If you listened to Republicans you’d swear that Hunter Biden was the central focus of the impeachment trial of President Trump. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) put some sparkle on this shiny object by saying Wednesday morning that he thought the son of former vice president Joe Biden was a “relevant witness.” He’s not. Even engaging this question or the possibility of a trade of witnesses for each side ignores a procedural truth.

“They have the power to call Hunter Biden on their own. They don’t need us. They don’t need Joe Manchin. They have 53 senators. If they wanted to call him they could. Trade or not. And we won’t trade,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) told me during a quick telephone conversation on Wednesday. “I don’t think they have the votes to call Hunter Biden, but they don’t want to. They know it would make [the trial] look like a circus and make them look worse.” After all, Schumer pointed out, “Hunter Biden has nothing to do with this case."

“We are seeking the truth. We are seeking the facts,” Schumer continued, repeating an argument he has made since the impeachment case landed in the Senate. “The witnesses … we have asked for, we don’t know what they’ll say. They could be exculpatory of Trump. After all, these are not Democratic witnesses. These are all Trump appointees.” On the wish list of witnesses are acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, whose draft manuscript dropped a bombshell in the middle of Trump’s defense during the impeachment trial proceedings.

“We did not seek witnesses who would be anti-Trump conspiracy theorists. We sought people who were in the room where it happened, to quote the ‘Hamilton’ play and actually Bolton’s book [title],” Schumer said. “All these people were contemporaneous eyewitnesses to the fundamental question in Article I, which is, why was the aid cut off [and] who did it? And how did that happen?”

One of the maxims of Washington is that there is nothing spontaneous about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). He speaks volumes through his words and actions, and even his silence. That McConnell allowed a slew of stories this week to go unchallenged that reported he told fellow Republicans “he does not have the votes yet to block witnesses” made me wonder if the “Grim Reaper” was scaring the White House while sitting on the votes he needs to block witness testimony.

In short, is McConnell playing us? Schumer wasn’t totally buying it.

“The way [McConnell] works is if he certainly had the votes he would have said it, makes everything else less important. I don’t think he has the votes,” Schumer said, “but I don’t think he doesn’t have the votes, either. He’s working to get the votes. He doesn’t have them.” And Schumer thinks he knows why.

“I agree with House manager [Adam] Schiff when he said, ‘You all know we’re right.’ I think they do on the facts. That’s why they’re trying to shift to the [Alan] Dershowitz argument now,” Schumer explained. “I still think it’s an uphill fight for us to get the four Republicans we need, but we’re certainly not out of the ballpark because I think they realize we’re right. I think they realize the American people know we’re right. And I think they realized that to go the other way … history will record each individual poorly.”

“You don’t have to have an IQ of 200 to realize that there are witnesses and Trump is blocking them,” Schumer said, before pointing out that 75 percent of voters, including a plurality of Republicans, in the latest Quinnipiac University poll said witnesses should be allowed to testify in the impeachment trial. “And when Republican senators hear from their constituents now and in the future, they’re gonna say, ‘Why aren’t you for witnesses and documents?’”

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