Friday, January 24, 2020

Can I Get a Witness?

Thanks for the shout-out, Tengrain!

One last word on Hunter Biden. It's clear that the case is irrelevant to the question of Trump's strong-arming the Ukrainian president and should be dismissed out of hand from the impeachment trial, but there's something else that just occurred to me, starting from two fairly simple questions:
  1. Why do they want to call him, given that if he has done anything illegal he has a constitutional right not to testify?
  2. Why don't they call somebody else who will testify as to what they think he's done?
The answer to the second being, I suddenly realize, though it's obvious, there isn't anybody. They don't have any witnesses to wrongdoing by Hunter Biden.

There were a couple, to be precise, ex-prosecutor Kostiantyn Kulyk, who was removed from his position in late November after failing to show up for an anti-corruption interview, and ex–prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko, under criminal investigation in Ukraine since the beginning of October for abuse of power (conspiracy to to "provide cover" for illegal gambling businesses in Ukraine), both of whom played roles in providing President Trump's personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani and hack journalist John Solomon with materials accusing Biden, and Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, of some kind of undefined misconduct, but they're not looking very helpful to the Republican cause, since not only are they apparently criminals, but everything they said about Yovanovitch has collapsed in the face of her sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, and everything Giuliani and Solomon has said has been dismissed in the testimony of the State Department's George Kent, who told the committee
that Solomon’s reporting, “if not entirely made up in full cloth,” was filled with “non-truths and non-sequiturs.
and Lutsenko (also under fire for his collaboration with Floridian rowdies and indicted Giuliani companions Lev Parnas and Ihor Fruman) has announced that the accusations against Hunter Biden were all false as well,

There are no witnesses at all to Hunter Biden's alleged misconduct, and the closest thing there was to a witness has withdrawn his accusation and it really looks like the simplest explanation is that there wasn't any misconduct.

(It's also clear that he was qualified for the position, which didn't require an energy expert, they had enough of those already, but an international lawyer, which he was, with a Yale law degree and plenty of board experience. I won't talk about the obscenity of the pay and the way it tends to go to celebrity names, since that's in no way Biden's fault but the system's, but the man paid off his dead brother's student loans!). Why do Republicans want to call a putative criminal to testify on a crime when there's no evidence that a crime took place?

Because that's the only avenue left for them to suggest there was a crime.

Not by getting him to testify about it, but in the hope of getting him to take the 5th over some detail or other. They can't get anybody to accuse him of a crime, but maybe they can get him to not deny it. That's why they want to call him, and the aim isn't to catch him in some skullduggery, which nobody would have cared about even if he had done it, but to provide a reason for thinking that Trump's not guilty. Because reasons for that are extremely scarce.

So my considered recommendation to the Democrats is that they should agree to subpoenas of Hunter and Joe Biden if and only if Republicans can provide testimony from a respectable source to back up the idea that there's some crime one of them committed. And articles by or citing the discredited John Solomon (fabricating these stories was one of the reasons The Hill fired him) need not apply. I'm pretty sure they can't.

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