The Slatest

Joe Biden Says He Would Defy Subpoena in Trump Impeachment Trial

Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden laughs during the sixth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season in Los Angeles, California on December 19, 2019.
Democratic presidential hopeful former Vice President Joe Biden laughs during the sixth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season in Los Angeles, California on December 19, 2019. FREDERIC J. BROWN/Getty Images

Update on Dec. 29 at 8:55 a.m.: Former Vice President Joe Biden later backtracked and said he would comply with a subpoena.

Original Post: Former Vice President Joe Biden reiterated Friday that he would not comply with a subpoena to testify at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. Speaking with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, Biden said that if he complied with a subpoena it would only allow Trump to shift attention away from himself and his actions.

“The reason I wouldn’t is because it’s all designed to deal with Trump doing what he’s done his whole life: trying to take the focus off him,” Biden told the newspaper. “The issue is not what I did.” The presidential hopeful said that any subpoena would be “all about a diversion.”

When the paper’s executive editor Carol Hunter asked whether his actions didn’t mean he was putting himself above the law, the Democratic presidential hopeful said that even if he were to voluntarily appear at the Senate trial journalists would play right into Trump’s strategy. “What are you going to cover?” Biden said. “You guys are going to cover for three weeks anything I said. And he’s going to get away. You guys buy into it all the time. Not a joke … Think what it’s about. It’s all about what he does all the time, his entire career. Take the focus off. This guy violated the Constitution. He said it in the driveway of the White House. He acknowledged he asked for help.”

In a series of tweets Saturday, Biden expanded on his remarks to the paper, making clear it was not a decision he took lightly. “In my 40 years in public life, I have always complied with a lawful order,” Biden wrote. “But I am just not going to pretend that there is any legal basis for Republican subpoenas for my testimony in the impeachment trial.” The former vice president went on to note that the main point he wants to make clear is that “this impeachment is about Trump’s conduct, not mine.”

Several Trump allies have threatened to call Democrats, including Biden and his son Hunter, to testify in the impeachment trial. But it isn’t clear Republicans would have the votes for a subpoena considering some of the more moderate members of the party may very well object to the idea, notes the New York Times. The GOP holds 53 seats in the Senate and would need 51 votes to compel Biden’s testimony.