Just under the deadline, Republicans turned in on Saturday the list of witnesses they’d like to have testify at impeachment hearings beginning this week. Among them is Hunter Biden, former vice president Joe Biden’s son, who Trump wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate as a condition of getting U.S. military aid. In listing Biden as a witness, the GOP may hope to build a defense that shifts the focus to alleged wrongdoing by the former vice president rather than by Trump. But what Trump alleges against Biden is exactly what he is being accused of himself — which makes any defense of his actions focused on the Bidens internally inconsistent, and ultimately just helps make the case for impeachment.
At the heart of the current scandal is Trump’s insistence that Zelensky make a public announcement that Ukraine would investigate actions by Biden when he was vice president. According to Trump, Biden demanded that Ukraine fire its then-prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, to stymie an investigation Shokin was conducting into a company, Burisma Group, for which Hunter Biden served as a board member at the time.
There is no evidence to substantiate these allegations. Ukrainian officials, in fact, have stated that they have found no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden. But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the allegations have merit. The thrust of Trump’s claims is that Biden’s actions were corrupt because he undertook an action in his official capacity to receive a personal benefit (via his son). This is exactly the claim against Trump with regard to his actions with Zelensky — and therein lies the trouble for his defense. [Continue reading…]