US House Republicans back formal impeachment inquiry against Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden talks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol on December 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. Hunter Biden defied a subpoena from Congress to testify behind closed doors ahead of a House vote on an impeachment inquiry against his father. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The U.S. House voted along party lines Wednesday to officially proceed with an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden.

The Republican-controlled chamber approved a resolution221-212, with Illinois Democrat Brad Schneider not voting, to allow three committees to continue their investigation into whether Biden benefited from his son Hunter’s foreign business dealings.

If such a link could be demonstrated, it would raise questions about foreign policy choices Biden made as vice president from 2009 to 2017.

Work on the investigation thus far has not demonstrated a link involving the president.

The vote was meant to show the investigation has the support of most House members.

Three committee leaders — Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer of Kentucky, Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio and Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith of Missouri — had previously conducted their inquiry solely at the direction of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Subpoena power

House Republicans have subpoenaed Hunter Biden, asking him to sit for a deposition by Wednesday,  but the president’s son declined, offering instead to appear at a public hearing.

Wednesday’s vote to formalize the investigation, which also formally bestowed the chairmen with subpoena power, would provide the inquiry more legitimacy and make it more difficult for Hunter Biden to reject future subpoenas, Jordan and Comer said hours before the vote.

“We think the House of Representatives will go on-record with a power that solely resides in the House to say we are in an official impeachment inquiry phase of our oversight,” Jordan said.

“And when that happens, we’ll see what their excuse is then,” he added, referring to Hunter Biden and his legal team. “They should have been here today. But once we take that vote, we expect him to come in for his interview, for his deposition.”

The Republicans said a deposition behind closed doors during the fact-gathering phase of the investigation should occur prior to a public hearing.

“We expect to depose the president’s son, and then we will be more than happy to have a public hearing with him,” Comer said.

Hunter Biden earned millions during his father’s tenure as vice president for sitting on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma and in deals with Chinese oil tycoon Ye Jianming.

Hunter Biden speaks to press

Hunter Biden appeared outside the Capitol on Wednesday and made a brief statement to reporters. He did not take questions.

“There is no evidence to suggest that my father was financially involved in my business,” he said. “Because it did not happen.”

He named the GOP committee chairmen — Comer, Jordan and Smith — and said they had “lied over and over about every aspect of my personal and professional life” and distorted the president’s paternal support as a kind of criminal act.

“They have taken the light of my dad’s love for me and presented it as darkness,” he said.

Joe Biden has repeatedly demonstrated support for his son amid his recovery from addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine.

Hunter Biden on Wednesday referred to past mistakes he’d made and his struggles with addiction, but denied that his father based any policy decisions on his own business dealings.

At Wednesday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Biden was “familiar with” what his son would say but declined to offer more details. She referred most questions about the matter to representatives for Hunter Biden, noting that he is not associated with the White House as “a private citizen.”

But she criticized House Republicans for proceeding in the inquiry without evidence and for focusing on impeachment rather than negotiations on the border, averting a government shutdown in January and other policy priorities.

“Instead they focus on baseless political stunts,” Jean-Pierre said.

‘Zero evidence of wrongdoing’

Several House Democrats also blasted the inquiry in floor speeches Wednesday, calling it “a political hit job” and “a witch hunt” meant to smear President Biden.

“A year of investigation, piles of documents and a herd of the Republicans’ own witnesses confirmed there is zero evidence of wrongdoing,” Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz said. “Instead, the Republicans’ wasteful witch hunt just confirms that President Biden is a good and honorable man. What this resolution really does is cover up a full year of do-nothing Republican policies.”

Since taking the House majority this year, Republicans in the chamber have investigated Hunter Biden’s business dealings, including with companies in Ukraine and China, and have claimed that Joe Biden and other family members benefited.

But they haven’t shown any direct link from Hunter Biden’s businesses to the president. Witnesses that GOP leaders asked to testify at the House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s first hearing in September acknowledged there was no evidence tying Joe Biden to Hunter Biden’s business activities.
McCarthy directed the three House committees to open the investigation in September as he faced pressure from the Republican conference amid a push to keep the government funded. The move didn’t mollify the far-right members of his party, who voted with every Democratic member to oust McCarthy the following month.

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