republicans have insisted that Hunter Biden should be called as a witness, as well. Manchin, in his comments on MSNBC, agreed that he would like to hear about the younger Biden’s service on the board of a major Ukraine natural gas company that began while his father still served as vice president in Barack Obama’s administration.
“I think that he can clear himself of what I know and what I’ve heard. But being afraid to put anybody (on the stand in the trial) that might have pertinent information is wrong no matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” Manchin said.
Despite rhetoric by members of Trump’s defense team in opening arguments, no evidence has surfaced that Hunter Biden or his father engaged in corruption. And Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, testified in the House impeachment inquiry that he saw no validity to allegations Trump and his allies have lodged against the Bidens.
Manchin said that he remains undecided about voting to acquit or convict the president on either charge against him. “I take my oath seriously about impartiality, I have not made a decision yet,” he said.
Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, another red-state Democrat who is perhaps the most vulnerable senator up for re-election in 2020, told HuffPost he wanted to “hear from relevant witnesses” when asked about Hunter Biden potentially testifying in the Senate trial.
Asked earlier this week about Trump’s trial defense, Jones noted that the president’s lawyers had made “some good points factually” concerning the obstruction of Congress charge but that he was undecided on removal.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is another moderate who is seen as a possible vote to acquit Trump on at least one charge of impeachment.
Democrats downplayed the possibility of not staying united on a vote to remove Trump, a scenario that could give the president more ammunition to portray his impeachment as illegitimate.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), referring to the outcome of President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, said of the prospect of some Democrats voting to acquit Trump that “it’s just one, two, three people as opposed to a larger number. There were 10 Republicans who joined with us in voting against” convicting Clinton on one of the two impeachment articles he faced (five GOP senators voted for acquittal on the other article).
Republicans are eying a quick acquittal vote after senators later this week consider the issue of whether to call witnesses and allow new evidence in the case to be presented. Democrats will need four GOP senators to vote with them to allow witnesses, and it remains unclear whether they would have that support.