WASHINGTON: House Republicans plan to hold their first hearing next week in their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
The hearing - scheduled for Sep 28 - is expected to focus on “constitutional and legal questions” that surround the allegations of Biden's involvement in his son Hunter's overseas businesses, according to a spokesperson for the House Oversight Committee.
Republicans - led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy - have contended in recent weeks that Biden's actions from his time as vice president show a "culture of corruption", and that his son used the "Biden brand" to advance his business with foreign clients.
The spokesperson also said Representative James Comer, chairman of Oversight, plans to issue subpoenas for the personal and business bank records of Hunter Biden and the president's brother James Biden “as early as this week". McCarthy appointed Comer to lead the inquiry in coordination with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan and Ways & Means Chairman Jason Smith.
The White House has called the effort by House Republicans in the midst of the presidential campaign "extreme politics at its worst".
"Staging a political stunt hearing in the waning days before they may shut down the government reveals their true priorities: To them, baseless personal attacks on President Biden are more important than preventing a government shutdown and the pain it would inflict on American families.,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday.
McCarthy announced the impeachment inquiry last week after facing mounting pressure from his right flank to take action against Biden or risk being ousted from his leadership job. At the same time, the speaker is struggling to pass legislation needed to avoid a federal government shutdown at the end of the month.
The California lawmaker launched the inquiry without a House vote, and it’s unclear if he would have enough support to approve it from his slim GOP majority. Some lawmakers have criticised the evidence so far as not reaching the Constitution’s bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
An inquiry is a step closer to an impeachment of the president, a constitutional tool which until recently was rare in Congress.
But McCarthy and other Republicans have been facing months of direct challenges from Trump - who is now the Republican front-runner to challenge Biden in next year’s election - to move forward with proceedings against his opponent. The action also is seen as an effort to distract attention from the indicted former president’s legal challenges and turn a negative spotlight on Biden.
The impeachment inquiry is expected to build upon the work that Comer and others have done since gaining the House majority in January. There are several investigative lanes but Comer has been tasked with following the money that went through Biden's son's and brother's various businesses accounts.
The chairman has claimed repeatedly that the Biden family engaged in an influence-peddling scheme, but has yet to directly tie any of that to the president himself.
Republicans have focused much attention on an unverified tip to the FBI that alleged a bribery scheme involving Biden when he was vice president. The bribery claim, which emerged in 2019 and was part of Trump’s first impeachment, relates to the allegation that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in order to stop an investigation into Burisma, the oil-and-gas company where Hunter Biden was on the board.
Democrats have countered that the Justice Department investigated the Burisma claim when Trump was president and closed the matter after eight months, finding insufficient evidence to pursue it further. Other countries were also pushing for the firing of the Ukrainian official, viewing him as corrupt. And a former business partner of Hunter Biden’s has testified to Congress that the bribery allegation is untrue.