Biden Impeachment Hearing Heavy on Politics, Light on Substance

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(Bloomberg) -- House Republicans opened their impeachment inquiry against Joe Biden Thursday with accusations that his son’s overseas business activities amounted to influence-peddling while still digging for evidence the president was involved.

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House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, focused on interactions Biden had while vice president with his son Hunter’s clients and foreign payments to him and other relatives. Jamie Raskin, the panel’s top Democrat, labeled the inquiry a “Trump-ordered impeachment.”

“Evidence reveals that then-Vice President Joe Biden spoke, dined, and developed relationships with his family’s foreign business targets,” Comer said. “These business targets include foreign oligarchs who sent millions of dollars to this family.”

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Raskin mocked the inquiry, saying House Republicans “have got nothing on Joe Biden.” He dismissed the probe as a distraction from the impending government shutdown as he sat next to a countdown clock to the Oct. 1 federal funding lapse.

“If the Republicans had a smoking gun or even a dripping water pistol, they would be presenting it today,” Raskin said, as his staff held up three cardboard boxes of documents received by the committee that he said do nothing to implicate the president.

Across the Capitol, Pennsylvania Democratic Senator John Fetterman sent “Comer & his squad” a case of Bud Light — a beer that conservatives have boycotted because of the brand’s LBGTQ outreach — to commemorate the first hearing.

Democrats say the investigation is more about aiding former President Donald Trump by providing a counter-narrative to the four indictments against him as he seeks the 2024 GOP presidential nomination and a rematch with Biden. They say Republicans have no real evidence that Biden received any funds, even after reviewing 12,000 pages of Hunter Biden’s bank records and 2,000 pages of suspicious activity reports.

At one point, Raskin forced every member of the committee to vote on whether to subpoena former Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani and his former associate, Ukrainian-born American businessman Lev Parnas. Both, before the 2020 election, pressed conspiracy theories that Hunter and Joe Biden interfered in Ukrainian politics. But Parnas in July urged House Republicans to abandon their probes into that, saying there was no evidence. Republicans turned back the subpoena effort by tabling it on a 20-19 vote.

Thursday’s hearing features no fact witnesses who could present evidence, but instead three Republican-called legal analysts who testified about the basis for an inquiry. One witness, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, testified that there is adequate evidence for Republicans to proceed with a probe, adding that “influence-peddling is a form of corruption” that could be the basis for an actual impeachment.

Democrats called Michael Gerhardt, a law professor from of the University of North Carolina, who testified there are “safeguards” in the impeachment process, and that there should be “significant evidence” of wrongdoing such as bribery before moving ahead.

Read More: Biden Allies Seize on Impeachment as Weapon Against Republicans

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