House Republicans hold their first impeachment hearing Thursday, to start publicly making their case after struggling for months to tie President Joe Biden to his son’s foreign business dealings and to corral support inside the GOP conference for impeachment.
Their first hearing, however, isn’t being used to unveil any new evidence or witness testimony, and the trio of witnesses testifying aren’t involved in the Hunter Biden criminal investigation.
Still, Thursday’s hearing – which is before the House Oversight Committee – will lay the groundwork for the battle lines over the GOP-led impeachment inquiry, which has been ramping up with more subpoenas and the release of new documents. On Wednesday night, the House GOP released a formal framework laying out the scope of their probe, saying it “will span the time of Joe Biden’s Vice Presidency to the present, including his time out of office.”
Republicans to date have not uncovered evidence showing Joe Biden receiving any money from his son’s business endeavors, and they argue the impeachment inquiry puts them in the best position to obtain the documents they’re seeking.
Democrats counter that Republicans haven’t found evidence linking the president because it doesn’t exist, and charge that the whole impeachment endeavor is an exercise to muddy the waters for former President Donald Trump and the four indictments he’s facing.
Here’s what to watch during Thursday’s first impeachment hearing:
Witnesses don’t have firsthand knowledge of Hunter Biden business dealings
The GOP witnesses aren’t fact witnesses and don’t have firsthand knowledge of anything regarding Hunter Biden’s overseas deals or his father’s potential involvement.
This contrasts with House Democrats’ first public hearing in 2019 during Trump’s first impeachment, where a senior US diplomat directly implicated Trump in the Ukraine pressure schemes. House Democrats, however, didn’t hold any hearings in 2021 before impeaching Trump for a second time for inciting the January 6, 2021, attack.
Bruce Dubinsky is a forensic account who has testified as an expert witness more than 100 times, according to his company biography. He has previously testified on behalf of large corporations, family trust funds – and also for the Justice Department, including against ex-employees of financial fraudster Bernie Madoff, according to court filings.
He is an occasional on-air commentator, but his opinions and social media postings largely fall within his areas of expertise and don’t seem to veer into partisan punditry.
He told Fox News in August there was at least one problematic transaction in Hunter Biden’s financial records. In 2022, after House Democrats publicly released Trump’s tax returns, Dubinsky told CBS News there weren’t glaring red flags, but there was “a lot of evidence” that Trump used “totally legal” loopholes in the tax code to lower his tax bill.
Another witness, Eileen O’Connor, worked for the Justice Department’s tax division during the Bush administration and advised the Trump transition in 2016. She has been far more outspoken with criticism of Hunter Biden, reinforcing existing GOP narratives.
She wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in July titled, “You’d Go to Prison for What Hunter Biden Did,” which championed many of the claims from two IRS whistleblowers who were involved in the Hunter Biden criminal investigation. (Some of their assertions have since been undercut by additional testimony from other key witnesses.) O’Connor’s column also included a debunked lie about the Russia probe.
Her LinkedIn feed is filled with right-wing material, including claims of an “invasion” at the US-Mexico border, reposts from GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, and a link to a fundraiser for the 16 fake GOP electors facing criminal charges in Michigan.
The third GOP witness, George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, has repeatedly backed up Republican arguments on key legal matters in recent years, including his opposition to Trump’s first and second impeachments. Turley was one of the witnesses called by Republicans during the 2019 hearings for Trump’s first impeachment. He is a Fox News contributor.
The Democratic witness for Thursday’s hearing also testified during Trump’s first impeachment: Michael Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor.
Republicans release tax and bank records
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer told CNN last week that at the first hearing, he wanted a financial expert to speak to bank records pertaining to the Biden family’s business dealings and a constitutional expert to discuss why an impeachment inquiry is warranted.
“Today, the House Oversight Committee will examine over two dozen pieces of evidence revealing Joe Biden’s corruption and abuse of public office,” Comer said in a statement provided to CNN. “This includes e-mails, text messages, bank records, and testimony of Biden business associates.”
But Thursday’s hearing is just one of several steps House Republicans have taken this week in their investigation. The committees spearheading the probe also released records related to Hunter Biden and are seeking additional documents to try to bolster their probe.
This week, the Oversight Committee subpoenaed a bank specifically for Hunter Biden’s records for the first time. The committee also obtained two wire transfers from Chinese nationals to Hunter Biden that listed his address as Joe Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home.
Comer said that the two wire transfers are the first examples the panel has found of Hunter Biden receiving money directly and not through a shell company.
“This went directly to Hunter Biden and the address listed was Joe Biden’s,” Comer told reporters.
Hunter Biden’s lawyer, however, said that the president’s son received the money directly because he was borrowing the funds using his equity as security, and the reason the wires went to the Wilmington address was because it was Hunter Biden’s only permanent address at the time.
CNN previously reported Hunter Biden used the Wilmington address on his driver’s license, and the home was the site of a family intervention over his drug addiction in 2019.
Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, meanwhile, voted to release new records from IRS whistleblowers shedding new light on how some IRS agents who investigated Hunter Biden felt like they ran into roadblocks whenever President Joe Biden’s name came up in the criminal probe. However, some of the documents also show that senior Justice Department prosecutors believed there were legitimate reasons for investigators to steer away from the elder Biden.
Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, a Republican from Missouri, is being waived onto the House Oversight Committee so he can participate in Thursday’s hearing. Comer, Smith and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan are the trio leading the GOP-led impeachment inquiry.
Democrats bash Republican impeachment ‘derangement’
Democrats are expected to attack the legitimacy of the impeachment inquiry at Thursday’s hearing, while noting that the hearing is taking place at the same time that House Republicans are unable or unwilling to pass bills to keep the government from shutting down.
“It’s hard to grasp the complete derangement of this moment,” Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight panel, said in a statement. “Three days before they’re set to shut down the United States government, Republicans launch a baseless impeachment drive against President Biden. No one can figure out the logic of either course of action.”
Democrats have repeatedly pushed back on the Republican allegations toward Joe Biden, noting that they’ve turned up no evidence that Joe Biden received money from his son’s business dealings.
They attacked the latest disclosure from the Oversight Committee as another failed attempt to tie Hunter Biden’s business to his father.
Rep. Dan Goldman, a New York Democrat who led the 2019 impeachment of Trump as a staffer for the House Intelligence Committee, said on a call with reporters Wednesday that the GOP effort to tie Joe Biden to his son’s payments because of the address listed on the form would “get laughed right out of court.”
“It is specious that they are trying to conflate this address that Hunter Biden used with Joe Biden’s involvement,” Goldman said, noting that Hunter Biden had used the address for multiple purposes in 2019.
The White House has similarly attacked the impeachment probe for lacking evidence against Biden, releasing an updated memo that accused Republicans of “basing their Biden impeachment stunt on false claims that have been repeatedly debunked.”
Next steps for Republicans’ inquiry
Thursday’s hearing is just the first hearing for the GOP-led impeachment inquiry, and more are likely to follow.
Republicans have vowed not to stop the probe even if the government shuts down at the end of the month.
The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to interview Justice Department officials connected to the federal investigation into Hunter Biden, while the Oversight Committee still plans to issue subpoenas to Hunter and James Biden, the president’s brother, for their personal and business records, CNN reported this week.
Comer also has his sights on the Bidens’ personal records. In a Fox News interview on Sunday, Comer signaled that his committee would ultimately ask for the president’s bank records.
“It’s looking like we’re going to be asking for his bank records,” Comer said.
This story has been updated with additional developments.