House Republicans and Democrats remained sharply divided on Thursday, following a House Oversight Committee hearing to discuss the basis for the ongoing impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden. Members of both parties offered widely diverging views on the purpose of an impeachment inquiry as well as whether any evidence exists to support impeachment.
Thursday’s hearing marked the first time House lawmakers met to discuss the basis for the impeachment inquiry into the president since House Speaker Kevin McCarthy formally announced the inquiry on Sept. 12. The inquiry follows allegations by House Republicans that President Biden leveraged his influence throughout his career as a public servant to benefit himself or his family members in their various business dealings.
The House Oversight Committee heard from three witnesses selected by the Republican majority and one witness from the Democrat minority.
The majority witnesses included career forensic accountant and certified fraud examiner Bruce Dubinsky; former U.S. Assistant Attorney General and head of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division Eileen O’Connor; and George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley.
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill law professor Michael Gerhardt served as the minority witness.
Democrats Say There’s Little to No Evidence for Impeachment
One major dividing line in Thursday’s hearing was whether prior efforts to investigate President Biden had already cleared him of wrongdoing, or whether those findings spell out a need for a more thorough investigation. Many Democrats contended that the investigative efforts so far have shown little to no evidence for an impeachment case.
“It’s pretty much of a sham hearing. There’s nothing there. There’s no there there,” Eleanor Holmes Norton, a non-voting Democrat delegate for the District of Columbia on the House Oversight Committee, told NTD.
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), who is not a member of the Oversight Committee, cast the Republican investigative efforts so far as political theater.
“Everybody has to be—follow the law, which I, my Democratic colleagues and I, believe in. But there has to be some evidence at some point,” Mr. DeSaulnier told NTD. “So the political theater may serve some purposes, but doesn’t serve the Constitution of the United States, in my view.”
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have pushed back on these claims that they have no evidence. Republican investigative efforts have noted instances in which President Biden had ended up on business calls and at in-person events involving his son Hunter Biden’s business partners. The investigators have also identified millions in payments from foreign business deals that went to Biden family members and their associates throughout President Biden’s time in public office.
“It is galling to hear the Democrats say there is no evidence to link the president to this,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), a member of the Oversight Committee, told NTD.
When asked what she found to be the most compelling aspect of the Republican impeachment case, Ms. Foxx did not specify any one particular piece of evidence, but said, “You’re seeing a puzzle come together.”
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) also defended the Republican basis for the investigation.
“It’s clear that Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma. It’s clear he wasn’t really qualified to be on the board of Burisma. It’s clear that while he was on the board, they asked him to get some assistance to get the prosecutor to stop going after Burisma. And then you got all kinds of evidence that Joe Biden, while vice president, actively interfered to get the investigation against Burisma dropped and the prosecutor fired, withholding funds until it happened,” said Mr. Davidson.
Republicans Say Inquiry Is Part of Evidence-Gathering Process
Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), like other members of his party, argued that there’s no evidence for impeachment. Mr. Garcia even went so far as to claim one of the Republican witnesses had undermined the case for impeachment.
“This is a total farce and really a clown show going on in there,” Mr. Garcia told NTD. “The Republican star witness, Jonathan Turley, basically said that there’s no evidence to impeach President Biden.”
However, Mr. Turley did not say there is “no evidence” for impeachment. Rather, the legal scholar said in his prepared opening remarks (pdf), “I do not believe that the evidence currently meets the standard of a high crime and misdemeanor needed for an article of impeachment.” Mr. Turley then immediately added, “I do believe that, after months of investigation, the House has passed the threshold for an inquiry into whether President Joe Biden was directly involved or benefited from the corrupt practices of his son, Hunter, and others.”
“I believe that the record has developed to the point that the House needs to answer troubling questions surrounding the President,” Mr. Turley continued in his opening remarks.
He noted he also supported the start of the 2019 impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump but opposed “the premature issuance of articles of impeachment” arising in that case.
“The witnesses definitely believe that we should continue to go down the line of our investigation,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a member of the Oversight Committee. “I believe we set the predicate for being able to get more financial records to then finally answer the question: Was Joe Biden benefiting from the money coming from foreign interest, and was his son the go-between in order to do that? And I believe the answer is yes.”
Mr. McCarthy and other Republicans have insisted that the impeachment inquiry is part of the evidence-gathering process and is a separate issue from actually filing impeachment articles
“This is not an impeachment, but it’s the inquiry,” Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) told NTD. “We just have to follow the facts and then come to conclusions.”
Mr. Van Drew argued that the impeachment inquiry is a sensible step for enabling investigations to proceed.
“It gives us more ability to work with the courts, it gives us more traction. Also, if the president wants to use executive privilege and not give us the information that we want, it gives us more traction with that as well,” the New Jersey Republican said.
Democrats Look to Other Issues
In addition to questioning the evidence for impeachment, Democrats argued that Thursday’s hearing served as little more than a distraction from other matters before Congress, such as deciding on government spending for fiscal year 2024.
“The timing is really unfortunate,” said Mr. Garcia. “We’ve got millions of Americans that are dependent on a paycheck, they’re dependent on their work. And the MAGA Republicans want to shut [the government] down and are more interested in this kind of wild goose chase, where there’s no evidence. I just think it’s really shameful.”
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) also argued that more attention should go toward the government spending debate.
“Again, no evidence whatsoever, not a smidgen of evidence that President Biden has committed a high crime or misdemeanor or acted in a way that is inappropriate,” Mr. Johnson said. “And so, you know, they are empowered because they have the gavel, they can investigate until the cows come home, but meanwhile, we need to pass a spending bill.”
Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) said her Democrat counterparts were merely attempting to “deflect” from the topic at hand in the Thursday hearing.
“Quite frankly, they kind of look foolish because they’re talking about everything but the evidence,” she said. “So we’re just going to continue to do what we’re doing and following the evidence. I mean, we have the bank records, we have the transcripts, we have the text messages, the WhatsApps. I mean, it’s pretty damning.”