House Republicans outline basis for Biden impeachment inquiry in first hearing

House Republicans contradicted by their own witnesses at Biden impeachment hearing

House Republicans' first hearing of their impeachment inquiry into President Biden stretched for more than for six hours Thursday, as they sought to justify their case to the public. Democrats strongly pushed back at the hearing and criticized the entire process as politically motivated.

Republican-led House committees have been investigating the president and his son for months, but so far, have not cited specific laws or statutes with evidence to show the president broke the law, boosted his personal finances improperly or abused his office to help his son. That didn't change Thursday, as Republicans largely criticized Hunter Biden's alleged actions. But Republicans say that's the purpose of an impeachment inquiry — to build a case. 

The Republican chairs of the House Oversight, Judiciary and Ways and Means Committees outlined their view of the factual and legal basis for an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Biden in a 30-page memo, which was obtained Wednesday night by CBS News. Republicans elaborated on their justification for an inquiry in Thursday's hearing. 

"The Biden family sold access to Joe Biden's power, and the Biden Justice Department protected the Biden brand," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith claimed on Thursday. "We must continue to follow the facts." 

According to the memo, the committees are looking into whether Mr. Biden "abused his federal office to enrich his family and conceal his and/or his family's misconduct."

"The purpose of this inquiry — and at this stage, it is just that, an inquiry — is to determine whether sufficient grounds exist for the committees to draft articles of impeachment against President Biden for consideration by the full House," the chairmen wrote. 

Comer, at the hearing's conclusion, announced he would subpoena the bank records of Hunter Biden and Jim Biden, Mr. Biden's brother. 

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer has claimed communications records, financial records, and interviews show Mr. Biden "allowed his family to sell him as 'the brand' around the world to enrich the Biden family." On Thursday, House Republicans accused now-President Biden of meeting and dining with Hunter Biden's foreign business associates.

"This was no illusion of access. They got access," Comer said at the conclusion of the hearing. 

Witness for the majority Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said he doesn't believe Republicans currently have enough evidence for articles of impeachment. 

"I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment," Turley said. "That is something that an inquiry has to establish. But I also do believe that the House has passed the threshold for an impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Biden." 

The White House on Thursday blasted House Republicans for launching an impeachment inquiry days before the government is set to shut down, since Congress has not yet passed a measure to fund the government. The White House issued a 15-page memo Tuesday aiming to debunk Republicans' specific claims. On Thursday, Democrats on the committee set up a clock counting down the hours until the shutdown begins. 

"There are 61 hours and 55 minutes until the government shuts down because of extreme House Republicans' chaos and inability to govern," the White House said. "The consequences for the American people will be very damaging — from lost jobs, to troops working without pay, to jeopardizing important efforts to fight fentanyl, deliver disaster relief, provide food assistance, and more. Nothing can distract from that."

But Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the oversight panel, had a darker view of Republicans' reason for Thursday's hearing. He pointed to a recent Trump social media post in which Trump encouraged Republicans to shut down the government to "defund these political prosecutions against me and other patriots."

"To delay justice, Donald Trump would cut off paychecks to a couple million service members and federal workers and furlough more than a million workers, and pay them later for having not worked," Raskin said. "They would half food assistance to millions of moms and kids, and keep NIH in my district from enrolling any more patients in life-and-death clinical trials. Trump's convinced that if we shut the government down, his four criminal prosecutions on 91 different felony and misdemeanor charges will be defunded and delayed long enough to keep him from having to go before a jury of his peers before the 2024 election."

"And like flying monkeys on a mission for the wicked witch of the west, Trump's followers in the House now carry his messages out to the world. Shut down the government! Shut down the prosecutions! But the cult master has another command for his followers, which brings us here today. On August 27, he posted this edict — 'Either impeach the bum or fade into oblivion. They did it to us.'"

View of a social media message by former President Trump as House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) speaks next to Chairman James Comer (R-KY) during a House Oversight and Accountability Committee impeachment inquiry hearing into U.S. President Joe Biden on Sept. 28, 2023, in Washington, D.C. JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS

A president can be impeached for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors, according to the Constitution. "The decision to begin this inquiry does not mean that the committees have reached a conclusion on this question," the committee's memo says.

The full House traditionally votes to launch an impeachment inquiry, but it has not done so yet. The Democrat-controlled House voted to initiate an inquiry into former President Donald Trump's 2019 impeachment, but not initially in 2021, when he was impeached a second time in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant and Eileen O'Connor, a former assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice Tax Division, also testified Thursday at the request of Republicans. Michael J. Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, appeared for the minority. Gerhardt and Democrats on the committee suggested Republicans are going after Mr. Biden for his son's actions and alleged actions. 

"A fishing expedition is not a legitimate purpose," Gerhardt said. 

Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia pointed to a January 2023 tweet from Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a member of the House Oversight panel, touting her introduction of a resolution to impeach Mr. Biden on his first day in office two years earlier. 

"There really is no reason why, they don't care why they want to impeach the president, but they've been trying to do it now for years," Garcia said. "Here, you have of course a member of this oversight committee posting about introducing articles of impeachment on President Biden's very first day in office. And now, the speaker of the House is empowering these people in a desperate attempt to keep his job."

Congressman Robert Garcia (D-CA) asks a question in front of a tweet by committee member Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) calling for President Biden's impeachment during a House Oversight and Accountability Committee impeachment inquiry hearing into U.S. President Joe Biden on Sept. 28, 2023, in Washington, D.C. JIM BOURG / REUTERS

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy directed House committees to launch an impeachment inquiry into the president earlier this month, as a result of mounting pressure from the most conservative members of his conference.

Last month, Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Hunter Biden, was asked on CBS News' "Face the Nation" if it's his position that the president was completely walled off from Hunter Biden's business affairs. 

"I understand and my opinion doesn't matter," Lowell told "Face the Nation" moderator and chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan. "What matters is the facts and the evidence. And the facts and the evidence that have been pursued by however many members of Congress and their staffs and media, looking for any possible connection has shown time and time again, it doesn't exist."


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