Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from a state President Donald Trump won in 2016, said Wednesday that he’s open to having Hunter Biden as a witness in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, a position that puts him at odds with his Democratic colleagues.
“I want witnesses. I definitely want witnesses and evidence. The only thing I’ve said is that there should be an adult in the room and that’s Chief Justice (John) Roberts. We should vote again on Chief Justice Roberts being able to determine who is pertinent,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “If Hunter Biden would be one of the people that Justice Roberts says is pertinent to the evidence or to the trial, then absolutely.”
During an interview with MSNBC earlier Wednesday, Manchin, who represents West Virginia, was asked if he viewed Hunter Biden as a relevant witness.
“You know, I think so. I really do,” he replied. “I don’t have a problem there, because this is why we are where we are. Now, I think that he could clear himself, of what I know and what I’ve heard.
“But being afraid to put anybody that might have pertinent information is wrong no matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican,” Manchin said.
In an interview Wednesday night on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time,” Manchin said he wants the process to be fair.
“What I meant to say was that I believe it has to be fair,” Manchin said. “If the Democrats get 1, 2, 3, 4 – shouldn’t the Republicans get the same amount? But they should be relevant to the charges made against the President.”
On Hunter Biden, Manchin said it’s “immaterial” if the West Virginia Democrat thinks the Vice President’s son is a relevant witness, but Roberts should be “the one who can make the decision.”
Democrats allege Trump abused his office by directing a pressure campaign for Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for $400 million in US security aid and a White House meeting. Trump, Democrats say, then stonewalled congressional investigators to cover up the misconduct.
Trump has repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted improperly in Ukraine. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
Trump and congressional Republicans criticized House Democrats for not allowing Hunter Biden to be called as a witness during the House impeachment hearings, and some Senate Republicans have floated the idea of calling Hunter as a witness in the Senate trial.
The Republican-controlled Senate approved last week rules for the trial that delays the question of whether the Senate should subpoena witnesses and documents until after the Democratic House impeachment managers and the President’s defense team concluded their opening arguments. It also defeated a proposal that would allow the chief justice, who is presiding over the trial, to determine whether a requested witness is relevant to the proceedings.
Trump’s team wrapped up on Tuesday, and the Democrats finished presenting their case late last week.
Manchin’s position was met with swift push back from some Democrats on Wednesday, including from Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, who told CNN that he disagrees with his Senate colleague because Hunter Biden “is not on trial.”
“Donald Trump is on trial. Hunter Biden doesn’t have any relevant – and that’s the key word – relevant information about anything that Donald Trump was doing to extort an investigation of the Biden family out of the Ukraine government” in exchange for military aid,” he said.
Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also said she disagrees with Manchin, telling CNN she wouldn’t vote to include Biden as a witness if given the chance.