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Fate of Biden impeachment inquiry uncertain as Hunter Biden testifies before House Republicans

Hunter Biden faces House Republicans
Hunter Biden faces House Republicans in high-stakes impeachment inquiry 02:39

More than a year after House Republicans initially launched an investigation into the Biden family's business dealings, they are ready to interview the man who is central to their impeachment inquiry into President Biden — his son, Hunter Biden.

Hunter Biden is testifying in a closed-door deposition Wednesday before GOP-led congressional committees as the fate of their inquiry remains uncertain. A source familiar with Hunter Biden's plans tells CBS News that the president's son will reiterate in his testimony that his father had no role in his business ventures.

The Republican-led effort has produced dozens of hours of witness testimony, scores of subpoenas and requests for records, and gathered more than 100,000 pages of documents since the inquiry began last year, according to a House Oversight Committee source.

Democrats said this week they have yet to see evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden. 

"In order to impeach a president, you need to show treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Oversight Committee's top Democrat. "They haven't shown a simple misdemeanor that you could prosecute," he added.

What's unclear is the path forward for Republicans after Hunter Biden's testimony. They have seen him as the linchpin of their impeachment case, the central figure in an alleged massive pay-to-play scandal that has ensnared President Biden's son and his brother James' business dealings with Ukrainian and Chinese companies. But without any evidence so far to back up Republicans' contention that President Biden benefited from those dealings, the impeachment effort is on rocky ground.

They also suffered a setback when a key element of the inquiry appeared to collapse days ago. Ex-FBI informant, Alexander Smirnov, has been indicted for making false bribery allegations about the Bidens. According to the indictment, he falsely claimed that "Public Official 1," whose description aligns with President Biden, had received millions from Ukrainian interests. Republicans say they'll still pursue investigative leads.

Biden impeachment probe in trouble after key witness charged with lying 04:40

With a razor-thin majority in the House, Republicans likely do not currently have the votes to impeach President Biden. By some estimates there are as many as 20 GOP House members, including many from districts that Mr. Biden won in 2020, who are not likely to want to risk their seats on such a controversial vote, especially without evidence of wrongdoing by the president. That raises the question of whether they would want to start the chain of events that would lead to an impeachment vote on the floor of the House.

Based on past impeachments, once the House Government Oversight and Ways and Means Committees wrapped up their investigations, they would write a report and send it to the Judiciary Committee. That committee could hold its own hearing and move quickly to drafting articles of impeachment. By most accounts, the articles would be expected to pass easily in the committee on a party-line vote. 

That would leave the decision on holding a full House vote to impeach the president to Speaker Mike Johnson, who might be expected to avoid putting it on the floor to face a likely defeat. 

An alternative strategy, which Democrats are already predicting, is that House Oversight Chairman James Comer and his Republican colleagues, who have led the congressional investigation into the Bidens, will drag out the inquiry. They may call more witnesses, hold more hearings and in doing so, score political points against Mr. Biden as the presidential campaign moves into the general election phase.

"Comer at least seems to understand that the political math is not there for impeachment," Raskin  told CBS News. "It is possible that the so-called investigation lingers on — kind of like Confederate War soldiers lost in the woods someplace who didn't hear that the war was over."    

Comer has suggested his inquiry is not finished. Hunter Biden's deposition "is not the conclusion of the impeachment inquiry," he said. "There are more subpoenas and witness interviews to come. We will continue to follow the facts to inform legislative reforms to federal ethics laws and determine whether articles of impeachment are warranted."   

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