16 November 2019

Why Won't Adam Schiff Call Hunter Biden To Testify?

With two days of public hearings now complete, the public has been presented with a general sense of Adam Schiff's organizing narrative for impeaching President Trump: That Donald Trump corruptly misused and abused the Office of President of the United States by requesting Ukraine conduct an official investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden in order to develop political "dirt" to use against Joe Biden in the upcoming Presidential elections, using US military aid to Ukraine as an inducement.

During the public testimony, just as with the transcripts of the closed-door depositions released by Schiff's committee, much has been said about Hunter Biden and his tenure on the board of directors of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company frequently mentioned in conjunction with allegations of official corruption within Ukraine. It is quite possible there has been more testimony about Burisma, and Ukrainian corruption in general, than there has been about Donald Trump.

Burisma IS A Question

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified in her deposition that, as part of her preparation by the State Department for her confirmation hearings in 2016, a specific question was posed about Hunter Biden and Burisma:
Q And you may have mentioned this when we were speaking before lunch, but when did the issues related to Burisma first get your attention? Was that as soon as you arrived in country?

A Not really. I first became aware of it when I was being prepared for my Senate confirmation hearings. So I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of questions and answers and various other things. And so there was one there about Burisma, and so, you know, that's when I first heard that word.

Q Were there any other companies that were mentioned in connection with Burisma?

A I don't recall.

Q And was it in the general sense of corruption, there was a company bereft with corrupt?

A The way the question was phrased in this model Q & A was, what can you tell us about Hunter Biden's, you know, being named to the board of Burisma?
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, during his Day 1 opening remarks, acknowledged a concern about Hunter Biden's directorship and the potential for a conflict of interest:
Later, I became aware that Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma. Soon after that, in a briefing call with the national security staff of the office of the vice president in February of 2015, I raised my concern that Hunter Biden’s status as a board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest.
There is little room to dispute that the extent to which Burisma is a corrupt enterprise is a question the US State Department has had for some time.

Burisma Is The Question Not Asked

Remarkably, Adam Schiff himself attempted to dismiss this notion, intimating in his Day 1 opening statement that investigating the Bidens served no interest of the United States:
Neither of these investigations was in the US national interest. And neither was part of the official preparatory material for the call. Both however, were in Donald Trump’s personal interest and in the interests of his 2020 reelection campaign. And the Ukrainian president knew about both in advance because Sondland and others had been pressing Ukraine for weeks about investigations into the 2016 election, Burisma, and the Bidens.
Note the conflict between Adam Schiff's opening statement and the testimonies of his own witnesses. Congressman Schiff, in order to establish that the request for investigations as a corrupt act by President Trump, quite rightly acknowledged, albeit implicitly, an essential truth: for President Trump's request to be corrupt, there has to have been no US security or other interest served by the investigations.

This is a point I have emphasized repeatedly in writing about these impeachment proceedings.

This is the question Adam Schiff will not ask. It is the question Adam Schiff should ask, and ultimately must ask.

Hunter Biden Has The Answer

Yet there is one witness Adam Schiff could call which would confront the topic of whether there should be an investigation of Hunter Biden and Burisma: Hunter Biden. The question that Adam Schiff must ask is one that Hunter Biden is unquestionably equipped to answer.

Hunter Biden has already made repeated public denials of wrongdoing with regards to Burisma. In October he decried the allegations of impropriety as "false charges".
"Hunter always understood that his father would be guided, entirely and unequivocally, by established U.S. policy, regardless of its effects on Hunter's professional interests," according to a statement released by his attorney. "He never anticipated the barrage of false charges against both him and his father by the President of the United States.
Hunter Biden went even further in an exclusive interview with ABC News, denying any wrongdoing at all while on the Burisma board.
"Did I make a mistake? Well, maybe in the grand scheme of things, yeah," he said, again referring to fallout from his overseas business. "But did I make a mistake based upon some ethical lapse? Absolutely not."

Biden said, "I take -- full responsibility for that. Do I -- did I do anything improper? No, and not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever. I joined a board, I served honorably. I did -- I focused on corporate governance. I didn't have any discussions with my father before or after I joined the board as it related to it, other than that brief exchange that we had."
As I have written previously, and as Secretary Kent has confirmed, Hunter Biden's directorship at Burisma presented at least an appearance of a conflict of interest for Joe Biden. Moreover, based on the extant reporting, there is no indication that either Biden took steps to mitigate either the conflict or the appearance of conflict. Based on the extant reporting, there is at a minimum, a basis for investigation for a prohibited conflict of interest as specified in 18 USC 208.

However, if there is no basis--if, upon additional reporting, it could be determined that there was no prohibited conflict of interest, that the Bidens had in fact taken proper steps to prevent such a conflict--then President Trump's request indeed becomes questionable. If it is absolutely clear, when all the facts are known, that there is no conflict, then Schiff's allegation of corrupt purpose by President Trump acquires considerable weight and merit.

Hunter Biden is a person who can speak directly to this point; he may be the only person who can speak directly to this point. Congressman Schiff has the authority (or could easily obtain the authority) to provide an appropriate grant of immunity to avoid infringing upon Biden's Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, and, practically speaking, there is little downside to such a grant of immunity: barring an outrageous revelation of corruption by either Biden, the likelihood of any US Attorney pursuing a prosecution of Hunter Biden seems remote. If there is not likely to be any criminal charge preferred, why not ask Hunter Biden to "clear the air"? 

Questions about Hunter Biden are not going to magically disappear during this impeachment inquiry. There is no way they can disappear: Adam Schiff made Hunter Biden essential to the entire process the moment he declared that no US national interest could be served by an investigation of the Bidens. There is but one circumstance where that assertion can be true--the Bidens have to be affirmatively cleared of any wrongdoing regarding Burisma or Ukraine. 

If the Bidens cannot be cleared, then there are undeniable national interests at stake. Even if one wishes to argue that the United States should be doing the investigating rather than Ukraine, and thus wishes to fault President Trump for asking for the investigations on that basis, that debate is a question of policy. Disputes over policy are not and must never be characterized as "high crimes and misdemeanors", the threshold that must be met for there to be an impeachable offense.

Hunter Biden is the essential fact witness to these impeachment proceedings. He is the one who can say what he did and did not do regarding Burisma and Ukraine; he may very well be the only one who can do that.

Ironically, the Republicans want him called as a witness, even though nothing he might say could be of any relevance to a rebuttal by President Trump to Adam Schiff's core allegation of abuse of power: So long as the conflict of interest under 18 USC 208 is unresolved, there is a plausible predicate for an investigation, making it impossible to impute corrupt purpose to President Trump's request. Hunter Biden's silence is far more helpful to President Trump and the Republicans than any testimony he might give.

Adam Schiff has it in his power to make quick end of these impeachment proceedings. He has the power to establish once and for all if there is a basis for investigating the Bidens. He need only call Hunter Biden to testify, and the conflict question is resolved, one way or the other.

Yet Adam Schiff refuses to call Hunter Biden to testify. Why?


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