House formally approves Biden impeachment inquiry

The House GOP on Wednesday formalized its impeachment inquiry into President Biden with a House vote, a step Republicans hope will add legal weight to their demands as the probe moves into a more aggressive end stage. 

Lawmakers voted 221-212 along party lines to approve the resolution authorizing the inquiry.

Earlier in the day, Hunter Biden — the president’s son who is at the center of many of the lines of inquiry — defied a GOP subpoena to appear for a deposition on Wednesday morning. Republicans leading the probe said that his refusal “reinforces the need for a formal vote.”

The resolution makes official an inquiry into Biden that has been underway for months, after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in September said that various GOP probes into the president would be under the umbrella of impeachment — but did not hold an official vote. 

Republicans have said they moved to formalize the inquiry in part because the White House responded to document requests last month with a letter that argued their inquiry was unconstitutional due to the lack of a vote, citing a Trump-era legal opinion.

“We’re very pleased with the vote today. I think that’s it a message loud and clear to the White House. We expect you to comply,” House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), who is leading one of the arms of the probe, said after the vote.

The multi-pronged impeachment inquiry includes deep dives into the personal and business finances of Biden family members, as well as heaping scrutiny on a Justice Department probe into Hunter Biden’s failure to pay taxes.

But investigators have struggled to back the most salacious allegation, which was first pushed by former President Trump ahead of his own impeachment: That as vice president, Joe Biden took actions in Ukraine with the intention of benefitting his son’s business.

Comer cast Hunter Biden’s business dealings as an influence peddling scheme, arguing on the House floor that even money made after his father left office could be considered a “hallmark of corruption.”

“We’ll soon depose and interview several members of the Biden family and their associates about these influence-peddling schemes. But we’re facing obstruction from the White House,” he said.

Democrats spent much of their time during Wednesday’s floor debate poking holes in an investigation that has already been underway for months.

“Republicans say this is all about process, about how the House will proceed. It is not. The truth is this process has already proceeded,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said. 

“Republicans say the White House is stonewalling their inquiry. Again, not true. The White House has provided over 35,000 pages of financial records, dozens of hours of testimony and interviews. Hunter Biden is here to testify today and Republicans won’t let him because they want to do it in secret so they can cherry pick and distort his testimony.”

Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) chimed in on that point as well, noting that House Republicans  “can only cite to two low level career officials at the Department of Justice who have not testified even though their supervisors have.”

Approval of the resolution in the House GOP’s slim majority is notable given that pursuing impeachment could be politically risky, particularly for those in swing seats. But those Republicans, and other safe-seat colleagues, argue that voting to give a green light for further investigation is distinct from backing articles.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) had indicated he would oppose the resolution, but on Wednesday cast a vote in favor of it.

“I absolutely struggle with this,” he said. “I don’t see the link in the evidence but at the same time, I think the White House did the wrong thing. And I think Hunter Biden did the wrong thing, you know, this afternoon or this morning whenever he came in, so I do struggle with it. There’s no doubt.”

Asked if about a vote on impeachment itself, Buck responded, “They know where I am on impeachment. If they don’t have that link between Joe Biden and Hunter Biden’s activities. I’m not going to vote for impeachment.”

Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) said this week that while “there’s not evidence” to support impeachment, “an impeachment inquiry is many spots ahead of that.”

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) relayed a similar message in a press conference Tuesday, saying: “We can’t prejudge the outcome; the Constitution does not permit us to do so. We have to follow the truth where it takes us.”

House Republicans have received a remarkable amount of information through their probe, including thousands of pages of financial records for Biden’s closest family members, as well as their business transactions. 

In some interviews, Comer has boasted about the significant volume of bank records they’ve obtained.

Still, Republicans say that they are still missing key testimony and documents that they have requested, and have warned they see brewing court battles as they proceed with their inquiry.

“One of the reasons we’re doing this inquiry is because it’s going to put us in the best position in court if we’re fighting about document production, witness testimony, all of that,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) said.

“The problem is, if we end up in court, that is going to take time.”

Speaking to reporters from the Senate side of the Capitol lawn on Wednesday morning, Hunter Biden attacked the impeachment inquiry into his father.

“In the depths of my addiction, I was extremely irresponsible with my finances. But to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond the absurd. It’s shameless. There’s no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business, because it did not happen,” he said.

“No matter how many times it is debunked, they continue to insist that my father’s support of Ukraine against Russia is the result of a non-existent bribe.” 

The GOP has zeroed in on President Biden’s work as vice president to topple a Ukrainian prosecutor, arguing he conditioned a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine on firing its top prosecutor Viktor Shokin in an effort to benefit his son, who served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

Biden’s effort, however, came amid international pressure to oust Shokin due to his failure to address corruption and was backed by U.S. politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Burisma and its owner were not under investigation at the time, and the appointment of a new prosecutor risked increased scrutiny for the company.

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who is also leading the investigation, pointed to Hunter Biden’s comment that his father was not “financially involved” in his business as a shift in the broader White House response as they suggested President Biden knew little of his son’s business plans or associates.

“That’s an important qualifier,” Jordan said. “What involvement was it? That’s why we want to ask these questions with important witnesses and that’s why this resolution is important.”

Still, Democrats said Republicans had done little to advance their impeachment claims so far, noting in a hearing earlier this year that GOP witnesses said they did not see sufficient evidence for impeaching President Biden as they had not connected him with any wrongdoing 

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Republican on the Oversight panel, bashed the impeachment inquiry not as a “whodunnit?” but a “what is it?” – mocking Republicans for failing to identify what crime President Biden may have committed.

And Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) called the House, “the largest law firm in D.C. with these lawyers working on behalf of one client: Donald Trump.”

But Armstrong said the totality of the details surrounding Hunter Biden’s finances and the DOJ investigation aren’t easily explained. 

“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have an innocent explanation for every single incident. The problem is it is very difficult to see an innocent explanation for all of the incidents,” he said.

“Take the politics out of this. There is no investigator in any jurisdiction in the world that would not continue to investigate this investigation with these facts.”

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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