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Elections

Will Joe Biden Take the Fifth in a Senate Trial?

The spectacle of the former vice president testifying before the Senate would be a disaster for Democrats. 


- November 20th, 2019
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Recently, I asked a liberal friend whether Joe Biden would assert his Fifth Amendment rights in an eventual trial before the Senate. “That’s never going to happen,” my friend sniffed. He went on to mock the “conspiracy theory” that the Ukrainians interfered in the election and the “debunked” theory that Hunter Biden somehow broke a law by taking money from Burisma.

“Yes it will,” I responded. “The whole theory for impeachment hinges on the assumption that the investigation of the Bidens was just a personal political hit job to help in 2020. If Trump can establish a legitimate law enforcement concern in looking into the Bidens and/or Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, the whole thing falls apart.”

And it doesn’t stop there. 

As I’ve pointed out, the “whistleblower” and Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) have also claimed to have access to secret evidence of presidential wrongdoing. Both have smeared the president in the court of public opinion. Thus, it’s only fair that both be asked to show the American people where they got their information. 

What’s also relevant is whether there’s any “there” there when it comes to Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election. Politico reported on this meddling as early as January 2017 and the story remains solid. If so, then the president requesting cooperation with that inquiry is likewise legitimate. As Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) notes, this makes former DNC operative Alexandra Chalupa relevant. She obtained dirt on Trump campaign officials from the Ukrainian embassy to help Clinton beat Trump in 2016. Who paid her? Were those payments reported as “campaign expenditures”?

A trial in the Senate would not be refereed by Adam Schiff or the media. For now, they can roll their eyes and dismiss the evidence that President Trump was on to something when he mentioned both issues in the phone call with Ukraine’s president. As NBC recently wrote of Nunes’ requests for witnesses, “Schiff poured cold water on the request, saying the impeachment probe would not serve ‘to carry out the same sham investigations into the Bidens or debunked conspiracies about 2016 U.S. election interference’ that Trump asked Ukraine to conduct.” While Schiff acts as both prosecutor and trial judge, he can enforce that interpretation. But he won’t have that role in the Senate.

Which brings us back to former Vice President Biden as a presidential defense witness. What a disaster that would be for Democrats. Not only does Biden have a huge problem with accurately retelling stories without embellishment, but he was also inside the Obama Administration’s inner circles. He might know about Crossfire Hurricane. He might know about FISA abuse.

He certainly knows about what he did to get the Ukrainian prosecutor fired. Just imagine a Joe Biden searching for explanations for his interest in this particular prosecutor who just happened to be prosecuting his son’s company. And what did Hunter do to justify that outsized salary? Even the media struggles with this explanation. NPR hilariously claimed that “Burisma brought Hunter Biden on board in an effort to look like it was cleaning up its act.”

And while Joe Biden is tied up preparing to testify in next year’s lengthy impeachment trial, Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Corey Booker (D-N.J.) will be held hostage six days a week for between six and eight weeks during the height of the Democratic primaries.  

Biden has never yet had to face any hard questioning about his involvement in Ukraine. The media rarely pushes him on his denials. “There’s not a single solitary thing anyone said that was done wrong,” Biden said last month. “I don’t discuss business with my son. Everybody has looked at that.”

Well, here is a picture of Biden golfing with his son and Burisma executives. Actually, the video is better: anti-corruption Joe and Hunter golfing with notoriously corrupt Burisma executives. Look carefully at the pictures. Does it look like they just had a vigorous argument during which Joe threatened Burisma with legal consequences if it doesn’t stop its corrupt activities?

It’s simply inconceivable that Joe Biden would agree to testify. He can’t keep his story straight. A Senate trial would require him to speak for hours on end without saying outlandish things. Reasonable people must agree that Joe Biden will never testify in the Senate trial. But that almost certainly means the effort either will be rigged against the president or it will self-destruct before the issue is forced. The third option would be for Biden to assert his Fifth Amendment right against having to testify against himself. In any case, it will be interesting.

Adam Schiff reminds us of the optimist falling from a great height. “So far so good,” he says, pretending not to notice the approaching earth. Soon, gravity will reassert itself over this farce. He’s having fun for now. But that weightless giddiness he barely disguises will soon end badly for him.

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