GOP-Biden feud looms over impeachment trial

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenLifting our voices — and votes Longtime Democratic pollster: Warren 'obvious solution' for Biden's VP pick Biden will help close out Texas Democrats' virtual convention: report 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 TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices — and votes 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 HawleyTrump to order review of law protecting social media firms after Twitter spat: report Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  On The Money: US tops 100,000 coronavirus deaths with no end in sight | How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response | Tenants fear mass evictions 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 GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas 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 CruzOvernight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for Iran nuclear projects | Top Dems says State working on new Saudi arms sale | 34-year-old Army reservist ID'd as third military COVID-19 death Trump administration ends waivers in Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran Romney defends Joe Scarborough, staffer's widower: 'Enough already' MORE (R-Texas) told reporters on Wednesday night that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffPelosi pulls vote on FISA bill after Trump veto threat Hillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections Democrats drop controversial surveillance amendment 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 BoltonHave the courage to recognize Taiwan McConnell says Obama administration 'did leave behind' pandemic plan Trump company lawyer warned Michael Cohen not to write 'tell-all' book: report 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 SchumerLawmakers introduce bill to invest 0 billion in science, tech research The Democrats' out-party advantage in 2020 Democratic leaders say Trump testing strategy is 'to deny the truth' about lack of supplies MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters, asked about a swap. 

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Warren's VP bid faces obstacle: Her state's Republican governor Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  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 GiulianiSunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Moussaoui says he now renounces terrorism, bin Laden Democrats launch probe into Trump's firing of State Department watchdog, Pompeo 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 SekulowAppeals court rejects Trump effort to throw out emoluments case Supreme Court divided over fight for Trump's financial records   Meadows joins White House in crisis mode 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 GillibrandSenate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process 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.”