Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden says he will not comply with a subpoena if he is called to testify in a Senate impeachment trial — a decision that technically exposes him to arrest — and argues that his appearance at such a proceeding would divert attention from President Donald Trump’s allegedly wrongful actions.
“The reason I wouldn’t is because it’s all designed to deal with Trump doing what he’s done his whole life: trying to take the focus off him,” Biden told the New York Times. “The issue is not what I did.”
In the president’s July phone call with Ukraine that has been the center of the impeachment circus, Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to “do us a favor” and investigate 2016 election corruption, along with the potentially corrupt conduct of “the Bidens.”
Trump was making reference in part to Biden’s threat to withhold a billion dollars in U.S. aid from Ukraine during his time as vice president. Biden himself admitted that step was taken in order to force the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor he claimed was corrupt, but it turned out that the prosecutor in question also happened to be investigating energy firm Burisma Holdings, which was reportedly paying Biden’s son, Hunter, over $80,000 per month to sit on its board of directors.
Democrats have claimed that Joe Biden has already been investigated with regard to Ukraine and that nothing untoward was ever found, but Republicans believe there may be more to the situation than Biden and the Democrats want to admit.
The Senate has requested documents from Biden in order to conduct its own investigation, and Trump has previously said he would want Hunter and Joe Biden to testify in an impeachment trial.
Former Vice President Biden said earlier this month that he would not voluntarily appear at a trial, which would force Senate Republicans to issue a subpoena for his testimony.
The fate of any trial remains very much in the air, given that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has thus far refused to send the articles of impeachment passed by the House over to the Senate, claiming she will wait until Republicans agree to a”fair” process.
A number of Trump associates have already defied congressional subpoenas, including the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump’s team has said that compliance with the subpoenas would violate executive privilege, and the courts have generally agreed with this principle.
Biden would enjoy no such executive privilege with regard to the subject matter of the impeachment trial, which means he could indeed be compelled to testify — eventually. Enforcing subpoenas through the courts is typically a slow process.
Meanwhile, though, Biden insists that he wants to hold Trump accountable and stop him from distracting the public by pointing the finger at him.
“The President is the one who has committed impeachable crimes, and I’m not going to let him divert from that,” Biden claimed. “I’m not going to let anyone divert from that.”