U.S. House Republicans make investigation of Biden a top priority

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By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After winning control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans said on Thursday that investigating President Joe Biden and his family's business dealings will be their top oversight priority when they formally take power next year.

Representative James Comer, a Kentucky Republican who is expected to chair the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told reporters that the panel will investigate bank reports and claims by anonymous whistleblowers that he said show connections between the president and the business activities of his 52-year-old businessman son, Hunter Biden.

"I want to be clear. This is an investigation of Joe Biden. That's where the committee will focus in this next Congress," Comer told reporters.

"This committee will evaluate the status of Joe Biden's relationship with his family's foreign partners and whether he is a president who is compromised or swayed by foreign dollars and influence," Comer said, saying that the committee has obtained two suspicious activity reports filed by major banks.

A White House statement accused House Republicans of planning to go after Biden "with politically motivated attacks chock full of long-debunked conspiracy theories."

"President Biden is not going to let these political attacks distract him from focusing on Americans' priorities," said the statement by Ian Sams, spokesman for the White House Counsel's office.

Hunter Biden has for years been the focus of unrelenting attacks by former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies who have accused him of wrongdoing relating to Ukraine and China, among other matters. He also publicly detailed his struggles with substance abuse and has worked as a lobbyist, lawyer, investment banker and artist.

Hunter Biden disclosed in December 2020 that federal prosecutors in Delaware were investigating his tax affairs, though they have not charged him with any crime. He has denied wrongdoing.

Hunter Biden never held a position in the White House or on his father's campaign. The president has said he has not discussed foreign business dealings with his son and has said his Justice Department would have independence in any investigation of a member of his family.

The House Republicans' probe will begin to unfold next year, as the U.S. political calendar heads toward the 2024 presidential election, in which Biden said he currently intends to seek re-election.

More than a dozen House Republicans appeared alongside Comer at a Wednesday press conference, many of them staunch allies of Trump, who announced his own 2024 White House run on Tuesday.

Republicans outlined the coming investigation in terms that appeared to echo allegations leveled against Trump by Democrats, who investigated the business dealings of the former president and his family.

Trump was impeached twice by Congress, once for allegedly pressuring Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son ahead of the 2020 presidential election, and once over the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol.

Trump was acquitted by Senate Republicans both times.

The looming House Oversight investigation of Biden will coincide with a House Judiciary Committee probe into allegations of political influence at the Justice Department under Biden.

Comer and Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who is expected to chair the judiciary panel, pledged to oversee evidence-based investigations that conform to the Constitution.

(Reporting by David Morgan, additonal reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Scott Malone and Cynthia Osterman)