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White House and allies push back on ‘stonewalling’ claims as House GOP preps impeachment vote

The White House and Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are already shooting down Republican claims that the House’s impeachment probe into President Joe Biden is being obstructed or stonewalled by the Biden Administration and members of Mr Biden’s family.

A memorandum obtained by The Independent lays out the case to discount the GOP claims against Mr Biden, even as House Speaker Mike Johnson and top Republicans are laying the groundwork for the House to vote to formalise the months-long probe into the president, which thus far has produced no evidence of any wrongdoing.

The House began what Republicans purport to be an impeachment inquiry into Mr Biden in September, when then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that he was directing the House Oversight Committee to probe what he described as “allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption” surrounding events which largely took place long before Mr Biden took office.

At the time, Mr McCarthy said the allegations against Mr Biden related to his son Hunter Biden’s overseas business work and his prior employment on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm, “warrant[ed] further investigation by the House of Representatives”.

The House probe was a continuation of efforts that began shortly after the GOP took control of the chamber in January and have continued unabated since then.

But the White House has thus far rejected GOP efforts to use Mr McCarthy’s declaration to justify subpoenas for current and former executive branch personnel, citing precedents set during the first impeachment probe into former president Donald Trump.

After Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer approved subpoenas demanding documents and testimony from a slew of Biden family members and Mr Biden’s former White House Counsel earlier this month, Special Counsel to the President Richard Sauber responded in a letter stating that the GOP’s inquiry had not been authorised by a full vote of the House.

“You claim the mantle of an ‘impeachment inquiry’ knowing full well that the Constitution requires that the full House authorise an impeachment inquiry before a committee may utilize compulsory process pursuant to the impeachment power — a step the Republican House Majority has so far refused to take,” he said, adding later that such “congressional harassment of the President to score political points” was “precisely the type of conduct that the Constitution and its separation of powers was meant to prevent”.

Now, with Mr Johnson poised to put the matter to a vote on the House floor, the White House Counsel’s office is highlighting the fact that despite Mr Comer’s claims to have uncovered evidence of criminality on the part of the president, his panel has not unearthed any evidence of wrongdoing.

In a memorandum distributed to reporters on Friday, White House Oversight Spokesperson Ian Sams noted that the witnesses and documents touted by “extreme House Republicans” have “time after time debunked their false allegations”. In one embarrassing example he highlighted, George Washington University Law School professor and Fox News commentator Jonathan Turley admitted during a disastrous public hearing in September that the GOP focus on Mr Biden’s time as Vice President does not meet the standard for an impeachment inquiry during his presidency.

“Faced with this level of ‘failure theater,’ these same extreme House Republicans now appear to be trying to invent claims of ‘obstruction’ and ‘stonewalling’ to rationalise their illegitimate so-called ‘impeachment inquiry,’” he said, adding later that the GOP claims that their probe is being stymied are “easily refuted by the facts”.

Mr Sams also pointed out that even in the absence of a formal, authorised impeachment probe, the Biden Administration has taken pains to cooperate with the House as part of the routine oversight process. Mr Biden and his family have also turned over at least 35,000 pages of personal financial records to the House, and the Treasury Department has allowed access to more than 2,000 pages of confidential records.

The Biden Administration has also taken steps to allow access to what Mr Sams described as “highly sensitive materials” such as data and documents pertaining to ongoing law enforcement investigations, and has even gone so far as to allow David Weiss, the Delaware US Attorney and Special Counsel overseeing a probe into Mr Biden’s son, to give evidence in a closed session before the Oversight panel.

“Despite receiving this significant volume of material, House Republicans have just failed to turn up any evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden – but plenty of evidence debunking their claims,” Mr Sams wrote. “This impeachment stunt is illegitimate, based on nothing, and shows that extreme House Republicans are willing to stop at nothing to smear the President despite failing to have the facts on their side”.