Republicans leading an impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden detailed foreign payments to members of his family in their first hearing on Thursday, but did not provide evidence that the Democratic president had personally benefited.
The initial impeachment hearing by the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee served as a review of evidence that Republicans have gathered so far about foreign business ventures by Biden’s troubled son Hunter Biden, 53, which they say shows that Biden’s family members were selling access.
“The American people demand accountability for this culture of corruption,” House Oversight Committee chair James Comer said. He said Biden has lied about family members’ business dealings and had not walled them off from his official duties.
Democrats and several independent witnesses said there was no proof that Biden had received any of those payments, or otherwise engaged in improper behavior while he served as vice president between 2009 and 2017. The White House has denied wrongdoing and dismissed the probe as politically motivated.
“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.
Biden is campaigning for reelection in what will be a likely rematch with Republican Donald Trump, who is preparing for four upcoming criminal trials on a range of charges, from trying to overthrow his 2020 election defeat to mishandling classified documents are leaving office.
Trump, who was impeached twice during his four years in office, and some of his hardline Republican allies have for months called for a Biden impeachment.
Democrats prominently displayed a clock counting down the minutes until midnight Saturday, when the U.S. government will enter its fourth partial shutdown in a decade if Congress fails to pass legislation to fund federal agencies.
George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley and forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky said the panel had enough evidence to open an impeachment inquiry but did not have enough evidence to justify impeachment charges.
Another law professor, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina, said he had not heard credible evidence to justify the probe and warned the panel that it was being driven by partisan concerns.
A fourth witness, former Justice Department official Eileen O’Connor, said she thought the department had soft-pedaled a criminal investigation of Hunter Biden, who now faces gun charges after years of struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.