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Senators are reportedly considering a Biden-Bolton witness trade-off in impeachment trial

Will lawmakers go for the idea?

Former White House national security adviser John Bolton (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

While the Senate continues to fight over which witnesses — if any — might be called to testify in its impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, some of its Democratic members are reportedly discussing a potential trade: Hunter Biden for former White House national security adviser John Bolton.

According to a Tuesday night story at the Washington Post, "several Senate Democrats are privately discussing" the prospect of such an agreement:

Publicly, most Democrats have scoffed at the growing GOP clamor to hear former Vice President Joe Biden's son testify, dismissing him as irrelevant to the charges against Trump and accusing Republicans of trying to distract from the allegations against the president.

But behind closed doors, a small group of Democratic senators and aides has begun to question that logic, sounding out colleagues on whether to back a witness deal that could lead to testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton or other administration officials with possible firsthand knowledge of the Ukraine controversy, according to multiple Democratic officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private discussions.

The story was published as the first substantive day of the Senate's impeachment trial lasted late into the night due to debates and votes on several Democrat-proposed amendments to the proposed trial rules having to do with subpoenaing witnesses and evidence. Those efforts were ultimately defeated, putting off the question of calling witnesses until later in the trial process.

Republicans have tried to call Hunter Biden — whose past work with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings while his father, Joe, was vice president is at the heart of the impeachment controversy — as an impeachment witness since the matter was being investigated in the House. However, those calls were rejected by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who is now the House's lead impeachment manager and has said this week that calling Biden at this stage of the process would be "an illegitimate abuse of the trial."

Similarly, Democrats have repeatedly demanded that Bolton be called to testify in the Senate trial, given the possibility that his testimony from his time at the White House could prove damaging to the president's case. However, he ultimately wasn't compelled to testify during the House investigation after Democrats decided not to take the White House's immunity claims to court on the matter.

Earlier this month, Bolton said that he was prepared to testify if called by the Senate, saying that he had to "resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study."

On Wednesday, President Trump said that he would like to have Bolton testify at the trial, but that doing so would present "a national security problem," explaining that his former adviser "knows some of my thoughts, what I think about leaders, what happens if he reveals what I think about a leader and it's not very positive."

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