By Harris Alic
Joe Biden is promising to not comply if subpoenaed by lawmakers to testify at the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the United States Senate.
The former vice president, who had already ruled out voluntarily testifying at the impeachment proceedings, told NPR in an interview published on Monday he would not cooperate with a subpoena.
“No, I’m not going to let you take the eye off the ball here. Everybody knows what this is about,” Biden said. “This is a Trump gambit he plays. Whenever he’s in trouble he tries to find someone else to divert attention to.”
When pressed, Biden stood resolute, claiming there was not “one scintilla of evidence” he did anything wrong.
“No, I will not yield to what everybody is looking for here,” the former vice president said. “And that is to take the eye off the ball.”
The refusal comes as Senate Republicans have signaled it would be inappropriate for the impeachment proceedings, let alone a trial, to progress without the former vice president or his youngest son, Hunter, providing testimony. At the forefront of this push have been Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), who have opened investigations into Hunter Biden’s work overseas and if he benefited from connections to the Obama-era White House.
Graham and others are looking, in particular, into the younger Biden’s ties to Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
“I believe that Hunter Biden’s association on [Burisma’s] board doesn’t pass the smell test,” Graham said last month when arguing the Bidens should testify. “If a Republican was in the same boat they would be eaten alive by the media.”
Joe Biden’s outright refusal to testify foreshadows a future standoff between the former vice president and his one-time Senate colleagues, like Graham, is on the horizon, especially as House Democrats move closer to impeachment. The potential drama underscores just how central Joe and Hunter Biden are to the Democrats’ case for removing Trump from office.
The controversy started when Trump suggested over the summer that the Ukrainian government investigate Hunter Biden’s ties to Burisma. The younger Biden secured an appointment to the natural gas company’s board in May 2014 despite no background in the energy industry or Ukraine.
More troubling was the fact that Hunter Biden’s appointment, which paid at time as much as $83,000 per month, seemed to coincide with his father being tapped to lead the Obama administration’s policy in Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
As Peter Schweizer detailed in Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, Hunter Biden’s background in banking, lobbying, and hedge fund management paled in comparison to that of current and past members of Burisma’s board.
Adding to concerns was that Hunter Biden joined the company at a time when it was actively courting western leaders to prevent scrutiny of its practices. The same month as the appointment, Mykola Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, had his assets frozen in the United Kingdom on suspicion of money laundering. A Ukrainian official with ties to Zlochevsky admitted in October the only reason Hunter Biden secured his position with Burisma was to “protect” the company from foreign scrutiny.
It is in the context of Burisma and Zlochevsky’s legal troubles that Joe Biden’s political influence has raised the most red flags. The former vice president has particularly drawn questions over his conduct in demanding the Ukrainian government fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in 2016.
Joe Biden, who has publicly bragged about the firing, reportedly threatened to withhold more than $1 billion in U.S. aid if the Ukrainian government did not remove Shokin. He has claimed the demand came from then-President Barack Obama, who had allegedly lost faith in the prosecutor’s ability to tackle corruption.
Unofficially, though, it was known that Shokin was investigating both Burisma and Zlochevsky for public corruption. It is uncertain if the probe extended to Hunter Biden, although Shokin has recently admitted that prior to his ouster, he was warned to back off the matter.
Regardless of what occurred, Shokin’s successor, who is now himself being investigated for public corruption, dropped the investigation into Burisma.
Since the start of the impeachment inquiry, all of those potential conflicts of interest have spilled out into the open. Many, like Graham, contend that even if Joe Biden and his son did nothing wrong, they should still testify given how muddled the situation has become. Joe Biden, for his part, disagrees.
“Everybody knows the issue here is not what I did, because no one has a proved one scintilla of evidence that I did anything other than do my job for America as well as anybody could have done it,” the former vice president told NPR over the weekend.
“I did my job incredibly well,” he added.