House Republicans do Trump’s bidding in vote to open impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden

By Isaac M December 14, 2023

The Republican-led House of Representatives on Wednesday voted on party lines to authorise an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, fulfilling a wish articulated by former president Donald Trump and many of his allies who would like Mr Biden to be tainted by the GOP-led probe as he seeks re-election next year.

Unlike the last impeachment of Mr Trump — the second of his two impeachments under a Democratic-led House — not a single member of Mr Biden’s party voted to authorise the inquiry. By contrast, 10 members of the GOP voted to impeach Mr Trump for the second time after he incited a deadly riot in hopes of preventing Congress from certifying his 2020 election loss to Mr Biden.

The resolution authorising the inquiry passed on Wednesday 13 December with 221 Republicans voting for it and all 212 Democrats voting in opposition.

The vote fulfilled a demand made by Mr Trump, who had been pushing that the House begin proceedings against Mr Biden because he had been the subject of two impeachments himself during his term.

In an August social media post on his Truth Social platform, he wrote: “These lowlifes Impeached me TWICE (I WON!), and Indicted me FOUR TIMES – For NOTHING! Either IMPEACH the BUM, or fade into OBLIVION. THEY DID IT TO US!”

And in an interview with right-wing radio host Megyn Kelly the next month, the disgraced ex-president explicitly stated that the GOP impeachment push is a matter of tit-for-tat.

“I think had they not done it to me, and I’m very popular, they like me and I like them, the Republican Party, perhaps you wouldn’t have it being done to them,” he said.

In a statement released shortly after the vote, the 46th president derided the GOP move as a “stunt” meant to distract from the Republican House majority’s failure take action on “important priorities for the nation and world,” including passing the supplemental appropriations bill he has called for to bolster Ukraine’s defence against Russia and to further support for Israel’s campaign against Hamas.

“I met with the President of Ukraine, who is leading his people in a battle for freedom against Russian aggression. He came to America to ask us for help … the people of Israel are in a battle against terrorists, and they are waiting for our help … we have to address the situation at our southern border, and I am determined to try to fix the problem … but Republicans in Congress won’t act to help,” Mr Biden said.

He added that the Republican-led House has also failed to make progress on legislation to fund the federal government, making it likely that there will be a partial government shutdown early next year.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” he said in a statement. “But after wasting weeks trying to find a new Speaker of the House and having to expel their own members, Republicans in Congress are leaving for a month without doing anything to address these pressing challenges”.

Continuing, Mr Biden hit out at the House’s GOP majority, contrasting the Republicans’ desire to hurt him with how he wakes up each day “focused on the issues facing the American people – real issues that impact their lives, and the strength and security of our country and the world”.

“Unfortunately, House Republicans are not joining me. Instead of doing anything to help make Americans’ lives better, they are focused on attacking me with lies. Instead of doing their job on the urgent work that needs to be done, they are choosing to waste time on this baseless political stunt that even Republicans in Congress admit is not supported by facts,” he said, adding that Americans “deserve better”.

The GOP’s resolution will give authority to the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee to conduct hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry, which was first announced by then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in September.

The House vote formalises that investigation and places it under the supervision of Representative James Comer, the chair of the House Oversight Committee.

Mr Comer did not seem bothered when asked whether the vote posed a risk to moderate Republicans.

“I would worry more if I were moderate Democrats,” he told The Independent.

Other Republicans seemed unbothered by the fact that they might endanger some of their moderate members by holding the vote.

“Corruption whether ultimately found or simply investigated, isn’t subjected to what’s in anyone’s political interest. And we have a responsibility to provide oversight,” Rep Marc Molinaro, a Republican from New York who represents a district that voted for Mr Biden, told The Independent.

White House lawyers had argued that there was no justification for subpoenas issued as part of the probe without a vote to authorise the inquiry, citing precedents set when Mr Trump directed the entire executive branch to disregard a House probe into whether he used federal funds to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a now-infamous July 2019 phone call.

Mr Comer, who has represented Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District since 2016, has long maintained that his investigation is legitimate and is justified by what he has described as “smoking guns” suggesting wrongdoing by the 46th president and his family, and in particular his youngest and only surviving son, Hunter Biden.

Rep Mike Lawler, a freshman Republican from a district in New York that voted for the president, said that the vote was purely to begin an investigation.

“The facts and the evidence will determine what next steps there are, if any, after this, but an investigation of itself, everyone should want transparency here,” he told The Independent.

“When you have millions of dollars, transferring hands from foreign businesses and oligarchy to the family of the then vice president, now President, that warrants questions,” he continued, repeating a line that Mr Comer has often used to justify his panel’s work, even though there has been no evidence uncovered that any of the work undertaken by any member of Mr Biden’s family was improper or illegal.

But the claims about Mr Biden and his son made by Mr Comer, Mr Lawler, and other GOP members have repeatedly failed to stand up to scrutiny, with some falling into the category of outright lies.

Most recently, Mr Comer claimed that a real estate loan repayment from Mr Biden’s brother, James Biden, was evidence of wrongdoing on the president’s part, and last week drew yet more ridicule after he claimed a trio of bank transfers from Hunter Biden to Joe Biden — made for the purpose of repaying an automobile loan — was evidence that the president had profited from his son’s business interests.

Mr Comer’s Democratic counterpart, Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, said in a statement that a ”mountain of evidence and deluge of independent reporting” has already “discredited every single allegation leveled by Republicans against President Biden in their painstaking and fruitless inquiry”.

“From bogus smears about Ukraine to comical distortions about intrafamily auto payments to desperate and self-debunking cries of obstruction, all proven to be distortions, concoctions, and outright lies,” he said.

New York Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the number-two Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said that Mr Trump dictated the desire for an impeachment inquiry.

“I think he’s doing it from top to bottom,” she told The Independent. Ms Ocasio-Cortez also laid out the plans of Democrats on the committee now that inquiry has opened.

“I think it’s to continue a lot of what we have been doing, which is to make sure that we uphold the truth and dismantle this Republican storytelling that’s going on, which is completely false,” she said.

The resolution does not specifically indicate what crimes Republicans believe that Mr Biden committed that would justify impeachment, but impeaching Mr Biden has long been the goal of many far-right Republicans, including Georgia Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado Rep Lauren Boebert.

Michael Tyler, the communications director for Mr Biden’s 2024 re-election campaign, said in a memorandum distributed to reporters that the probe is nothing more than a way to help Mr Trump in his quest for another four years in the White House,

“The only, single fact in this entire sham impeachment exercise is that it’s a nakedly transparent ploy by House MAGA Republicans to boost Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” he said.

Mr Tyler pointed out that House Speaker Mike Johnson had recently said that there wasn’t enough evidence to justify impeachment, and noted that the only thing that appears to have changed is Mr Trump’s desire to use the government to exact revenge on his real or perceived enemies.

“Last week, Trump told Sean Hannity he would rule as a dictator on ‘day one.’ Prior to those comments, Speaker Johnson was privately telling his colleagues there was insufficient evidence to advance impeachment — what changed?” he said.

“The only branch of government MAGA Republicans control is following through on Donald Trump’s promise to use the levers of government to enact political retribution on his enemies. Instead of trying to deliver results for the American people, Trump’s MAGA followers in the House are using their power to pursue an evidence-free impeachment sham all to help Trump’s 2024 campaign”.

Democrats on the Oversight Committee also accused Mr Comer and other House Republicans of doing Mr Trump’s bidding.

“The leader of this is Donald Trump,” Rep Robert Garcia of California said in a press conference. “And this Congress the majority will do will do everything in their power to ensure that Donald Trump gets re-elected and we all know that he is driving all of this process.”

Rep Jared Moskowitz of Florida told The Independent that Republicans hadn’t found sufficient grounds to impeach Mr Biden.

“This is the Seinfeld investigation,” he told The Independent. “It’s an investigation about nothing.”

Another Sunshine State Democrat, Rep Maxwell Frost, said that the investigation is a waste of resources.

“If it’s a hobby they like and they love researching Hunter Biden and printing out his pictures online and having them in their office, they can do that if they want without spending house resources on an impeachment inquiry,” he told The Independent.

While Democrats remained in their belief that Mr Trump is driving the train on the House’s impeachment probe, GOP whip Tom Emmer told The Independent that the lower chamber is “constitutionally obligated” to investigate the claims regarding President Biden.

“They’re doing their job — it’s what you should expect,” he said.

But the man who remains at the centre of the GOP theories about the president’s alleged “crime family” — Hunter Biden — took a far different view when he spoke to reporters outside the Capitol on Wednesday morning, not long before he declined to give evidence before Mr Comer’s panel in a closed session.

“For six years I have been the target of the unrelenting Trump attack machine shouting, where’s Hunter? Well, here’s my answer — I am here,” he said, before accusing the GOP of having “lied over and over about every aspect of my personal and professional life, so much so that their lives have become the false facts believed by too many people”.

He also categorically denied that his father had ever been involved in any of his business ventures, “not as a practising lawyer, not as a board member of Burisma, not in my partnership with a Chinese private businessman, not in my investments at home nor abroad, and certainly not as an artist”.

“There is no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business, because it did not happen,” he said.

Neither the White House nor Mr Biden’s legal team would say whether anyone in the Biden administration had knowledge of Hunter Biden’s plans to deliver remarks but not sit for the closed-door deposition, though White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that President Biden had been “familiar” with what his son had planned to say and do on Wednesday.

White House officials have almost always declined to comment on the president’s son’s actions, citing his status as a private citizen. But a White House source who spoke to The Independent said administration figures who watched the president’s son speak outside the Capitol viewed his statement as “powerful, forceful and emotional”.

Another person with close ties to the administration predicted that the House Republicans would eventually get the testimony they want from the president’s son in the open session he desires, but cautioned that they would regret it.

“Hunter Biden, despite all his problems, is a Yale-educated lawyer who served as Chairman at the UN World Food Programme and on the board of Amtrak,” they said. “Jim Jordan and James Comer are going to find out that they’re out of their league”.

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