GOP-Biden feud looms over impeachment trial

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE and his son Hunter Biden aren’t on trial in the Senate, but that’s done little to stop them from dominating the conversation in the Capitol.

The GOP feud with the Bidens has loomed over President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE’s impeachment trial, from the dozens of mentions by the House impeachment managers to questions being fielded by senators amid the media frenzy. 

The pattern has become self-fulfilling: The more House managers mention the Bidens, the more Senate Republicans bring them up, the more Senate Democrats get asked about them as potential witnesses. 

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Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyAgencies play catch-up over security concerns with TikTok Typical income no longer covers major costs: Study Senate Democrats introduce legislation to change impeachment trial rules MORE (R-Mo.), illustrating the loop, argued that the House managers’ repeated mentions of Hunter Biden underscored the need for him to be called as a witness. 

“The House managers went into a very detailed discussion of the Burisma-Biden situation, which I think will prove to have been a major error,” Hawley told reporters. “If we’re going to call witnesses, I think it’s now clear that we absolutely must call Hunter Biden and we probably need to call Joe Biden based on the House managers’ presentation.” 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocrats duke it out in most negative debate so far Republicans give Barr vote of confidence Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (R-S.C.) also went on an unprompted five-minute rant about the Bidens, chastising reporters for not digging deeper into the family and Ukraine. Hunter Biden has emerged as a fixation for Republicans because of his work for Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company. 

“The thing that I wanted to talk to you about was the Biden connection. I don’t know how many times it was said by the managers that the Biden conflict of interest allegation has been debunked. ... I know a lot about the Trump family and their dealings in Russia, I don’t know anything about the Biden connection to the Ukraine,” Graham said. 

“That’s becoming relevant because they talked about it almost 50 times,” Graham added. 

Their comments come after Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSteyer calls for Senate term limits to pass gun control legislation Cruz targets California governor over housing 'prescriptions' This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (R-Texas) told reporters on Wednesday night that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOcasio-Cortez: Trump would 'never' say to her face some of the shots he takes at her on Twitter John Ratcliffe back under consideration by Trump for top intel job Trump says he wants 'no help from any country' in 2020 election MORE’s (D-Calif.) mention of Hunter Biden made his testimony “crucial."

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“House Democrats perhaps unintentionally threw Joe Biden under the bus,” Cruz added on Thursday. 

Republicans, including Cruz, have floated the idea of “witness reciprocity," meaning that if Democrats are able to successfully call former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonSchumer on Trump intel shakeup: 'Disgrace,' 'closer to a banana republic' Trump directly sought to block publication of Bolton's book: WaPo 'Parasite' studio fires back after Trump criticism: 'He can't read' MORE or another of the four witnesses they want to testify then Trump’s team should be able to call its own witness, in particular Hunter Biden. 

That chatter kicked into overdrive this week when The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that the idea was being discussed among Democrats. Democrats are publicly shooting down the idea but are still routinely being asked about a witness swap both during press conferences and in hallway interviews. 

“There was one report that I thought was false, and now everyone is jumping on it,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters, asked about a swap. 

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Graham warned Pentagon chief about consequences of Africa policy: report Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE (D-Del.), who was quoted in the Post article, added that he had “no conversations about that at all” about a potential Bolton for Hunter Biden swap. 

The focus on the Bidens comes as House managers are laying out their arguments for convicting and removing Trump from office based on their two articles of impeachment: One on Trump abusing power in his dealings with Ukraine and another on him obstructing Congress during its investigation of those actions. 

At the heart of the impeachment effort is Trump’s decision to delay Ukraine aid, which was eventually released in September, and a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which Trump asked him to work with his personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiHouse panel says key witness isn't cooperating in probe into Yovanovitch surveillance Pennsylvania Democrat says US Attorney's Office should prioritize opioids rather than 'Russian propaganda' from Giuliani Bill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn MORE to “look into” the Bidens. 

Hunter Biden worked on the board of Burisma while his father served as vice president. In 2016, Joe Biden pushed for the dismissal of Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin because of concerns he was overlooking corruption in his own office. 

There's no evidence that Joe Biden was acting with his son's interests in mind, the former vice president has denied doing so and the GOP claims have been debunked by fact-checkers. 

Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE, the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, told House lawmakers that Biden "was representing U.S. policy at the time."

Biden's presidential campaign, seeming to anticipate that the former vice president and his son would be a topic of conversation, sent out a memo earlier this week warning reporters against spreading a “malicious and conclusively debunked conspiracy theory” during the impeachment trial. 

“Not only is there ‘no evidence’ for Republicans’ main argument against the Vice President — there is a mountain of evidence that actively debunks it. And it is malpractice to ignore that truth,” communications director Kate Bedingfield wrote in a memo to reporters and editors. 

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Asked how much they would focus Biden on their defense, Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowWhat the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber Senate votes to acquit Trump on articles of impeachment Roberts emerges unscathed from bitter impeachment trial MORE, Trump’s personal lawyer, declined to say but that the House managers “kind of opened the door to that response.”

Some Democrats predicted that House managers were trying to get ahead of Trump’s team, which is likely to focus on the Bidens based on the legal brief the White House filed at the outset of the trial. 

“I think they are preempting the arguments by the president's counsel,” Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandNow is the time for a US data protection agency The Hill's Campaign Report: Warren up, Bloomberg down after brutal debate Ginsburg, accepting lifetime achievement award, urges working fathers to take an active role in kids' lives MORE (D-N.Y.) said, asked if they were spending too much time on the allegations. “I think that’s important, because when we receive the president’s counsels’ presentation on Saturday, we will have these rebuttals already in our minds.”