House GOP impeachment inquiry reaches pivotal week

The impeachment probe into President Biden is notching up in intensity this week, with House Republicans set to take an official vote authorizing the inquiry, plus new charges against Hunter Biden and a battle to get him to appear in a closed-door deposition Wednesday.

The inquiry vote serves not only to bolster the House GOP’s legal arguments to compel testimony, but signals that the march toward impeachment — a move encouraged by former President Trump — will be a much more prominent issue for Republicans in the coming months and as the 2024 election cycle heats up.

Getting the resolution over the finish line in the razor-thin House GOP majority is the first task for GOP leaders. With all Democrats expected to vote against the resolution, they can afford to lose no more than three Republicans and still win the vote, assuming full attendance.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) has signaled his displeasure with the impeachment probe. But he said last week that he was not sure that any of his other GOP colleagues would oppose the inquiry resolution.

Conventional political wisdom dictates that members in swing districts would face electoral risk by voting to authorize the inquiry. But many of those members — even some who were previously critical of the investigation — are expressing support for the official inquiry resolution, arguing that authorizing more investigation is distinct from a vote on impeachment articles.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has been delivering that message, being careful to distinguish an impeachment inquiry from a vote on actual articles. 

“We must be very methodical and careful and follow the facts where they lead,” Johnson said on Fox News over the weekend.

Republican Reps. David Valadao (Calif.), Juan Ciscomani (Ariz.), and John Duarte (Calif.), all of whom represent districts that Biden won in 2020, said they will support an impeachment inquiry.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), another moderate, said last week that he had to speak to the GOP chairmen about their reasoning for the inquiry vote.

Efforts are underway to convince Republicans to vote against the resolution. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, is meeting with House Republicans to argue against the inquiry, Fox News first reported. 

“I think they are surprised to learn of facts that debunk the narrative that [Oversight] Chairman [James] Comer unspools on Fox News,” Raskin said. “There’s some people who don’t know that the whole Burisma conspiracy theory concocted by Rudy Giuliani has been debunked numerous times in congressional investigations.”

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who represents a swing district, said Raskin reached out to him to argue against the probe. But Bacon still plans to vote to authorize it.

“That doesn’t mean we have high crimes or misdemeanors. We may not ever. But let’s get the facts, and we’ll go from there,” Bacon said. 

Republicans argue that the resolution will boost their legal arguments as they aim to compel documents and testimony, after a letter from the White House last month called the inquiry — which had been designated by ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in September — unconstitutional because it had not been authorized with a vote.

The multi-pronged probe is digging into hotly disputed allegations that then-Vice President Biden accepted a bribe by pushing to fire a Ukrainian prosecutor while his son Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company; whether the president financially benefited from his family’s foreign business dealings; and allegations that the Department of Justice improperly slow-walked a tax crimes investigation into Hunter Biden.

The White House and President Biden have repeatedly denied any impropriety, insisting that he was never involved in his family’s business dealings and arguing that the GOP impeachment probe is a “baseless stunt” that “is not rooted in facts or reality.” 

In addition to building support for an official authorization vote this week, Republicans are going to battle over what would be marquee testimony from Hunter Biden himself.

After subpoenaing Hunter Biden, the Oversight Committee scheduled a closed-door deposition with him for Wednesday morning. Through his attorney Abbe Lowell, Biden offered to testify in a public setting, but not a private one — arguing that the GOP “uses closed-door sessions to manipulate, even distort, the facts and misinform the American public.”

That did not stand with Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who threatened to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress if he does not show up to the deposition Wednesday.

The two chairs said they plan to release a transcript of Hunter Biden’s testimony “soon after its completion,” and that he could testify in a public hearing at a later date. A closed-door deposition, they argue, is necessary to dig into the details of Hunter Biden’s work — and that a public hearing with time continuously cycling between Republicans and Democrats would not be sufficient.

It is unclear if Hunter Biden will show up Wednesday, or if the two sides can come to some alternate agreement. 

Jordan said Monday evening that he had not heard about any updates from Hunter Biden’s legal counsel. 

Last week’s indictment of Hunter Biden on three felony charges and six misdemeanor charges in California over failure to pay taxes is adding fuel to the impeachment inquiry.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) drew a connection to activities in the impeachment probe, noting that Hunter Biden faced the new charges “right before he has come in or his briefing deposition in Oversight.”

The charges come after a plea deal over just two misdemeanor tax charges, which Republicans had slammed as a “sweetheart deal,” evaporated earlier this year.

That deal fell apart before a judge after prosecutors and Hunter Biden’s legal team disagreed over the extent the president’s son would be immune to further prosecution. 

But it also fell apart shortly after two IRS whistleblowers who were investigating the case went public with their claims of authorities slow-walking the tax crimes investigation — a key part of the impeachment probe which Republicans have credited for the new charges.

“They would have succeeded if not for two brave whistleblowers who stepped forward, at great personal risk, to expose the two-tiered system of justice,” House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) said in a statement.

“These charges further confirm the need for Congress to move forward with an impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden in order to uncover all the facts for the American people to judge,” Smith added.

Biden’s attorney, by contrast, said the new charges were only so severe because his father is the president.

“Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought,” Lowell said in a statement. 

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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