Old and busted: If you call John Bolton, we’ll call Hunter Biden. New hotness: We’re calling Hunter Biden no matter what. “I am going to look at this,” Senate Judiciary chair Lindsey Graham says about Burisma and the Bidens, “if nobody else does. And that doesn’t make me a Russian agent.”
No, but it might make Graham a poor deal-maker:
“I think if a Republican had done this, there would be no debate that we need to look at how did this happen,” Graham noted of the Bidens’ Ukraine scandal. “If you didn’t know your son was doing this, how closely were you looking at corruption?”
“What Trump is frustrated with including me is nobody in your business spent 15 minutes telling us what Hunter Biden did and if it is good foreign policy,” Graham sounded off.
“The president believes there is a double standard,” the senator went on. “I think the president believes he went through holy Hell and I believe the same thing. What he wants to do is get to the truth. Can you imagine if a Republican had done this? You need to ask yourself the question. The media as an institution, would you not have people on the ground wanting to know what his son did when he contacted the State Department?”
The points are well taken on media bias, but there’s still the issue of leverage in the trial to consider as well. Hunter Biden has been the counterweight to demands for John Bolton’s testimony, as well as Mick Mulvaney’s. If Democrats don’t want Hunter Biden under oath discussing Burisma, then (theoretically, anyway) they might back off demands for fresh witnesses. Perhaps Graham has just grown frustrated with Adam Schiff’s dismissal of Burisma as a Trumpian conspiracy theory and wants to emphasize that it’s a legitimate area of inquiry, but this pledge surrenders whatever leverage might still attain to the threat to subpoena Biden fils in this trial. If Graham’s going to subpoena him anyway later, why not go full tilt after Bolton?
And in another twist, Graham later said that he doesn’t want Hunter Biden subpoenaed as part of the Senate impeachment trial:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says he will vote against a motion to subpoena Hunter Biden if a majority of colleagues agree next week that additional witnesses and documents need to be summoned for President Trump’s impeachment trial.
If Republican colleagues introduce a motion to subpoena former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Graham said “I vote against it.”
Graham’s opposition essentially kills the threat that Republicans have wielded in recent weeks that if Democrats win a motion to hear from additional witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, they will retaliate by subpoenaing the Bidens.
Graham really must dislike leverage, eh? He appears to be making a distinction between using Burisma as a cynical counterweight to the demand for witnesses and conducting a legitimate probe of the Bidens and corruption. That’s a fair point, as far as it goes, but it ignores the point that Ted Cruz has been making since Wednesday, which is that establishing reasonable suspicion of corruption in Biden’s ties to Burisma would be one positive defense of Trump’s call to Zelensky, among others.
Earlier in the morning, Cruz continued that line of argument with Hugh Hewitt, saying that — despite Schiff’s dismissive remarks — the Trump administration had a valid predicate for looking into the Bidens and Burisma. And as he has argued since Wednesday, Schiff’s argument actually opens the door to exploring the Burisma question for use in the trial as a positive defense of Donald Trump:
TC: Absolutely, yes. You know, sadly enough, the footnote you cite, I’m familiar with. I’m familiar with that Politico article. I’ve read that Politico article that came out that detailed at great length the multiple efforts that Ukraine did to interfere in the 2016 election to put, to weigh in on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Now they didn’t engage in the sort of conduct that Russia did…
TC: …which means they didn’t have bot farms. They weren’t hacking electronically. But they had multiple players throughout their government that were vocally aggressively advocating for Hillary Clinton and attacking Donald Trump in a way that is extremely unusual. And it is perfectly legitimate for a president, for a president to press for an investigation as to foreign countries and why they’re interfering in our elections, which is what the President did. And then when it comes to Burisma, the most important question in this entire trial, and the reason why at the end of the trial the President is going to be acquitted, is can a president investigate corruption? And the answer is obviously yes. And in fact, if there’s serious evidence of corruption, the President not only has an ability to investigate, a responsibility to do so. When it comes to Burisma, Burisma is the largest natural gas company in Ukraine. It was owned and controlled by a Ukrainian oligarch who made billions doing this. It was corrupt through and through, and Burisma had on its board Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden. It was paying him a million dollars a year. And Joe Biden was the Obama administration’s point person for Ukraine policy. And he vigorously advocated. He pressured Ukraine to fire the prosecutor that was investigating and targeting Burisma and the oligarch who had made billions. And he did all of this while his son was making a million bucks a year. Now whether that is in fact corrupt or not, I don’t know. But it’s at least, it’s enormous evidence to justify investigating, to make whether it’s corrupt, and that’s what President Trump asked the Ukrainians to do, and that was within his authority and responsibility to do.
HH: Now our friend, Jonah Goldberg, says Hugh, don’t, and he would say Senator Cruz, don’t overlook he brought up Crowdstrike. Crowdstrike is a discredited conspiracy theory. I believe the Crowdstrike theory is discredited, but that does not disable the President from throwing out whatever he wants to throw out provided that there is a predicate for Ukrainian corruption. It will be disproven, eventually, by others that Crowdstrike is not the way to go, but Burisma is legitimate. Do you think that there is any honesty on the other side to recognize the presidential power with this predicate?
TC: So there isn’t, but I also think the House managers made a serious tactical mistake. I think yesterday was very consequential, because what they’ve done is they’ve opened the door to Burisma. They’ve opened the door to Hunter Biden testifying. And the reason for that is they have built their whole case on the proposition that they argued, they argued at length yesterday that there is zero basis for any reason to investigate Burisma, that it is completely fake and phony and bogus and without merit. That’s their argument, that the only possible reason to investigate Burisma is illegitimate political motives. That’s simply not the case. And we were talking a minute ago about the podcast that I’ve launched, Verdict with Ted Cruz. Last night, the entire show, we did a half hour show where the entire topic was Burisma. And I walked through in real detail here is all of the evidence of Burisma corruption that would justify any president saying we need to investigate. I walked through the timeline and the facts. And so let me encourage your listeners to go and subscribe to Verdict with Ted Cruz, sign up, give it five-star ratings. You know, so it’s a little crazy, Hugh. We launched it three days ago. It is already one of the top ten podcasts in the world.
All of this might be true, but … does it make sense for Senate Republicans to take this up now, or especially after an acquittal? After all, Hunter Biden isn’t exactly a national threat. Despite Graham’s attempts to separate it from the impeachment, it will look more like revenge to take it up in the Judiciary Committee afterward. Republicans can certainly argue the Biden-Burisma angle during the election — Trump will undoubtedly make it one of the big narratives if Biden wins the nomination — but further Senate action will end up dragging out the impeachment narrative, too.
Cruz is making a smarter argument in sticking to the defense of the predicate rather than pledging to do a deep dive independently. That’s better as a threat than as a reality, especially if Burisma really does turn out to be a nothingburger.