Republicans on Friday intensified attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden in an apparent effort to shift the focus onto the Democratic presidential hopeful amid the Trump impeachment trial, one day before the president's legal team was to argue his defense on the Senate floor.
Ahead of Friday's trial session, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham appeared alongside fellow GOP senators and accused Democratic Texas Rep. Sylvia Garcia of being “misleading” during her presentation the day before, when Graham said she argued “there’s no there, there,” when it comes to Biden and Ukraine.
“As much as I like Joe Biden, and I do respect him and I do admire him, and I’ve traveled the world with him -- I think it’s bad foreign policy if you’re going to be in charge of dealing with corruption in the Ukraine, that your son hooks-up with the most corrupt company in the Ukraine and turns the Ukraine into an ATM machine,” Graham, who has previously consulted with Trump and the White House on legal strategy, said Friday.
Graham later on Friday pressed his argument, telling reporters, "If this was Liz Cheney or Pence’s son doing this in the Ukraine, Adam Schiff would be leading the charge for an investigation of what happened," referring to the lead House manager, and Cheney, part of the current House GOP Republican leadership and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Vice President Mike Pence's son is Michael Pence.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday defended the Democrats' strategy to preemptively address the claims surrounding the Bidens, calling it “brilliant."
“Rep. Garcia explained how the president’s insinuations about the Bidens are baseless, anticipating that the president’s lawyers would focus on the Bidens, and Representative Schiff discredited the absurd idea that President Trump cares deeply about corruption in foreign countries,” Schumer said.
As Senate Republicans zeroed in on the Bidens, a focus on both father and son is nothing new when it comes to Trump's defense. In October 2019, Trump called on China to investigate Biden and his son, ABC News reported at the time, saying, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”
The House impeachment inquiry was triggered afer a whistleblower complaint alleged he withheld aid money from Ukraine as leverage in an effort to pressure the country to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Trump in September, without evidence, accused Biden of demanding “the Ukrainian Government fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son, or they won't get a very large amount of U.S. money.” However, there was widespread criticism of the Ukrainian prosecutor general at the time, including from European governments, and Biden was implementing U.S. policy.
Trump’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, said Thursday night his team would respond to the Democrats' arguments, telling reporters, “It's been a lot about Joe Biden and Burisma,” referring to the company.
“They kind of opened the door for that response,” Sekulow said. “So, we'll determine as a defense team the appropriate way to do it.”
On Friday, Sekulow offered a preview of the defense argument, telling reporters that the president's lawyers definitely plan to address the Bidens.
"Joe Biden was charged as Vice President of the United States with the Ukraine policy. That was his specific charge. His son went to work for a -- went on the board of a Ukrainian gas company," Sekulow said.
"First, the Vice President said he knew nothing about it, but the State Department knew about it because they were concerned when people were being put up for confirmation that that issue might arise. So, believe me, you'll hear about that issue."
Schumer on Friday pushed back against Trump's legal team raising the the Bidens, telling reporters that the Democrats have “already set a very high bar,”
“If the president's counsel now get up and make those arguments, every Republican senator and the American people will have heard already why those arguments are utter nonsense. So, in short, the House managers have already set a very high bar for the president's counsel to meet."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, said he thought “the House managers made a serious tactical mistake,” by bringing up the Bidens during their arguments this week.
“I think yesterday was very consequential, because what they’ve done is they’ve opened the door to Burisma,” Cruz said, according to the transcript. “They’ve opened the door to Hunter Biden testifying.”
Graham told reporters, that while he opposes bringing in any witnesses, if there are some, Hunter Biden should be brought in, as House Republicans wanted during the original impeachment inquiry.
“The bottom line here is: If there are new witnesses to be called, you'd have to start with the ones that were refused to be called to start with,” he said.
Graham said he “made sure” then-special counsel Robert Mueller was able to investigate the Trumps, but said his Democratic counterparts are not allowing the same when it comes to Joe Biden.
"Now if you don't know one of your family members is getting $87,000 a month from the most corrupt gas company in the Ukraine, and it's your job to the deal with corruption the Ukraine, you're not looking very hard," Graham said Friday.
Graham later added: “What they’re trying to do is convince the public and people like us, just forget about this.”
“I think this is a legitimate inquiry,” he said.