Bro, if 51 senators decide they want to play fantasy football then the Senate’s going to play fantasy football.
Top overall draft pick: John Bolton. Second pick: Hunter Biden. Third pick: Mick Mulvaney.
Fourth pick: …Hunter Biden again, maybe? I don’t know who else Republicans reasonably expect to call. The Collins crew isn’t going to give them Joe Biden or the whistleblower.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), asked about a potential deal during an interview with MSNBC, indicated he would not support a Biden-for-Bolton swap, calling Hunter Biden a “total sideshow.”
“Focusing on Hunter Biden just furthers the entire scheme … Trump put forward,” Van Hollen said…
Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), during an interview with CNN’s “New Day,” said such a deal “would mean trading a relevant witness who should be testifying for a witness who has nothing to do with the charges against the president.”
“There was some mistake in reporting in another news outlet that suggested somehow, I was part of a group that was trying to cut some deal … I’m not involved in a conversation like that,” he said.
*If* the Senate were deadlocked at 50/50 such that each side needed the other’s buy-in to call any individual witness, I think Dems would have no choice but to make the Bolton-for-Biden deal. I’ve argued that that trade might be bad for them on balance since Bolton’s unlikely to produce a smoking gun against Trump whereas Biden’s testimony could deepen suspicions about Joe’s ethics. But they’d have to make that trade anyway, just because they’re too deep into this process at this point to turn back now.
They know Trump’s getting acquitted. And they have every reason to believe that he and the GOP won’t suffer much politically, if at all, from him being impeached. Impeachment could even end up backfiring on Democrats. They’re down a score late in the fourth quarter, backed up at midfield. They have to throw to the end zone and hope for the best, that Bolton will offer information so damaging to Trump that it’ll taint the GOP’s eventual “not guilty” verdict in the eyes of the public.
How’s that for a fantasy football analogy for you?
So yes, if forced to make this trade in the name of putting Bolton on the stand, Democrats would make it. But … they’re not actually forced to make any trade. The Senate’s not deadlocked 50/50. The GOP has the votes to call any witness it wants if McConnell can put together a coalition of 51. It’s Collins and three other Republicans who’ll decide who gets called and who doesn’t, which means Democrats can vote however they like on each individual witness instead of compromising with the GOP. They can all vote yes on Bolton and all vote no on Biden and in the end it’ll be the Collins contingent that decides which one, or both, we hear from. As such, it makes no sense for any Democrat to even entertain the idea of calling Hunter. What do they gain by doing so? If they’re worried about Joe Manchin covering his right flank in West Virginia, he can always vote with the GOP on a witness if he feels compelled to do so.
The only way this could get tricky for Democrats is if the Collins crew tried to play hardball with them. Imagine if Collins approached them and said, “Look, I’m willing to vote with you on Bolton. But I’m not going to do it if all of you are committed to voting no on Hunter Biden. I’m giving you cover by calling your star witness, I need a little cover from you on calling ours.” Maybe Schumer would agree to let Manchin, Doug Jones, and Kyrsten Sinema vote in favor of calling Biden in that case, handing Collins a talking point that Hunter was subpoenaed on a bipartisan vote.
But I don’t know. If I were Schumer, I’d call her bluff. Collins isn’t open to calling Bolton because she’s “nice” or believes in bipartisanship or whatever. She’s open to it because she’s worried that voters in Maine will hold it against her in November if they come around to believing that Democrats are right about the trial being a sham and a cover up. The latest poll on calling witnesses, from Survey USA, finds 71 percent in favor. She wants Bolton on the stand so that she can go home and tell swing voters that her courageous vote to subpoena him proves she’s a true independent at heart, never mind that she ended up voting to acquit Trump in the end.
Knowing all that, then, why would Schumer make a deal with her? Logically he shouldn’t offer her anything on Hunter Biden. “If you want to vote against calling Bolton and be buried under ‘cover up!’ attack ads, Susan, be my guest.”
She’d cave. Whether Schumer could find three more Republicans who’d also cave — ah, that’s trickier. Stay tuned.
Here’s Schiff before today’s opening arguments.
Asked about any possible “witness exchange” in Senate trial, Rep. Adam Schiff says, “This isn’t like some fantasy football trade.”
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) January 22, 2020
Update: Like I say, he doesn’t need to make a trade to achieve his goal of calling Bolton. So why would he?
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 22, 2020