WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Thursday kicked off the first hearing in their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, in a six-hour proceeding that illustrated the politicization and deep divisions of the two parties amid a looming government shutdown.
The Republican chairs of the House Oversight, Ways and Means and Judiciary committees opened the inquiry to investigate whether Biden leveraged his political power as vice president and president to help enrich his family with foreign dollars.
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee slammed Republicans for trivializing impeachment and asserted that there was no evidence of any impeachable action by the commander-in-chief. Even the three GOP-appointed witnesses agreed to an extent.
“I am not here today to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud or wrongdoing,” forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky said. “More information needs to be gathered before I can make such an assessment.”
Law professor Jonathan Turley said he would not support articles of impeachment based on Republicans’ current evidence.
“This is a question of an impeachment inquiry,” said Turley, who is on the faculty at George Washington University Law School. “It is not a vote on articles of impeachment. In fact, I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment.”
Still, Turley told the committee to keep investigating Biden’s “influence peddling.” Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability James Comer (R-Ky.) alleged Biden, Hunter Biden, and foreign business partners are entangled in a web of corruption.
“(Joe Biden) lied to the American people that there was an absolute wall between his official government duties and his personal life,” Comer said. “Let’s be clear. There was no wall. The door was wide open to those who purchased what a business associate described as the Biden brand.”
Comer and other House Republicans have yet to put forth significant evidence to substantiate this claim.
During the hearing, Comer referenced a $250,000 bank wire sent in 2019 from a Chinese CEO to Hunter Biden at Joe Biden’s Delaware residence. But that address was Hunter Biden’s permanent residence at the time, CNN reported Wednesday. Hunter Biden’s lawyer Abbe Lowell told the outlet that the money was a documented loan.
Ranking member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) also pointed out that at the time of the wire transfer, Joe Biden was neither vice president nor president. Raskin said the president’s actions are separate from those of his adult son. Democrat-appointed witness and law professor Michael J. Gerhardt said there are no grounds to impeach Joe Biden over the separate actions of his son.
“It’s not consistent with the American legal system,” Gerhardt said.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said the impeachment inquiry is the Republicans’ attempt to drown out former president Donald Trump’s indictments of election interference and business fraud. He added that The Republicans have a selective form of scrutiny when it comes to any president’s foreign affairs.
“This hearing is all about ‘Look over here, not over there,’” Connolly said.
Much of the hearing was similar to a lob-and-volley of attacks and counterclaims by some of the most powerful members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.
Raskin said the Republicans’ investigation into Joe Biden, and lack of looking into Trump, is part of an effort to help Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.
“Like flying monkeys on a mission for the Wicked Witch of the West, Trump’s followers now carry his messages out to the world,” Raskin said.
Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) shot back that Democrats’ statements on Trump should also be considered a form of distraction from the investigation into Biden.
“I love the fact that Trump lives rent-free in the Democrats’ heads every day,” McClain said. “That is a beautiful thing, even though we are talking about the impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden.”
Raskin noted another Republican figure who was not present for the hearing: Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former lawyer.
In 2019, Giuliani circulated a conspiracy theory that then-Vice President Joe Biden helped fire a Ukrainian prosecutor who was attempting to investigate the energy company Burisma, where Hunter Biden served on the board.
This occurred at the same time Trump was facing his own impeachment over pressuring a foreign president into digging up dirt on Joe Biden, a political opponent at the time.
“This committee is afraid to bring (Giuliani) before us and put him on the record,” Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) said, while holding up a piece of paper with the words “Where is Rudy?” printed in black font.
Twice during the hearing, committee Democrats requested a vote to subpoena Giuliani and Lev Parnas, Giuliani’s former business partner who has disputed Giuliani’s claims. Both times, Republicans voted it down.
Mfume accused Republicans of using the impeachment inquiry as “a frontline tool to go fishing for evidence.” Gerhardt agreed with Mfume when he said the inquiry was an “unprecedented” exploitation of power.
Mfume concluded his time on the floor with a gesture to the screen in front of him: a countdown clock for the government shutdown, which will occur at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday if Congress doesn’t pass a bill to at least temporarily keep the government funded. Mfume said the committee should be debating the budget, which if not passed, will have serious implications for the American public.
“This clock is showing what is happening to our country while we debate, over and over and over again, not any wrongdoing by President Biden, but trying to link what his son may or may not have done to him,” Mfume said. “People are going to be hurt when this time runs out.”