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If he’s called to testify during President Trump’s impeachment trial, Joe Biden said he won’t. It would turn the trial into a “farce or some kind of political theater,” he said. And the former vice president is apparently opposed to a swap involving testimony from his son, Hunter Biden, in exchange for testimony from any key administration officials.

That’s too bad. It would be theater — but of the highest, Shakespearean order. A politician who long dreamed of being president puts country first, ahead of political ambition and family. With that, he shows the conscience and moral compass so lacking in today’s Washington. That display of courage and character, in turn, forces the current cast of shameless, craven Senate Republicans to call witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton, whose testimony is essential to any truth discovery. There’s a new urgency about hearing that testimony, following a stunning New York Times report that Trump told Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. Bolton included the explosive information in drafts of an unpublished manuscript he circulated to the White House and associates, the Times reported.

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As The Washington Post recently reported, most Democrats publicly dismiss pressure from Republicans who want Joe Biden’s son to testify about his role on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma when his father served as vice president. Privately, however, some Democrats have discussed the possibility of hearing from both Bidens, the Post said.

It makes sense — if it’s part of a deal that leads to sworn testimony from Bolton and other White House aides with direct knowledge of Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine. Those who know exactly what Trump wanted from Ukraine in exchange for nearly $400 million in US military aid could decimate the president’s defense once they raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth.

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Why drag the Bidens into this impeachment trial? After all, Trump is pushing unfounded claims that Joe Biden tried to stop a corrupt investigation into Ukraine to protect his son while Hunter Biden served on the Burisma board. This week, Trump’s defense team is expected to push even harder on the theory that when Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to “do us a favor” and order an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden and Burisma, he was concerned about corruption in Ukraine; he was not trying to dig up dirt that could help him beat Joe Biden in 2020.

So why should Joe or Hunter Biden take the heat, while Trump lies and pushes baseless conspiracy theories? Because if they did nothing wrong, they can do something good — trade their sworn testimony for that of someone in Trump’s inner circle and force senators to hear it all and then vote.

On the campaign trail, Biden denies any wrongdoing in connection with Ukraine. Last October, Hunter Biden gave an interview to ABC News, during which he said his business dealings showed “poor judgment,” but he did nothing improper. “I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That’s where I made the mistake,” said Biden. “So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way, whatsoever.”

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So, why not testify under oath? It would send a powerful message from a father and son who have endured great tragedy and personal struggle. When the history of Trump’s impeachment trial is written, they would be seen as men of courage and conviction who put patriotism ahead of political expedience. And it might actually help Biden’s presidential bid. After all, he says his campaign is all about a return to honor and duty.

Bolton’s testimony is essential to evaluate Trump’s defense and would answer so many questions about Trump’s motivations. By refusing to testify, Biden diminishes the moral imperative that Democrats would like to bring to the case — that Trump is a negative force, unsafe to the country, and we all must be willing to sacrifice to show that evil.


Joan Vennochi can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.