House approves Biden impeachment inquiry as GOP seeks crime


The House voted Wednesday to formally open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, boosting a year-long Republican investigation that has failed to produce evidence of anything approaching high crimes or misdemeanors.

Republicans said the vote was necessary to give them full authority to continue conducting their investigation amid anticipated legal challenges from the White House. Democrats have denounced the investigation as a fishing expedition and a political stunt.

Republican leaders held off for months on calling a vote to open an impeachment inquiry, given reservations among top Republicans, many of them from politically competitive districts, about moving forward without evidence that Biden had done anything wrong. Instead, Kevin McCarthy, the spokesman at the time, unilaterally announced one in September, while facing pressure from the far right to deliver on his priorities, including impeaching the president.

But Wednesday's vote underscored how the political terrain has changed, with Republicans unanimously willing to back an investigation even as some stressed they were not yet ready to impeach the president. The 221-212 vote was along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor of the investigation and all Democrats opposing it.

“Instead of doing anything to help improve the lives of Americans, they are focused on attacking me with lies,” Biden said of Republicans in a statement shortly afterward. “Instead of doing their 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.”

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., chairman of the Rules Committee, described the vote as a largely procedural step to bolster the House's investigative powers.

“Since September, the House has been engaged in an impeachment inquiry, examining whether there are sufficient grounds for the House to exercise the constitutional power to impeach the president of the United States,” Cole said. “Today's resolution simply formalizes that investigation and gives the House full authority to enforce its subpoenas that have been denied as recently as today.”

But Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said there was nothing more than rank politics at play.

“We're here for one reason and one reason only: Donald Trump demanded that Republicans impeach him, so they're going to do it,” McGovern said. “They are using and abusing impeachment, one of the darkest and most serious things Congress can do, to attack President Joe Biden.”

The vote took place hours after Hunter Biden, the president's son and one of the main focuses of the Republican investigation, defied a subpoena to give a private statement.

In a dramatic moment outside the Capitol on Wednesday morning, the younger Biden held a news conference in which he repeated his offer to testify publicly in the investigation into his father, but insisted again that he would not be interviewed behind closed doors. He has said that he fears that Republicans will selectively leak his testimony in an effort to distort him.

Republicans have issued a subpoena to the younger Biden, demanding to question him about his business dealings in Ukraine, China and other countries, while seeking to portray him as corrupt and link the businesses to his father.

“I'm here,” Biden said Wednesday morning. “Let me say it as clearly as possible: my father was not financially involved in my business, neither as a practicing lawyer, nor as a member of the board of directors of Burisma, nor in my partnership with a Chinese private businessman, nor in my investments at home nor in my investments. abroad and certainly not as an artist.”

Republicans leading the impeachment inquiry, including Representative James R. Comer of Kentucky, chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, threatened to hold him in contempt of Congress if he did not comply. with demands for private testimony.

“We think he should come forward and if he doesn't, we will move forward with the contempt proceedings,” Jordan said.

Since winning the majority, House Republicans have been investigating countless aspects of President Biden's family and administration, searching for evidence that can be used to prove that he is corrupt and should be impeached. Trump, still furious at being impeached twice, has urged investigations at every turn.

The Republican investigation has largely focused on Hunter Biden, indicted on federal tax and weapons charges, and the work he did for companies and partners abroad. They are also examining whether the Biden administration interfered with the Justice Department's investigation into Hunter Biden and whether President Biden mishandled classified documents when he was vice president or senator.

Using their subpoena power, Republicans have obtained more than 36,000 pages of bank records; 2,000 pages of suspicious activity reports from the Treasury Department; and dozens of hours of testimony from two of Hunter Biden's business partners, a top National Archives and Records Administration official, seven federal agents and three U.S. attorneys.

“President Biden must be held accountable for his lies, corruption and obstruction,” Comer said. “We have a duty to provide the accountability and transparency that Americans demand and deserve.”

The resolution of the impeachment inquiry does not accuse Biden of any crime. Authorizes three Republican-led panels to continue their investigations and request grand jury materials from a court; authorizes subpoenas and retroactively approves many that have already been issued; and allows for the hiring of outside attorneys to assist with the investigation.

President Mike Johnson, who has accused Biden of corruption, said lawmakers were particularly focused on investigating four areas: the millions of dollars Hunter Biden and James Biden, the president's brother, received from overseas business deals; false or misleading statements Mr. Biden Sr. made about his son's job; incidents in which Mr. Biden Sr. met or spoke with his son's business associates; and about $240,000 that Mr. Biden Sr. received from his relatives as loan repayments.

Republicans have worked, so far without success, to prove that President Biden enriched himself from his son's businesses. Many of the documents they have presented so far have, in fact, shown the opposite: that Biden lent money to his son and his brother when they needed it, and then they paid him back.

The House Oversight Committee released documents showing that one of Hunter Biden's companies, Owasco PC, made three payments of $1,380 to Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2018 when he was not in office. Republicans said the payments were evidence of corruption. Other documents indicate that the money was to pay his father for helping cover the cost of a Ford truck.

In a briefing with reporters, Jordan laid out his plan to call nine more witnesses for questioning within two months.

In particular, Republicans are trying to force two tax investigators to testify about why Hunter Biden was not charged with felonies sooner. The Biden administration has made its bosses available to testify but has opposed some of the Republicans' demands, citing the lack of approval of the investigation by the full House.

Jordan said Republicans were investigating whether Biden had accepted a bribe, abused his power, engaged in other forms of misconduct or obstructed their investigation. Jordan suggested that false statements the president had made about his son's business interests, such as his claim that Hunter Biden had not received money from China, could constitute obstruction.

“We will look at all the facts and make a decision,” Jordan said. “Was it obstruction when Joe Biden said all the things that he said that turned out to be inaccurate?”

On Wednesday, Hunter Biden said Republicans had invaded his privacy and personally attacked him for six years in service of a false narrative about his father.

“They made fun of my struggle with addiction; They belittled my recovery; and they have tried to dehumanize me, all to embarrass and harm my father, who has dedicated his entire public life to serving him,” he said.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reports.

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