House Republicans’ first effort to justify the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden demanded by former president Donald Trump and far-right members of the GOP conference ended without a single piece of evidence presented linking Mr Biden to any wrongdoing whatsoever.
The panel’s chairman, Representative James Comer of Kentucky, opened the hearing by claiming that his GOP colleagues had assembled “a mountain of evidence” that will show that the president “abused his public office for his family’s financial gain,” adding later that his committee would “follow the money and the evidence to provide accountability” for Mr Biden’s alleged wrongdoing.
Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the oversight committee’s top Democrat, derided the panel’s efforts as “an impeachment drive based on a long debunked and discredited lie” and said the Republicans “don’t have a shred of evidence against President Biden for an impeachable offence”.
The all-day session before the House Oversight Committee took place just days before the federal government is set to run out of operating funds at the end of the 2023 fiscal year, and focused largely on widely-discredited and long-ago debunked conspiracy theories about Mr Biden and his son, attorney and former lobbyist turned artist Hunter Biden.
Democrats largely panned the GOP-led spectacle as a distraction from the impending shutdown and the dysfunction in the House Republican Conference, which has been heretofore unable to advance any legislation to fund the government because of infighting between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and a small number of far-right members.
White House spokesperson Sharon Yang slammed the entire exercise as “wasted hours” spent by House Republicans “peddling debunked lies, even as their own witnesses admitted there is no evidence that merits this baseless stunt”.
“This flop was a failed effort to distract from their own chaos and inability to govern that is careening the country towards an unnecessary government shutdown that will hurt American families,” she said.
The allegations which gave rise to the hearing centred around the younger Mr Biden’s work on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, were first prolmugated by disgraced former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 2018 and 2019, and formed the basis of Mr Trump’s attempt to extort Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky during a now-infamous July 2019 phone call — an incident which led to the first of Mr Trump’s two impeachment trials.
Republicans on the panel repeated also unproven allegations that Hunter Biden, a Yale-educated attorney who has long struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, received preferential treatment from the Department of Justice, despite the younger Mr Biden’s current status as a defendant in a federal prosecution brought by Special Counsel David Weiss earlier this month.
Allies of the ex-president, who has repeatedly called for his two impeachments to somehow be “expunged” even though there is no legal mechanism for doing so, have argued — without evidence — that Mr Biden and his son accepted bribes from Ukrainian nationals and other foreign nationals, and have suggested that Hunter Biden’s overseas business activity was both illicit and meant to benefit his father in exchange for official acts.
They have tried to bolster their unproven allegations with releases of troves of non-public documents pertaining to investigations into the younger Mr Biden, and have often made references to messages allegedly gleaned from digital data which the president’s son asserts to have been stolen by associates of the ex-president, or bank records obtained with the subpoena power they have used to conduct a wide-ranging and as-yet unfruitful probe into the president and his family.
But the GOP-led panel under leadership of chair Representative James Comer of Kentucky, failed to present anything other than the same worn and outrageous claims that have characterised their discourse on the subject since they seized control of the House in January.
Not even a trio of friendly witnesses — all prominent right-wing commentators — could offer any new evidence or arguments in favour of impeaching Mr Biden, with the panel’s lead witness, a paid Fox News contributor and law professor called Jonathan Turley, even going so far as to echo Mr Raskin’s allegation that the GOP lacked “a shred” of derogatory evidence against the president.
Mr Turley, who has previously testified in favour of impeachment inquiries into Democratic presidents — former president Bill Clinton and Mr Biden — but against impeaching former president Donald Trump, explicitly stated that while the House could legitimately inquire into whether the president had benefited from his son’s overseas business interests, the investigation thus far had uncovered no proof of the same.
“I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment — that is something that an inquiry has to establish, but I also do believe that the House has passed the threshold for an impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Biden,” he said.
Another law professor who testified during proceedings against Mr Trump, Michael Gerhardt, also told the committee that the record thus far falls short of the standard needed to justify not only articles of impeachment, but the inquiry announced earlier this month by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
After noting the reasons GOP members have stated for justifying their investigation, Mr Gerhardt said: “If that’s what exists, as a basis for this inquiry, it is not sufficient. I say that with all respect”.
“A fishing expedition is not a legitimate purpose,” he added.
The fact that witnesses called by the panel didn’t back up the GOP’s stated intention to impeach Mr Biden left a poor impression on Republican operatives who spoke to The Independent on condition of anonymity.
One longtime political consultant who was monitoring the proceedings described them as an “amateurish clownshow” and compared them unfavourably to the highly-choreographed sessions run by the House Intelligence Committee under then-chair Adam Schiff during the first impeachment probe into Mr Trump.
“This would never have happened on Pelosi’s watch,” they said.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies