WASHINGTON−House Republicans held their first marathon impeachment inquiry hearing Thursday, fueled by allegations President Joe Biden has financially benefited from his family's foreign business dealings.
GOP lawmakers have long targeted Hunter Biden's work overseas. But while investigators have produced evidence revealing the president's son and his associates made millions from the affairs, they have yet to share concrete evidence showing the president personally benefited from those dealings.
During the hearing, Republicans sought to link the president to his family finances and explain why a formal impeachment inquiry provides the right resources for lawmakers investigating. But Democrats accused their colleagues across the aisle of simply not having the evidence to move forward.
And while the four witnesses called to the hearing didn't say Republicans should hit the brakes on an impeachment inquiry, they did caution that they didn't see reason to remove Biden from office.
Here's what you need to know.
Republican and Democratic leaders make their last pitch
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., made their final arguments to Americans across the country at the end of their first impeachment inquiry hearing.
Comer defended House Republicans' efforts, saying lawmakers need additional time and resources for their investigation. He vowed to subpoena bank records from Hunter Biden and James Biden, Joe Biden's brother, on Thursday.
The Republican lawmaker also said his Democratic colleagues "have used this hearing to talk about impeachment, not an inquiry, but actual articles of impeachment. We aren't talking about impeachment today, and they know that," Comer said.
But Raskin told Republicans many of their arguments targeting Joe Biden and Hunter Biden rely on hypotheticals.
"This hearing has been dominated by the word 'if,' as many people have said. It's been filled with hypotheticals, and I'm a law professor, so I'm not averse to them," Raskin said. "But you don't impeach a president based on hypotheticals and based on obsolete conspiracy theories."
– Marina Pitofsky
White House hits Joe Biden impeachment hearing
White House spokesperson Sharon Yang blasted the hearing on Thursday, saying “Republicans wasted hours peddling debunked lies” as their own witnesses acknowledged there wasn't evidence for the “baseless stunt.”
“This flop was a failed effort to distract from their own chaos and inability to govern that is careening the country towards an unnecessary government shutdown that will hurt American families,” Yang said.
The hearing also comes as lawmakers have until Sept. 30 to reach a compromise to avoid a government shutdown.
“Congressional Republicans have also made clear that this fact-free stunt will continue even if the government shuts down because they believe these partisan political attacks are more important than ensuring our troops get paid, funding efforts to fight fentanyl trafficking, making sure kids and infants have access to food assistance, and more," Yang said.
– Bart Jansen
Kate Porter takes aim at Kevin McCarthy over lack of House impeachment vote
One issue Democrats have repeatedly raised during the first impeachment inquiry hearing into Joe Biden is the lack of a formal vote on the proceedings.
When House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said earlier this month that Republicans would launch the impeachment inquiry, his announcement meant the lower chamber was skipping a broader vote to proceed.
Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., on Thursday hit back over the move. She showed a board of a figure criticizing impeachment inquiries that start without what's known as a "floor vote."
After asking three of the witnesses who made the statement, she revealed in was McCarthy in 2019.
– Marina Pitofsky
Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jamie Raskin spar over photos
As Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., accused Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, of sex trafficking during the hearing, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., asked Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chair of the House Oversight Committee, to instruct Greene "to not introduce any pornography today."
"A bathing suit is not pornography Mr. Raskin," Greene responded, while holding a board showing an image of a woman's body.
The moment came after Hunter Biden’s lawyers filed an ethics complaint in the House of Representatives earlier this year against Greene after she displayed sexually explicit pictures of him during a hearing.
– Marina Pitofsky
'I would be drunk by now': Democratic lawmaker calls out Republican evidence
Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Texas, criticized Republican lawmakers during the hearing over the gap in evidence appearing to point towards Joe Biden, not his son, Hunter Biden.
Crockett asked Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, if the witness had heard GOP officials say the word "if" during the hearing.
Gerhardt replied that he had been keeping count, and Republican lawmakers and witnesses had used the word dozens of times during the proceedings.
"Honestly, if they would continue to say 'if' or 'Hunter' and we were playing a drinking game, I would be drunk by now," Crockett joked. "I promise you. They have not talked about the subject of this, which would be the president."
– Marina Pitofsky
Democrats criticize Republicans for focusing on impeachment instead of government shutdown
Rep. Summer Lee, D-Penn., shifted the hearing's focus from the impeachment inquiry to the looming government shutdown, criticizing her GOP colleagues for holding the proceedings when Congress has made little progress towards avoiding the shutdown.
“The Republicans on this committee are betting that we’ll spend this hearing engaging in partisan bickering over their favorite buzzwords rather than talking about how their MAGA shutdown will affect all of our constituents,” Lee said, adding that Hunter Biden is already being handled by the “proper authorities.”
Hunter Biden earlier this month was indicted on federal gun charges less than two months after a plea agreement fell apart over tax and gun charges.
– Ken Tran
Democratic lawmaker ‘thanks’ Donald Trump for ordering impeachment inquiry hearing
Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M., lambasted House Republicans over the impeachment inquiry hearing on Thursday and insinuated that GOP lawmakers were deferring to former President Donald Trump’s demands for congressional Republicans to impeach Biden.
“I want to say thank you to Mr. Donald Trump for calling this hearing today,” Stansbury said, also attacking Republicans for holding the hearing as a government shutdown is just two days away, saying they have an “inability to govern.”
– Ken Tran
Comer defends inquiry, accuses Democrats of ‘false narrative’ on impeachment
As Democrats lash out against the impeachment inquiry, Republican Rep. James Comer defended the hearing and the broader investigation process, apologizing to the witnesses and accusing Democrats of suggesting Republicans have already decided on impeaching Joe Biden.
“The title of this hearing is an impeachment inquiry,” Comer said, saying the inquiry status is needed for GOP lawmakers to have stronger authority to investigate the White House, which they say has been uncooperative with their probe.
“We have led this investigation and now we need the impeachment inquiry status as we move forward to get the information we have been obstructed by this administration and by this family,” Comer said. “And that’s what the purpose of this hearing is. Don’t create another false narrative.”
– Ken Tran
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Impeachment inquiry is ‘wasting our time’
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., chastised House Republicans for holding the impeachment inquiry hearing at all and said the meeting was “wasting our time.”
The progressive New York Democrat questioned each of the four witnesses and asked if they had presented first-hand witness accounts indicating President Joe Biden committed a high crime or misdemeanor. All of them said they have not.
“The direct testimony of the four individual witnesses here today are the bona-fide words that this committee must use in order to proceed or substantiate an investigation,” Ocasio-Cortez said, arguing Republicans had no standing to open the inquiry.
“This is an embarrassment. An embarrassment to the time and people of this country,” she added.
– Ken Tran
Republicans draw comparison between Joe Biden and Bob Menendez corruption charges
Some House Republicans on Thursday tried to paint a picture of broad corruption among Democratic lawmakers, referencing New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez's recent federal corruption charges.
Menendez, accused of accepting bribes in exchange for using his official role as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has pleaded not guilty to the the allegations. But some Republicans on Thursday tried to connect the Democratic leaders.
"What bothers me a little is I'm beginning to think Americans are beginning to think this behavior by the Biden family is normal. I'm kind of afraid they're they're going to say, 'well, President Biden is a politician," Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., said during the hearing.
"They're just going to say this is how it works. I don't think it's the way it works," he added.
– Marina Pitofsky
Democrats try to subpoena Rudy Giuliani, again
Democrats put forward another motion to subpoena former President Donald Trump's former attorney, Rudy Giuliani, forcing the committee to take a recorded vote. Republicans defeated the motion again, but lawmakers who left the room had to return to cast their vote, delaying hearing proceedings.
“This committee is afraid” to call Rudy Giuliani to testify, Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., proclaimed, holding a piece of paper that read “Where’s Rudy?”
“I’d like to know why we can’t bring him before this committee like we brought these witnesses and everybody else,” he continued.
– Ken Tran
Democrats and Republicans appear largely checked out of high-profile hearing
For all the attention the high-profile hearing has been generating as House Republicans seek to take their investigations to the next step, members in the hearing room have largely checked out as the meeting has continued.
Two hours since the hearing began, only a handful of lawmakers have been paying close attention to the questions members have been posing to witnesses, while others have either been on their cell phones or walking in and out of the room.
– Ken Tran
‘Distract and deflect’: Democrat accuses GOP of avoiding Donald Trump’s legal troubles
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., accused Republicans of using an impeachment inquiry to “distract and deflect” from former President Donald Trump’s myriad legal troubles, which includes four criminal indictments.
“I think this hearing is all about, ‘look over here, not over there,’’' Connolly said.
“Somebody has been indicted in four different locales, on four different sets of concerns with what I think, 81, 91, actual counts? And has been found guilty in two civil proceedings involving sexual behavior and one on actual corporate fraudulent activity. And we don’t want to talk about any of that,” he continued, referring to Trump’s legal challenges.
A jury earlier this year found Trump liable for sexually abusing advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s, and a judge ruled earlier this week that Trump committed fraud while building his real estate empire.
– Ken Tran
Who is Devon Archer?
Several lawmakers mentioned a man named Devon Archer during the hearing on Thursday as they discussed Hunter Biden's business dealings.
That's because Archer is Hunter Biden's former business associate. Earlier this year, he told lawmakers during testimony that Hunter Biden put Joe Biden on the phone with clients before his father was elected to the White House.
But Archer still argued that Joe Biden wasn't involved in their financial dealings, despite the contacts.
– Sudiksha Kochi
Michael Gerhardt: Impeachment evidence is “not sufficient” for Republicans to accuse Joe Biden
Democrats arguing against the impeachment inquiry are saying that Joe Biden was not directly involved in Hunter Biden’s business affairs. During the Thursday hearing, Rep. Jamie Raskin questioned Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, on whether the inquiry had ground at all.
“The principle of American law is that people are responsible for their own conduct and not the conduct of their own children,” Raskin noted.
The inquiry’s basis, Gerhardt said “is inconsistent with the American legal system” adding that the evidence is “not sufficient” for Republicans to accuse the president of benefitting from his son’s actions.
Rep. Jim Jordan however, hit back, arguing that a “benefit to your family can be a benefit to you” and accusing the White House of misleading investigators and providing “false statements.”
-- Ken Tran
Kevin McCarthy calls impeachment inquiry 'logical next stop'
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced earlier this month that the House would open the formal impeachment inquiry against Joe Biden, escalating a Republican investigation that started in January when the GOP took majority control of the lower chamber.
"Today I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden," McCarthy said at the time. "This logical next stop will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public."
McCarthy has previously argued an impeachment inquiry into Biden would give House Republicans more oversight authority to investigate the president, though some moderate Republican lawmakers balked at rushing into the process
– Ken Tran
Witness Bruce Dubinsky says there is ‘smoke’ but ‘more evidence is still needed’
Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant testifying for House Republicans, agreed with his fellow witness, Jonathan Turley, during the Thursday hearing. He told lawmakers that decisive evidence has yet to show Joe Biden financially benefited from Hunter Biden’s business dealings.
“As the age-old adage goes, when there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Dubinsky said. “The critical question facing the American people today is whether behind the smokescreen clouding the Biden family and associates’ businesses was there, or is there a fire?”
Dubinsky, similar to Turley, noted that “more evidence is still needed” to determine whether Biden committed crimes worthy of impeachment.
– Ken Tran
Bruce Dubinsky, Eileen O’Connor, Jonathan Turley: Who are the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry hearing?
The hearing is not expected to present new evidence, but it will offer up House Republicans’ arguments for why they are proceeding with an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden and provide an overview of what GOP investigators have uncovered thus far.
House Republicans plan to have three witnesses testify to explain the basis of the inquiry and what lawmakers have found regarding the foreign business dealings of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son:
Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant
Eileen O’Connor, former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s tax division
Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University
House Democrats have tapped Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, to testify against the inquiry and argue House Republicans have yet to offer up substantial evidence to open an impeachment inquiry.
Will Joe Biden's impeachment inquiry fuel a government shutdown?
Lawmakers are staring down a Sept. 30 deadline to reach a compromise to avoid a government shutdown. But the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden adds another task for Congress to juggle as it tries to avoid a catastrophic shutdown.
House Republicans have argued that the impeachment inquiry is unrelated to funding the government and their push for long coveted spending cuts.
“There are two different things. We're adults. We should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, a member of the Freedom Caucus, previously told USA TODAY.
But that's not an argument Democrats, including Joe Biden, are buying. The president said at a Democratic fundraiser earlier this month that "The best I can tell, they want to impeach me because they want to shut down the government.”
– Ken Tran and Michael Collins
Jonathan Turley, House GOP’s opening witness, says evidence ‘doesn’t support’ impeachment
Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University and House Republicans’ opening witness, said the evidence GOP lawmakers have uncovered so far do not warrant articles of impeachment against Biden. But he added that Republicans' inquiry still had merit.
“The current evidence doesn’t support articles of impeachment," Turley said, noting that he thought House Republicans still had circumstantial evidence suggesting Biden could have benefitted from his son’s foreign affairs, justifying the impeachment inquiry.
– Ken Tran
What are the chances of Biden getting impeached and convicted?
Currently there aren't enough votes in the House to impeach Biden, according to David Bateman, a professor of policy and government at Cornell University.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has given conservative Republicans "a concession they've been demanding since before Biden was president," by clearing the way for the impeachment inquiry hearings, Bateman previously told USA TODAY.
There are likely several Republican House members who represent more moderate districts and wouldn't vote for impeachment at this point, Marc Scholl, a former prosecutor in New York and counsel to the firm Lewis Baach Kaufmann & Middlemiss, previously told USA TODAY. And even if the House approved charges , it's not likely that two-thirds of the Senate, controlled by Democrats, would convict Biden.
Jamie Raskin pushes to subpoena Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas, causing brief confusion
Rep. Jamie Raskin moved to subpoena Trump’s former personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and an associate of Giuliani, Lev Parnas, to testify in the hearing on Hunter Biden’s business dealings, causing a brief moment of confusion in the hearing room.
Rep. James Comer attempted to table the motion by voice vote and move on with the hearing, but Raskin demanded a recorded vote, forcing all members in the room to vote on the subpoena.
All Democrats voted against the move to table the procedural step with Republicans voting to dismiss Raskin’s move.
– Ken Tran
Top Democrat knocks impeachment push: ‘No smoking gun, no gun, no smoke’
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, delivered Democrats’ opening rebuttal against House Republicans’ accusations, pointing out the infighting that has embroiled House Republicans as they work to avert a shutdown.
“These are Republicans talking about Republicans. This isn’t partisan warfare,” Raskin said, flanked by staffers holding up signs reading out criticisms moderate GOP lawmakers have levied at their hard-right colleagues. He also displayed a clock counting down until the impending government shutdown while he spoke.
Raskin, echoing other Democratic sentiments, took aim at the lack of evidence directly tying the president to his son’s business dealings.
"Back in the reality-based world, the majority sits completely empty-handed with no evidence of any presidential wrongdoing, no smoking gun, no gun, no smoke,” Raskin added. “They got nothing on Joe Biden.”
– Ken Tran
White House calls out impeachment inquiry as government shutdown looms
As House Republicans pursue their first impeachment inquiry hearing into Biden amid a looming government shutdown on Sunday, the White House issued a warning about the state of the country.
“There are 61 hours and 55 minutes until the government shuts down because of extreme House Republicans’ chaos and inability to govern,” the statement said.
"The consequences for the American people will be very damaging, from lost jobs, to troops working without pay, to jeopardizing important efforts to fight fentanyl, deliver disaster relief, provide food assistance, and more. Nothing can distract from that," it added.
– Sudiksha Kochi
James Comer kicks off impeachment inquiry hearing
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chair of the House Oversight Committee, kicked off House Republicans’ first impeachment inquiry hearing into President Joe Biden. The leader accused Biden of being involved in his son’s foreign affairs and selling the “Biden brand” for millions of dollars.
“What were the Biden’s selling to make all this money?” Comer said. “Joe Biden himself.”
– Ken Tran
What is an impeachment inquiry?
How can a president be removed from office? First, the whole House of Representatives, not just one committee, has to approve articles of impeachment, or charges, against the president.
Next, the Senate would hold an impeachment trial. If the upper chamber finds the president guilty, they would be removed from office and can be barred from holding elected office again.
Three American presidents have been impeached in the House, but no leaders have been found guilty in the Senate.
Impeachment live stream: Here's how to watch
As the House Oversight Committee holds the first hearing into President Joe Biden on Thursday, you can stream the proceedings here.
– Marina Pitofsky
Is Biden being impeached?
No, the inquiry launched by House Republicans is an investigation into the president over allegations that he benefitted from his family’s foreign business dealings. It doesn’t mean he has been formally charged, or that he’ll be removed from office.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has called the formal impeachment inquiry a "logical next step" for House Republicans, even though Republicans were already looking into the president and his family’s finances.
After Republicans wrap up their investigation, which could take anywhere from a few months to over a year, the House Judiciary Committee would have the option to draft formal articles of impeachment against the president. Those articles are the vehicle for an impeachment trial, which would be how lawmakers could potentially remove Biden from office.
– Savannah Kuchar and Marina Pitofsky
Which presidents have been impeached? Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump
Three presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives: Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
Johnson was impeached in 1868 after he fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, an ally of the so-called "radical Republicans" in Congress who opposed Johnson's Reconstruction policies. Clinton was impeached in 1998 for perjury before a federal grand jury and obstructing justice, revolving around evidence that Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern at the time, and tried to cover it up.
Trump was impeached twice. In 2019, he was impeached after he allegedly withheld funds to Ukraine in an attempt to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden, his political rival. Trump was impeached again in 2021 for his alleged incitement of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.
House GOP investigators say an inquiry is 'just that, an inquiry'
Democrats in Congress and the White House have assailed House Republicans for elevating their ongoing investigations to the level of an impeachment inquiry, arguing GOP lawmakers lack the evidence to begin an inquiry.
Republican lawmakers involved in the process say otherwise, claiming the inquiry will give investigators stronger authority to uncover evidence that President Joe Biden was involved in his son Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings.
In a memo to lawmakers in the committees handling the impeachment inquiry, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chair of the Oversight committee, along with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio., chair of the Judiciary Committee and Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., chair of the Ways and Means Committee, explained to members the inquiry “is just that, an inquiry.”
“This impeachment inquiry will enable the committees to gather information necessary to assess whether President Biden has engaged in impeachable conduct,” the memo reads. “The decision to begin this inquiry does not mean that the committees have reached a conclusion on this question.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Impeachment hearing recap: Witnesses talk of Joe, Hunter Biden