House Republicans issue criminal referrals of James and Hunter Biden to DOJ

The Republican-led committees leading an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden on Wednesday referred the president’s son and brother to the Department of Justice, recommending they be charged with making false statements to Congress during their respective closed-door interviews earlier this year.

The Republican committee chairmen laid out their case for why the DOJ should pursue criminal charges of Hunter and James Biden in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and special counsel David Weiss, who is leading separate criminal cases involving Hunter Biden.

Through the criminal referrals, House Republicans are looking to go on offense, even if they don’t move the needle in their stalled impeachment inquiry into the president. That investigation has failed to uncover evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and Republicans lack the votes in their narrow majority to impeach him.

A referral, however, by no means obligates federal prosecutors to bring such a case and serves as a recommendation that the Justice Department investigate and look at charging the individuals in question. As such, the letter from House Oversight Chair James Comer, House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan and House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith is largely symbolic at present.

The Justice Department confirmed Wednesday that it had received the referrals, which cite two false statements the lawmakers say Hunter Biden made during his February 28 deposition and one false statement they say James Biden made during his February 21 interview with congressional investigators based on documents Republicans voted to release from IRS whistleblowers last month. The department declined additional comment.

The Republicans are seeking to tie their criminal referral of Hunter Biden to his ongoing criminal trial on felony gun charges, arguing the criminal charge of lying on a gun purchase that he faces should weigh on how the DOJ evaluates their accusations.

“According to the Justice Manual, DOJ should consider Hunter Biden’s prior alleged criminal activity when evaluating whether to charge him for the false statements described below,” the letter states.

Hunter Biden’s attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement Wednesday that the referral “is nothing more than a desperate attempt by Republicans to twist Hunter’s testimony so they can distract from their failed impeachment inquiry and interfere with his trial.” CNN has reached out to representatives for James Biden.

Republicans allege Hunter Biden “falsely distanced himself” from his involvement with a corporate entity that received millions of dollars from foreign individuals, Rosemont Seneca Bohai. They also claim he testified an “entirely fictitious account” about alleged text messages where he used his father as leverage to pressure a Chinese company into paying him.

The president has emphatically denied that he was involved or present when his son sent the text messages. Hunter Biden also testified he was “drunk and probably high” when he sent the messages, and his father was not sitting next to him.

On James Biden, Republicans say his testimony that Joe Biden, as a private citizen, did not meet with Biden family business associate Tony Bobulinski, has been contradicted by Bobulinski and Hunter Biden.

House Speaker Mike Johnson called on the DOJ to act immediately.

“If the Attorney General wishes to demonstrate he is not running a two-tiered system of justice and targeting the President’s political opponents, he will open criminal investigations into James and Hunter Biden,” the Louisiana Republican said.

In a statement accompanying the criminal referrals, Comer said, “We’ve caught President Biden’s son and brother making blatant lies to Congress in what appears to be a concerted effort to hide Joe Biden’s involvement in his family’s schemes.”

Jordan echoed: “These criminal referrals are a reflection of criminal wrongdoing by the Biden family, and the Department of Justice must take steps to hold the Bidens accountable.”

Smith, whose committee produced the documents that Republicans are using to allege the men made false statements, said that “the IRS whistleblowers have provided indisputable evidence that Hunter Biden broke the law and lied to Congress during his February deposition.”

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, blasted the criminal referrals on Wednesday, saying they illustrate the “spectacular failure and collapse” of the Republican-led impeachment inquiry into the president.

“The Chairmen’s 60-page letter is a last-ditch effort to distract from the exoneration of President Biden by offering ‘gotcha’ accusations against the President’s son and brother based on their efforts to recollect years-old financial transactions, text messages, and conversations in the course of this interminable fishing expedition,” Raskin said.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz and Paula Reid contributed to this report.

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