WASHINGTON — Republicans on Thursday held their first formal hearing in their impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden, revisiting a dubious claim he corrupted the vice presidency to enrich his family almost a decade ago.
Two of the three expert witnesses Republicans called, however, said lawmakers still need more evidence if they want to actually impeach the president.
“While I believe that an impeachment inquiry is warranted, I do not believe that the evidence currently meets the standard of a high crime and misdemeanor needed for an article of impeachment,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said in written remarks.
Turley testified in favor of impeaching Bill Clinton in 1998 and against impeaching Donald Trump in 2019.
This year, Republicans have added to an already extensive record examining the question of whether Biden improperly pushed for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor in 2015 while his son, Hunter Biden, had a lucrative role on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant, told lawmakers that Republicans had amassed a great deal of evidence involving Hunter Biden and questions about the propriety of his overseas business dealings.
“However, much more information is still needed in order to be able to answer these questions and make a final determination as to whether or not the Biden family and its associates’ businesses were involved in any improper or illicit actvities, and whether those activities, if any, were connected to President Joe Biden or then-Vice President Biden,” Dubinsky said.
It’s not clear if House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will eventually follow through with an actual vote impeaching Biden. Several Republicans have voiced skepticism of both the idea of impeachment and the underlying corruption claim. That’s why McCarthy and other top Republicans have stressed that the inquiry is just that — an inquiry.
“By opening an impeachment inquiry, our investigation is now focused on whether President Biden engaged in impeachable offenses under the U.S. Constitution,” House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said at the top of Thursday’s hearing.
Citing emails from Hunter Biden and his associates, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) claimed Biden had urged Ukraine to fire its prosecutor general, Victor Shokin, in 2015 and 2016 in order to benefit Burisma, the company that then employed the vice president’s son.
Then-President Donald Trump championed the accusation in 2019 and tried to make the Ukrainian government announce an investigation into the Bidens, including by withholding military aid.
Democrats opened an impeachment inquiry against Trump, and State Department witnesses testified at the time that though Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board looked like a conflict of interest, firing Shokin had been the State Department’s policy. So far in the Biden inquiry, Republicans have been ignoring the prior testimony.
The witnesses at Thursday’s hearing weren’t there to present direct factual evidence about Biden’s conduct but to buttress Republican claims that the impeachment inquiry was legitimate.
Democrats pointed out that House Republicans have not come up with a plan to fund the government beyond Saturday evening, when the federal government will cease nonessential operations without congressional approval of a funding bill.
“We’re 62 hours away from shutting down the government of the United States of America and Republicans are launching an impeachment drive based on a long-debunked and discredited lie,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the Oversight Committee’s top Democrat.
Raskin forced the committee to vote on a motion to subpoena Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas, who sought incriminating information about the Bidens in Ukraine on Trump’s behalf.
“I spent over a year and a half in Ukraine trying to get this information on behalf of Trump, and we could never get it because it was obviously not true,” Parnas told HuffPost earlier this year.
Republicans voted Raskin’s motion down.
Though they may not want to hear from Parnas or Giuliani, Republicans nevertheless are adding to the evidentiary record. This week, they released a huge cache of documents relating to an IRS investigation into Hunter Biden’s failure to pay taxes on his overseas income, an investigation that IRS employees have said was stifled by the Justice Department.
Also this week, the House Oversight Committee revealed that Biden received two previously unknown bank wires from Chinese nationals in 2019.
The wires seem to contradict a claim by George Mesires, Biden’s lawyer at the time, that Biden did not receive any money from a company he co-founded with a Chinese private equity firm. The wires also are at odds with Joe Biden’s claim in a 2020 debate that his son hadn’t received any money from China.
Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden’s current lawyer, said in a statement this week that the money was a loan, not a payment. But only one of the wires, for $10,000, was marked as a loan, according to a record of the transfer viewed by HuffPost. The other wire, for $250,000, was labeled as a personal investment. Lowell did not respond to a request for further clarification.
Comer said Thursday that Biden “lied to the American people” about his family making money in China.
The Justice Department has been investigating Hunter Biden for years. This month he was charged with illegally owning a firearm in 2018, at a time when he has said he was addicted to crack cocaine. He will also likely face charges for failing to pay taxes on his overseas income.
Democrats have conceded that the president’s son broke the law, and acknowledged that he traded on his family’s name. But they’ve insisted his wrongdoing isn’t his father’s fault.
Turley said “influence peddling” by a politician’s family member amounts to a form of corruption, even if there isn’t a direct payment to the politician himself.
“The question is, ‘Did the president know, did he encourage this type of corruption?’” Turley said. “You have to begin with a recognition that what Hunter Biden and his associates were doing was corrupt.”