Republicans had hoped that Hunter Biden could have helped prove their central allegation that his father, Joe Biden, engaged in a pay-to-play scheme and acted corruptly while in office.
But Hunter Biden refused to testify behind closed doors. And now the GOP may simply assume what they haven’t been able to prove, that the bribery scheme actually happened.
“Well, I mean, if he doesn’t show up, then I guess we’ll just have to wrap it up without him and assume that these were bribes from foreign countries,” House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer told CNN, adding that unproven allegations that Hunter Biden was involved in human trafficking and money laundering could also be assumed to be true.
In an interview with CNN, Comer gave his latest insight into the committee’s investigation, lowering expectations as doubts begin to grow within GOP ranks about whether it will actually lead to a successful impeachment vote of the president.
Comer said it doesn’t matter to him if Biden is ultimately impeached, arguing his true intent is to conduct the far-reaching probe and then pursue legislation to ban influence peddling. He said that his panel would soon issue a report with criminal referrals, saying he hadn’t decided yet whether to refer the president to the Justice Department for prosecution.
“I would vote to impeach him, but I’m not going to lose any sleep whether he gets impeached or not because we know the Senate’s not going to convict,” Comer said of the Democratic-controlled Senate. He insisted: “My job was never to impeach.”
Hunter Biden offered to testify publicly but not behind closed doors, arguing Republicans would have distorted his testimony. Instead, the younger Biden showed up at Comer’s committee last week where they were moving to hold him in contempt of Congress for defying their subpoena seeking a deposition behind closed doors.
Biden’s team called on Congress to issue the president’s son a new subpoena for testimony on Friday.
In a letter obtained by CNN, House Republicans told Biden attorney Abbe Lowell they are prepared to issue a new subpoena for Biden’s testimony given Lowell’s recent letter to the committee.
“We are prepared to issue subpoenas compelling Mr. Biden’s appearance at a deposition on a new date in the coming weeks” Comer wrote to Lowell. “Our willingness to issue these subpoenas is rooted entirely in our interest in obtaining Mr. Biden’s testimony as expeditiously as possible.”
This could complicate the plan for the House to vote on holding the president’s son in criminal contempt for refusing to sit for a closed-door deposition in December, but Sunday’s letter does not specify how the new subpoena could impact plans for contempt.
Comer said he wouldn’t have stopped Hunter Biden from answering questions as Republicans began to yell questions at him, but he reiterated that he must be deposed behind closed doors first before sitting for a public hearing.
“Well, the hearing for the media would be more entertainment than substantive,” Comer said. “The deposition is substantive.”
Even though his yearlong probe has not proven that Joe Biden benefited from his son’s foreign business dealings, Comer argued it has uncovered new details about the surface-level interactions the president had with his son’s business activities.
The majority of these claims stem from a business associate of the president’s son, Devon Archer, who testified to the House Oversight Committee last year that there were “maybe 20 times” when Joe Biden was placed on speakerphone during meetings with his and Hunter Biden’s business partners. But Archer said “nothing” of importance was ever discussed during those calls.
A spokesperson for Hunter Biden’s legal team accused Comer of being “afraid of the facts” and reiterated their demand that he only be allowed to testify in public.
“He and his Republican colleagues aren’t interested in getting any answers,” the spokesperson said. “They’d rather keep peddling lies and innuendo to keep this farce of an investigation going because hearing from Hunter would put it to an end.”
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment. White House spokesperson Ian Sams has repeatedly dismissed the allegations from the GOP-led investigation as “baseless attacks” and “playing politics.”
Comer has said bank records show that the Biden family and their associates made over $24 million in foreign business deals, including from countries like China and Russia, but has yet to prove that the president personally profited or was involved in any of these deals.
Comer has also seized on an internal FBI document containing unverified allegations that the president was involved in an illegal foreign bribery scheme. The form memorializes claims from an FBI informant, but it doesn’t provide proof that the allegations are true.
“Absolutely,” Comer said, arguing the probe has been a success and also noting the revelations about Chinese sources of money to Hunter Biden undercut a claim his father made in 2020 when he was running for president.
Democrats believe it’s been a success because they have used the probe to continue to tarnish Biden’s standing in the run-up to November – but lack the evidence to prove the president did anything illegal.
“His goal is to impeach the president,” said Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat from Florida who has sparred with Comer. “What he’s admitting is what a lot of other Republicans have said, which is, well, so long as they see that this charade, what they’re doing up here is hurting the President’s poll numbers, they’re going to continue to do that.”
In the interview, Comer took a swipe at “little Moskowitz,” saying he has used the hearings to “show his rear-end.”
Moskowitz responded: “I have no beef with the chairman. I’m just trying to hold him accountable.”
Doubts grow about impeachment vote
The comments come as many Republicans are growing skeptical the probe will lead to a successful impeachment vote, particularly in their razor-thin majority, a sign of the challenges ahead for Speaker Mike Johnson as the impeachment inquiry plods forward and their restive base wants action.
A number of Republicans in swing districts, in particular, say much more needs to be uncovered before they’d vote to make Biden just the fourth president ever to be impeached.
“I think in order to get the Republican conference to impeach the president, I think that you’ve got an extraordinary amount of groundwork that would have to be laid that is not there right now. Said another way, the votes aren’t there right now,” GOP Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana told CNN.
Even GOP proponents of impeaching the president are growing uncertain about whether they can get the votes to impeach him.
GOP Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, poured cold water on the prospect that enough Republicans support ultimately impeaching Biden.
“I think it should go to the House floor for a vote, but I don’t know if we have the will to do it. I don’t know if it would pass, quite honestly,” Nehls said.
After the Oversight Committee’s vote of the contempt resolution against the president’s son, which included sparring on both sides of the aisle, Comer reflected that hearings from his committee are “more entertainment than substantive.”
His panel has only had one hearing on the impeachment inquiry into the president and one of the Republicans’ own witnesses said that the House did not yet have the evidence to support articles of impeachment. Everything else has happened behind closed doors in private depositions.
“Nobody wants to wrap this up more than I do,” Comer told reporters after the vote.
CNN’s Paula Reid contributed to this report.
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