As the federal government teeters on the brink of a shutdown, House Republicans are preparing to escalate their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. Next up on their itinerary: the House Oversight Committee is planning to bring Hunter Biden’s former business partner Tony Bobulinski to testify at an upcoming hearing, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell TIME.
While the appearance is not yet scheduled, sources say House Oversight Chair James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, is close to finalizing an agreement with Bobulinski’s lawyers. GOP lawmakers plan to present Bobulinski as their first major fact witness at a hearing in October. But the proceeding is unlikely to take place while the government is shut down, the sources add, meaning it might hold until November, depending on how long it takes for legislators to resolve the impasse.
The next hearing could serve as a pivotal test for the Republican investigation into whether President Biden financially benefited from, or played a role in, his family’s business activities. The probe has yet to uncover concrete proof of wrongdoing by the President. On Thursday, the Oversight Committee convened its first hearing since opening an impeachment inquiry. One of the GOP’s witnesses, conservative law professor Jonathan Turley, told lawmakers they hadn’t unveiled evidence to warrant articles of impeachment, but said the findings passed the “threshold'' for an inquiry.
Bobulinski is a former business associate of both Hunter Biden and the President’s brother, James Biden. He claims to have had a May 2017 meeting with Joe Biden about a deal Hunter Biden was pursuing with a Chinese energy company. While Hunter Biden’s venture never received funds from the Chinese firm, Republicans say that Bobulinski’s testimony is central to discrediting President Biden’s assertion that he never discussed Hunter’s business dealings with his son.
Democrats have countered that Bobulinski is not a credible witness. They emphasize that he first emerged when former President Donald Trump’s campaign invited him as a guest to one of the presidential debates in October 2020. "I've heard Joe Biden say that he's never discussed business with Hunter. That is false,” Bobulinski told reporters at a press conference beforehand. “I have firsthand knowledge about this because I directly dealt with the Biden family, including Joe Biden.”
The White House dismissed Bobulinski as a discredited Biden antagonist whom Republicans are trotting out to tarnish the President’s reputation. “First, House Republicans called witnesses who conceded there is no evidence for impeachment, and next they reportedly plan to call a witness who served as a surrogate for former President Trump in 2020,” Sharon Yang, a White House spokesperson, tells TIME. “They are again making clear they will always prioritize leveling long-debunked political attacks against the President rather than putting American families first.”
GOP interest in Bobulinski renewed after two IRS whistleblowers testified before the House Ways and Means Committee in June. One of them, Gary Shapley, told congressional investigators that the Department of Justice stymied investigative leads into Biden, including Bobulinski’s allegations, in the summer and fall of 2020, when Trump was president and Bill Barr was attorney general.
CBS News reported in June that Bobulinski’s attorney reached out in 2020 to U.S. Attorney David Weiss, the Trump-appointed prosecutor tasked with overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation, saying he was willing to testify before the grand jury. Weiss never returned their calls or asked for Bobulinski’s testimony, according to the news outlet. Months before, then-Attorney General Barr had issued a customary election-year memo instructing prosecutors to avoid any actions that could influence the presidential race. Earlier this month, Weiss indicted Hunter Biden on three federal gun charges after an earlier plea deal fell apart.
Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, did not respond to a request for comment on Bobulinski’s planned congressional testimony.
House Republicans are under pressure to present new evidence advancing their impeachment inquiry against Biden after Thursday’s proceeding left some prominent right-wing figures frustrated and underwhelmed. “There’s no evidence that Joe Biden did anything illegally,” the conservative Fox News host Steve Doocy said on air afterwards. It was the same point Democrats on the committee had stressed. “If Republicans had a smoking gun or even a dripping water pistol, they would be presenting it today,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the panel. “But they’ve got nothing.”
Comer concluded the Thursday hearing by announcing that he was issuing subpoenas for Hunter and Jim Biden’s personal and business banking records, which House Republicans believe will help to blow the case wide open. “They’re in trouble,” one GOP lawmaker on the committee told TIME, referring to the Bidens. “I’ll tell you that right now.”
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