By Makini Brice and Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives held its first hearing on Thursday in its impeachment inquiry against Democratic President Joe Biden, less than three days before the government will partially shut down without congressional action.
The hearing is not expected to reveal new information about Biden’s financial ties to his troubled son Hunter Biden, 53, who pursued a range of international business ventures while struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
As the hearing got underway, Republicans leading the probe alleged that Joe Biden had lied about family members’ overseas business dealings and had not taken steps to wall them off from his official duties when he served as vice president between 2009 and 2017.
“The door was wide open to those who purchased what a business associate described as the Biden brand,” House Oversight Committee chair James Comer said.
Republicans have yet to uncover evidence of wrongdoing by Biden after months of initial investigations that have produced thousands of pages of financial records.
“If Republicans had a smoking gun or even a dripping water pistol they would be presenting it today. But they’ve got nothing,” said Jamie Raskin, the panel’s top Democrat.
Lawmakers were due to hear from a forensic accountant, a former U.S. Justice Department official and two law professors.
Republicans allege Biden and his family personally profited from policies he pursued as vice president during former President Barack Obama’s administration between 2009 and 2017. Separately, they also allege the Justice Department interfered with a tax investigation of Hunter Biden.
The White House says the inquiry is unfounded and driven by politics ahead of the 2024 presidential election, when Biden will likely face a rematch with Republican Donald Trump, who faces four upcoming criminal trials.
It is unclear if House Republicans, who have a narrow 221-212 majority, would have the votes at the end of the inquiry to support actual impeachment. But even if that vote succeeded, it is highly unlikely that the Senate, where Democrats hold a 51-49 majority, would vote to remove Biden from office.
At the center of the investigation are allegations that Biden, as vice president, pressured Ukraine to fire a top prosecutor because the prosecutor was investigating Burisma, a company for which Hunter Biden was on the board of directors.
Numerous U.S. and foreign officials have said Biden was carrying out official policy to fight corruption in Ukraine.
House Republicans have said they plan to seek personal and business bank records for Hunter Biden and James Biden, the president’s brother.
On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee said it had obtained bank wires from Chinese nationals sent to Hunter, listing Joe Biden’s home address in Delaware as the beneficiary address, before he was president. It is not clear if Biden received the money.
The hearing comes as House Republicans are locked in a showdown with Biden and his fellow Democrats over government funding for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Wide swaths of the government will shut down if they do not reach agreement.
“The consequences for the American people will be very damaging,” the White House said at the hearing’s outset. “Nothing can distract from that.”
A prolonged shutdown could slow the impeachment inquiry as fewer administration officials would be available to respond to information requests.
Former President Trump has cheered on the inquiry. Trump was impeached twice during his four-year presidency and faces four criminal indictments — the first time for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden ahead of the 2020 election. Trump was acquitted by the Senate both times.
(Reporting by Makini Brice and Andy Sullivan;Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)
Brought to you by www.srnnews.com