William Cummings USA TODAY Published 2:44 PM EST Nov 10, 2019
Republican lawmakers stepped up pressure Sunday on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to allow them to call Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, to testify in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
The GOP lawmakers said if the Intelligence Committee’s Democrats block the committee’s minority choices of witnesses, it would cast further doubt on the fairness of the inquiry’s process.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that if Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “prevent the Republicans from calling their own witnesses,” they would be “doubling down on stupid.”
Kennedy cautioned that if those witnesses are not allowed to testify, “The American people are going look at this and go, ‘I get it. They’re going to give the president a fair and impartial firing squad.'”
“If you can’t call Hunter Biden and you can’t call the whistleblower, that’s sort of a sham. That’s not really even a trial,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I would love to hear from Hunter Biden,” said Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, on “Fox News Sunday.” Hurd, a moderate who has been critical of Trump, said the impeachment inquiry “has been a partisan exercise from the very beginning” and that in past impeachment proceedings the minority had been allowed to call its own witnesses.
On Saturday, the Intelligence Committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., had submitted a list of witnesses he wished to see called in the inquiry’s open hearings, which are scheduled to begin this week. The list included Hunter Biden, two people related to an unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine was behind 2016 election interference, and the whistleblower.
Nunes told Schiff that “failure to fulfill Minority witness requests shall constitute evidence of your denial of fundamental fairness and due process.”
In a letter to Nunes later the same day, Schiff told Nunes that the committee was “carefully evaluating the witness list you provided” but added that the hearings would not be used to unmask the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the investigation, nor to investigate the Bidens.
Schiff said the inquiry “is a solemn undertaking, enshrined by the Founders in the Constitution” and that the hearings “will not serve as vehicles for any Member to carry out the same sham investigations into the Bidens or debunked conspiracies about 2016 U.S. election interference that President Trump pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit.”
And Schiff said the committee “will not facilitate efforts by President Trump and his allies in Congress to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm.”
Trump is accused of withholding military aid to Ukraine amid that country’s effort to fend off Russian aggression in order to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating allegations that Biden used his office to block an anti-corruption probe from looking at Burisma Holdings – which included Hunter Biden on its board. He also wanted Zelensky to look into the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, was the foreign power that tried to interfere in the 2016 election.
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Both investigations could have helped the president politically. Biden is a leading candidate in the Democratic presidential primary and Trump has often resisted the U.S. intelligence community’s firm conclusion that Russia tried to sway the election in his favor. An unsubstantiated theory has circulated on right-wing websites that Russia was framed by the Democratic National Committee and that Ukraine was the true culprit.
But Trump’s own former homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert has said the latter idea is “a conspiracy theory” that has been “completely debunked.” And officials in the U.S. and Ukraine said they have found no indication of wrongdoing by the Bidens, though some have questioned the propriety of Hunter Biden’s position with Burisma given his father’s role in pushing Ukraine to take on corruption.
On Sunday, Hurd said he would like Hunter Biden and other Burisma officials to testify about “how someone who doesn’t have any experience in Ukraine, nor experience in a natural gas company” comes to “sit on the board of a natural gas company in Ukraine.”
Democrats said Hunter Biden’s testimony would not be pertinent to the inquiry.
Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., said he did not see what information Hunter Biden, “a private citizen who has broken no laws by sitting on a board of directors, would have about the president’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine.”
“There are certainly questions, of course, and many people have asked them, but it’s not relevant to this week’s hearing,” he said.
“We want to stay focused on the Ukraine call. And having Hunter Biden come in is unrelated to the Ukraine call,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Trump encouraged Zelensky to conduct the investigations during a July 25 phone conversation. Though the president has claimed the call was “perfect,” it raised alarm among some officials who overheard it. They shared their concerns with the whistleblower who filed the complaint that sparked the inquiry.
The president and his congressional supporters have insisted that the whistleblower’s identity be made public, arguing Trump has a right to confront his accuser.
Nunes also said the whistleblower should be identified because of reported “bias against President Trump” and that the person should say who “fed the information” that “led to a false narrative being perpetrated by the Democrats.”
But whistleblower advocates argue that would discourage other people from coming forward in the future and Democrats say there is no need for the person to testify because the allegations in the complaint have largely been corroborated by other witnesses.
While Paul and other Republicans have argued the whistleblower should testify, Hurd said the person’s identity should be protected “because how we treat this whistleblower will impact how we treat whistleblowers in the future.” But Hurd called on Schiff to testify about his contacts with the whistleblower.
Speier said the whistleblower had taken a great risk by coming forward and could not add anything more than the other witness. Schiff made the same arguments in his letter to Nunes.
“It remains the duty of the Intelligence Committee to protect whistleblowers, and until recently, this was a bipartisan priority,” Schiff said. “The whistleblower has a right under laws championed by this Committee to remain anonymous and to be protected from harm.”
Schiff said the whistleblower’s testimony would be “redundant and unnecessary” because the committee has “gathered an ever-growing body of evidence – from witnesses and documents, including President Trump’s own words in his July 25 call record – that not only confirms but far exceeds, the initial information in the whistleblower’s complaint.”
Source USA Today.