Joe Biden says he would defy subpoena to appear before Senate in Trump’s impeachment trial

Author: Grace Segers / CBS News
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media following a visit with students on the campus of Texas Southern University Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
FILE: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media following a visit with students on the campus of Texas Southern University Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay/FILE)

Former Vice President Joe Biden said he would not comply with a subpoena to appear before the Senate in the impeachment trial of President Trump, arguing that testifying would shift attention away from Mr. Trump’s wrongdoing.

The House voted to impeach Mr. Trump on two articles — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — earlier this month after a months-long inquiry into the president’s request that the Ukrainian president investigate an unfounded theory about the 2016 election and Biden.

Biden, who said in an interview with NPR earlier in December that he would not comply with a subpoena, confirmed his position in a meeting with the Des Moines Register editorial board on Friday. The Register’s endorsement, which will be announced ahead of the Iowa caucuses in early February, is coveted among presidential candidates.

Mr. Trump and some Republicans in Congress have argued that Biden and his son, Hunter, should testify before the Senate in the impeachment trial. Mr. Trump has alleged that Biden worked to oust a former Ukrainian prosecutor general because he was investigating a gas firm with ties to Hunter Biden. Although Biden advocated for the prosecutor general’s removal, along with much of the global community because of his history of corruption, there is no evidence that Biden did so because of an investigation into the gas firm.

Biden told the Register that any subpoena against him would be based on “specious” evidence, and predicted that he would not be subpoenaed.

A majority of senators must vote to call a witness in the impeachment trial, and while Republicans have a small majority in the Senate, some may not be willing to call Biden to testify.

Biden told the Register that testifying before the Senate would distract the media from covering the president’s misdeeds.

“What are you going to cover?” Biden said. “You guys are going to cover for three weeks anything that I said. And (Trump’s) going to get away. You guys buy into it all the time.”

“Think what it’s about. It’s all about what he does all the time, his entire career. Take the focus off. This guy violated the Constitution. He said it in the driveway of the White House. He acknowledged he asked for help,” Biden continued.

In a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian president to open investigations into Biden and his son.

In a tweet Saturday morning, Biden said, “I want to clarify something I said yesterday. In my 40 years in public life, I have always complied with a lawful order and in my eight years as VP, my office – unlike Donald Trump and Mike Pence – cooperated with legitimate congressional oversight requests.”

“But I am just not going to pretend that there is any legal basis for Republican subpoenas for my testimony in the impeachment trial,” he tweeted. “That is the point I was making yesterday and I reiterate: this impeachment is about Trump’s conduct, not mine.”

“The subpoenas should go to witnesses with testimony to offer to Trump’s shaking down the Ukraine government – they should go to the White House,” he added.

The House has voted to impeach Mr. Trump, but it has not yet delivered the impeachment articles to the Senate. The Senate cannot begin the trial until the articles are delivered. Some Democrats have argued for withholding the articles from the Senate until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees to conduct a more fair trial, as McConnell has said there would be “total coordination” between the White House and Senate.

Pelosi told reporters after the House impeachment vote that the House would not immediately name impeachment managers and deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

“The next thing for us will be when we see the process that’s set forth in the Senate, then we’ll know the number of managers we’ll have to move forward, and who we would choose,” Pelosi said, explaining that she did not yet know how many impeachment managers would need to be sent to the Senate. “When we see what they have, we’ll know who and how many will be sent over.”

When asked by CBS News if she was concerned Republicans would accuse her of playing games by withholding the articles from the Senate, Pelosi said the ball is in the Senate’s court.

“I was not prepared to put the managers in that bill yet because we don’t know the arena that we are in,” Pelosi said. “Frankly, I don’t care what the Republicans say.”

The House and Senate are set to reconvene in early January.

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