Some Democrats reportedly open to boosting Republican talking points with impeachment witness trade

Behind the scenes of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, some Democrats are reportedly pondering a deal that could go wrong in about a dozen ways. With Republicans blocking witnesses while yelling about Hunter Biden, these Democrats are considering a trade in which they’d get to call White House officials like former national security adviser John Bolton, an actual witness to Trump’s actions that prompted impeachment, and Republicans would get to call Hunter Biden, a Republican talking point with no actual connection to impeachment.

While Democrats have repeatedly said that calling either Hunter or former Vice President Joe Biden would be irrelevant and a distraction, “behind closed doors, a small group of Democratic senators and aides has begun to question that logic, sounding out colleagues on whether to back a witness deal that could lead to testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton or other administration officials with possible firsthand knowledge of the Ukraine controversy,” The Washington Post reports, citing “multiple Democratic officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private discussions.”

Some Democrats have sent mixed messages. Sen. Chris Coons said that “If you want to give Joe Biden an opportunity to sit in the well of the Senate and answer the question, ‘Do you think the president acted appropriately?’ go right ahead”—but he also tweeted that “Trials have witnesses, and the witnesses have to be relevant to the case. It isn’t complicated. The President is on trial here, not anyone with the last name Biden. VP Biden and Hunter Biden are not relevant witnesses.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown told CNN’s State of the Union that he was “fine” with a Biden testifying in exchange for administration officials, but on Tuesday he called the idea “a typical Donald Trump-Mitch McConnell distraction that the national media continues to play with and continues to assist them.”

The big question at this point is not what Democrats are saying publicly, though. It’s what they’re talking about behind the scenes.

It is tempting to think that having Bolton or other current or former Trump officials testify could blow this thing wide open, but there are so many risks it’s hard to count them. Like, Hunter or Joe Biden testifies, giving Republicans the distraction they crave, and then Bolton refuses, or Trump manages to block Bolton. Just for starters. The Biden campaign is calling it right, saying that this is a “sad and obvious attempt at diversion” by Republicans. 

This impeachment trial is about Donald Trump and what Donald Trump did.