Biden Impeachment Inquiry Is At A Crossroad. As Hunter Biden Declines To Appear, GOP Eyes Next Move

WASHINGTON: The House impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden is at a crossroad, lacking the political appetite from within the Republican ranks to go forward with an actual impeachment, but facing political pressure to deliver after months of work.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, Republican Rep. James Comer, pushed ahead at Wednesday’s public hearing, claiming that the Democratic president was either “complicit” in his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings selling the Biden brand or “incompetent” in the family finances.

But Comer has also signaled an interest in taking the inquiry into another direction, stopping short of drawing up articles of impeachment against the president and eyeing potential criminal referrals of alleged Biden family wrongdoing to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.

With Hunter Biden declining to appear at the hearing after having testified privately last month, Comer said earlier on Fox News that there would be “multiple” criminal referrals. “It’s not going to end well for the Bidens,” the Kentucky lawmaker said.

It’s the start of a potential winding down for the lengthy GOP-led probe that was launched after Republicans seized control of the House in January and were eager to hold Biden to the high bar of impeachment. The House, under a Democratic majority, had twice impeached Republican Donald Trump during his presidency.

As Trump and Biden face another likely rematch this November, Comer is weighing whether to keep the impeachment inquiry going through Hunter Biden’s often complicated business dealings and troubled personal life or wrap up work even if that falls short of impeachment.

The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, said in his own opening remarks that a “comedy of errors” of the Biden impeachment inquiry is finally “crashing to an end.”

The White House has called the inquiry a “charade” and told Republicans to “move on.”

The committee asserts that the Bidens traded on the family name, an alleged influence-peddling scheme in which Republicans are trying to link a handful of phone calls or dinner meetings between Joe Biden, when he was vice president or out of office, and Hunter Biden and his business associates.

Hunter Biden, who is facing firearm and tax charges in separate matters, testified behind closed doors last month in a deposition that filled more than 200 pages but left Comer’s committee without the hard evidence it was seeking of wrongdoing by the president or his son.

Republicans were using the hearing to look deeper into Hunter Biden’s business dealings, insisting it is the president and not his son that they are scrutinizing.

Testimony was coming from a cast of unusual witnesses, some with complicated backgrounds.

Jason Galanis is serving a lengthy federal prison sentence in Alabama for fraud schemes and appeared remotely before lawmakers. Tony Bobulinski, a onetime business associate of Hunter Biden, took his claims against the family public during the first Trump-Biden presidential debate in 2020.

The Democrats called Lev Parnas to testify, relying on the convicted businessman who was central to Trump’s first impeachment as a Rudy Giuliani associate working to dig up political dirt on Joe Biden before the 2020 election. Parnas has since played a key role in dispelling the House GOP’s main claim of bribery against the Bidens.

Testifying via video, Galanis told lawmakers he expected to make “billions” with Hunter Biden and other associates, using the Biden family name in their foreign business dealings.

Galanis described a particular time in May 2014 when Hunter Biden put his father on speakerphone for a brief chat with potential foreign business partners — a Russian oligarch and her husband — during a party at a New York restaurant.

In earlier testimony Galanis, who was sentenced for multiple fraud schemes, acknowledged that he unsuccessfully sought a pardon in the final days of the Trump presidency.

Hunter Biden, in his own deposition last month, testified he met Galanis for about 30 minutes 10 years ago.

Bobulinski told the committee that he met twice with Joe Biden in 2017 during a conference in Los Angeles, through Hunter Biden, including once for 45 minutes.

While Hunter Biden has testified that his father was never involved in his business dealings, Bobulinski declared that “blatant lies.”

“It is clear to me that Joe Biden was the brand,” Bobulinksi said.

Parnas told the committee that in all his work overseas, he has seen “zero evidence” of Biden family corruption.

Before his own conviction, Parnas had been a central figure in Trump’s first impeachment over withholding aid to Ukraine.

Parnas described helping Giuliani peddle the false claims to conservative media. Trump’s team claimed that Joe Biden, as vice president, had intervened in the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor to aid Hunter Biden’s work on the board of the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma. Western allies also wanted the prosecutor fired over allegations of corruption.

The House Republicans launched their Biden impeachment inquiry last year relying in part on unverified claims from an FBI informant released by Senate Republicans that disclosed allegations of payments to the Bidens. The now former FBI informant, Alexander Smirnov, was arrested last month and pleaded not guilty to charges that he fabricated the bribery allegations.

Parnas told the committee that lawmakers knew the information was unverified. Last summer, he had sent Comer a lengthy later dispelling those claims, saying it was all talk and the money was not paid to the Bidens.

With the House’s slim GOP majority narrowed further by early retirements, Republicans may not have enough support within their ranks to pursue articles of impeachment against the president, especially because Democrats would likely vote against any such charges.

Instead, Comer has been looking into potential criminal referrals to the Justice Department, which would likely be symbolic but could open the door to prosecutions in a future administration.

It’s unclear who would exactly be charged, and over what offenses. Comer has also discussed drafting ethics-related legislation to tighten influence peddling or foreign lobbying among officials.

The committee will issue a final report with its recommendations once the inquiry has concluded.

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Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – Associated Press)

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