Joe Biden Attempts to Clarify: Would Obey ‘Legal’ Senate Subpoena

Joe Biden in Senate (Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty)
Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty

Former Vice President Joe Biden attempted Saturday to clarify remarks made the day before in which he said he would disobey a subpoena from the Senate if called to testify in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

Biden told the Des Moines Register that he would reject a subpoena, which led to criticism that he would be committing the same “obstruction of Congress” that Trump is accused of in the second article of impeachment.

On Saturday, he tweeted that he would obey a legal subpoena, implying that would not apply here: “I am just not going to pretend that there is any legal basis for Republican subpoenas for my testimony in the impeachment trial.”

Contrary to his assertions, Biden’s testimony would be relevant to Trump’s defense. The articles of impeachment claim that President Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Biden’s past conflict of interest — ordering the firing of a prosecutor while his son, Hunter, was on the board of Burisma, one of Ukraine’s most corrupt companies — “in pursuit of personal political benefit.”

The House Judiciary Committee report accompanying the articles claimed there was no “legitimate national security or foreign policy interest” in investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

But numerous witnesses during the impeachment inquiry admitted that Biden’s conflict of interest was a problem — one the Obama administration did nothing to resolve and may even have tried to conceal. Biden’s testimony would confirm the legitimate public interest in Trump’s query.

It is not clear Biden will be called, anyway. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that he would prefer to dismiss the impeachment on constitutional grounds. The fact that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has tried to withhold the articles from delivery — though she arguably has no constitutional authority to stop a Senate trial — has made the prospect of dismissal more likely. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has said he would prefer to call the Bidens as witnesses in an oversight role, but not during an impeachment trial. The president and Republicans were effectively blocked from calling witnesses in the House.

Faced with a Senate subpoena, Biden could invoke the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, but would probably not be able to quash a subpoena — and doing so would likely involve a lengthy fight in court that could push a Senate trial well into the presidential primary season. The Iowa caucuses will be held on Feb. 3, 2020.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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