House votes to formalize Biden impeachment inquiry, escalating GOP probe

By admin Dec14,2023

Washington — The House voted to formalize the Republican majority’s impeachment inquiry into President Biden on Wednesday, a move that could give them more legal firepower to investigate his family’s business dealings. 

The chamber voted 221 to 212 in a party-line vote to approve a resolution authorizing the probe. 

The vote puts Republicans in districts that Mr. Biden won in 2020 on the record about whether they support an investigation that has so far uncovered no wrongdoing by the president. 

Republicans on the House Oversight, Judiciary and Ways and Means Committees have been trying to show for months that Mr. Biden was enriched by his family’s foreign business dealings and accepted bribes. But the full House never voted to open an impeachment probe, leading many Democrats to question its legal authority.

GOP lawmakers have said that a vote to formally authorize the inquiry would give them leverage in court as they seek documents and witness testimony, including from Hunter Biden, who defied a subpoena to appear for a closed-door deposition on Wednesday. 

Reps. James Comer and Jim Jordan prepare for a news conference on their demand that Hunter Biden testify at a closed-door deposition, on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.
Reps. James Comer and Jim Jordan prepare for a news conference on their demand that Hunter Biden testify at a closed-door deposition, on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

That argument helped sway some Republicans who were on the fence about a formal inquiry. Republican Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who represents a district that voted for Mr. Biden, said he changed his mind about formalizing the inquiry because the president stopped providing information. 

“I said this summer, if the president is providing information, why do we need an inquiry?” Bacon said Tuesday. “But it changed when he stopped doing that.” 

The fight over impeachment

The resolution to greenlight the investigation lays out the rules for public hearings and directs the committees to produce a public report with their findings. Another resolution gives the committee chairmen authority to seek judicial enforcement of their subpoenas with witnesses who refuse to testify. Without formalizing the probe, a judge could rule that the subpoenas fall outside of a committee’s purview. 

“The procedures we’re adopting today closely parallel those the Democrats created in 2019,” GOP Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said Wednesday. 

In 2019, the Democratic-led House approved a resolution to authorize the impeachment inquiry into then-President Donald Trump as witnesses resisted requests for congressional testimony. Much of the language in that resolution is identical to the text in the current measure.

Democrats argue the inquiry against Mr. Biden is retaliation for the impeachments of Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana said last week that voting to authorize the probe was a necessary step because of “stonewalling” from the White House. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks to members of the media on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023.
House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks to members of the media on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023.

Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“They’re refusing to turn over key witnesses to allow them to testify as they’ve been subpoenaed,” Johnson said. “They’re refusing to turn over thousands of documents.”

He sought to quell concerns that the vote could be politically risky for some members of his party, saying that the House is only voting to continue the investigation, not on impeaching Mr. Biden. 

“Whether someone is for or against impeachment is of no import right now,” Johnson said. 

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, warned Republicans representing districts won by Mr. Biden in 2020 that Wednesday’s vote is a “slippery slope” for a vote on impeaching the president. 

“It will be a runaway stallion, it will be impossible to stop,” Raskin said Monday.

Bacon disagreed that impeachment was inevitable, and said it was “probably more likely than not” that the probe would end without articles of impeachment.

The White House’s response

In a lengthy memo released earlier this month, the White House pushed back on the impeachment effort, pointing to a number of quotes from Republicans and witnesses refuting the allegations of wrongdoing by the president. The White House said Republicans have already acquired thousands of pages of bank records and documents and hours of testimony, which it said rebuts the claim that it is “stonewalling” the investigations. 

“Instead of doing anything to help make Americans’ lives better, they are focused on attacking me with lies. Instead of doing their job on the urgent work that needs to be done, they are choosing to waste time on this baseless political stunt that even Republicans in Congress admit is not supported by facts,” Mr. Biden said in a statement after the vote. 

He accused Republicans of not focusing on “real issues” like funding for Ukraine, Israel and border security. 

The vote came just days after the president’s son Hunter Biden was indicted on tax evasion charges brought by special counsel David Weiss. 

Hunter Biden’s personal finances and business ventures have been a focus of the congressional committees as they look into whether the president personally benefited from his family’s businesses and whether Biden administration officials tried to obstruct criminal investigations into the president’s son.  

Hunter Biden is among the people in the president’s orbit who Republicans want to interview in the coming months. He rebuffed a subpoena from the Oversight Committee for a closed-door deposition set to take place Wednesday, and Republican leaders soon said they would pursue proceedings to hold him in contempt of Congress. 

Speaking outside the Capitol, Hunter Biden said he would testify only in an open hearing so that the committee could not distort the facts. 

“Let me state as clearly as I can: my father was not financially involved in my business. Not as a practicing lawyer, not as a board member of Burisma, not in my partnership with a Chinese private businessman, not in my investments at home nor abroad, and certainly not as an artist,” Hunter Biden said.

He added, “There is no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business, because it did not happen.” 

The Oversight Committee issued subpoenas for the president’s brother James Biden and Hunter Biden’s personal business records in September. Kentucky Rep. James Comer, chairman of the Oversight Committee, said Wednesday they are “at a pivotal moment” in the investigation. 

Ellis Kim contributed reporting. 

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