Democrats take the offensive as Republicans flounder over Biden impeachment

Republicans allege influence-trading scheme while DoJ pursues Hunter over tax and gun charges

John Bowden
Washington DC
Monday 11 September 2023 20:01 BST
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Hunter Biden attorney suggests nothing new will emerge from special counsel appointment

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Democrats are seizing their advantage over a Republican Party that returns to Capitol Hill this week bitterly divided over the issue of Joe Biden’s impeachment — among others.

As lawmakers resumed business this week, the entirety of Washington is eyeing a looming government funding deadline at the end of September that threatens to throw Congress back into a chaotic fight over spending levels and other goals of the far right contingent that has held Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s caucus hostage since January.

It’s largely a given that conservatives will seek concessions from leadership in exchange for their votes to avert a government shutdown. The only alternative for Mr McCarthy would be to ice out his own party and pass a clean funding bill that would win Democratic support — something that would cost him with his own party down the line.

One of those concessions may very well end up being the beginning of an official impeachment inquiry into the activities of Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Republicans have sought conclusive evidence linking the president to his son’s business activities for months, but so far have only found a handful of suggestive messages which raise important questions (many of which the president has dodged), but do not prove that Mr Biden was involved or benefited in any way from his son’s dealings.

And now, the Democratic co-chair of the House Oversight Committee is out with a new letter arguing that the investigation led by Republicans on his committee has actually proven that the GOP’s case, led by chairman James Comer, is full of holes.

In the lengthy document released on Monday morning, Mr Raskin notes the failure of Republicans to obtain testimony from any witnesses actually alleging the occurrence of wrongdoing by the president, including from supposed GOP star witness Devon Archer. A former friend of the younger Biden, Mr Archer testified to the committee that Hunter Biden obviously sought to profit off of his last name and presumed family connections, but denied any knowledge of the president actually being involved or having awareness of that fact.

The letter also addressed the inability of the GOP to prove that any money connected to Hunter Biden’s business dealings ever found its way to his father.

“Rather than owning up to the fact that the evidence in his ‘top priority’ investigation has established no wrongdoing by President Biden, Chairman Comer has resorted to misrepresenting and distorting this huge body of evidence to make baseless and sensationalistic claims,” Mr Raskin’s letter reads. “Chairman Comer has repeatedly, and without evidence, asserted the falsehood that President Biden has inappropriately received foreign money.”

Mr Comer’s contradictory statements are well-documented on the issue of Mr Biden. The GOP Oversight chairman has claimed that Mr Biden has “taken millions and millions of dollars from bad people and bad countries around the world”, though he has never proved this and instead only shown previously-uncovered descriptions of Biden family members having business overseas —with no proof, again, of the president’s involvement.

At a press conference on 10 May, however, Mr Comer assured viewers that it was not a “coincidence” that so many Biden family members had overseas dealings, and claimed that his committee was looking for evidence to prove the president’s involvement. He noted (correctly) that the committee had already proven that Mr Biden was not being accurate when he claimed on a debate stage in 2020 that his son had not taken money from any Chinese business interests, given the US’s tense relationship with Beijing, but all the evidence so far has failed to make the important final last link between Mr Biden and his son.

Mr Raskin’s statement left virtually no statement from Mr Comer unturned, and is likely to contribute to serious tensions between the chair and ranking member. Mr Comer was frequently accused of telling “lies” by his Democratic colleague in the letter, while Mr Raskin derided his party as running “the most reckless and least productive [Congress] in decades”.

“House Republicans constantly insist that they are investigating President Biden, and not his adult son.  In that case, we can form an obvious judgment on their investigation: it has been a complete and total bust—an epic flop in the history of congressional investigations,” he added.

Mr Comer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The chair has claimed that his committee’s efforts up to this point warrant the launching of a formal impeachment inquiry, arguing that the circumstantial evidence supposedly connecting the president to the case is strong enough to move forward. Other Republicans, like Ken Buck of the Freedom Caucus, have disagreed and put the GOP in a very awkward spot as the issue comes up as a bargaining chip ahead of the looming government shutdown.

Speaking on MSNBC, Mr Buck said that the "time for impeachment is the time when there’s evidence linking President Biden to a high crime or misdemeanor."

"That doesn’t exist right now," the Freedom Caucus chair added.

Some Republicans, like Matt Gaetz, have suggested forcing Mr McCarthy to hold a vote on the issue of an impeachment inquiry, while Democrats have dared them to go ahead with it, confident that the party doesn’t have the votes to even get the matter underway.

Polls show that the issue of impeachment currently registers much lower support among Americans than did the first trial of Donald Trump in the Senate in 2020. The issue has become a trouble spot for Republicans in swing districts, who run the risk of turning off independents and handing Democrats back the House majority next year by catering solely to the far right.

Mr Gaetz, an ardent defender of the plan, has explained that he hopes to use the issue to politically hamstring Mr Biden ahead of 2024, even given near-certainty that the president’s impeachment will fail.

“If we had the Senate as the stage and the platform for James Comer to put on his evidence and advance this impeachment, it will not result in a conviction,” he has said. “But the true verdict can still be rendered by the American people.”

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