House Republicans kicked off their first impeachment inquiry hearing Thursday laying out the allegations they will pursue against President Joe Biden, though their expert witnesses acknowledged Republicans don’t yet have the evidence to prove the accusation they’re leveling.
Thursday’s hearing in the House Oversight Committee didn’t include witnesses who could speak directly to Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealing at the center of the inquiry, but the hearing offered Republicans the chance to show some of the evidence they’ve uncovered to date.
None of that evidence has shown Joe Biden received any financial benefit from his son’s business dealings, but Republicans said at Thursday’s hearing what they’ve found so far has given them the justification to launch their impeachment inquiry.
Democrats responded by accusing Republicans of doing Donald Trump’s bidding and raising his and his family’s various foreign dealings themselves, as well as Trump’s attempts to get Ukraine to investigate in 2019 the same allegations now being raised in the impeachment inquiry.
At the close of the hearing, House Oversight Chair James Comer announced that he was issuing subpoenas for the bank records of the president’s son, Hunter Biden, and brother, James Biden. The subpoenas will be for their personal and business bank records, a source familiar with the subpoenas confirmed.
Here are some key takeaways from Thursday's hearing:
GOP witnesses say not enough evidence yet to impeach Biden: While Republicans leveled accusations of corruption against Joe Biden over his son’s business dealings, the GOP expert witnesses who testified Thursday were not ready to go that far.
Forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky, one of the GOP witnesses, undercut Republicans’ main narrative by saying there wasn’t enough evidence yet for him to conclude that there was “corruption” by the Bidens.
Witness testimony frustrates some Republicans: Some inside the GOP are expressing frustration to CNN in real time with how the House GOP’s first impeachment inquiry hearing is playing out, as the Republican witnesses directly undercut the GOP’s own narrative and admit there is no evidence that Biden has committed impeachable offenses.
“You want witnesses that make your case. Picking witnesses that refute House Republicans arguments for impeachment is mind blowing,” one senior GOP aide told CNN. “This is an unmitigated disaster.”
GOP maps out questions they want to answer: House Republicans opened their first impeachment hearing Thursday with a series of lofty claims against the president, as they try to connect him to his son’s “corrupt” business dealings overseas. Comer claimed the GOP probes have “uncovered a mountain of evidence revealing how Joe Biden abused his public office for his family’s financial gain,” even though he hasn’t put forward any concrete evidence backing up that massive allegation.
Democrats attack inquiry for lacking evidence on the president: Democrats repeatedly pointed out that the Republican allegations about foreign payments were tied to money that went mostly Hunter Biden – but not the to the president. “The majority sits completely empty handed with no evidence of any presidential wrongdoing, no smoking gun, no gun, no smoke,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the Oversight committee.
Raskin’s staff brought in the 12,000 pages of bank records the committee has received so far, as Raskin said, “not a single page shows a dime going to President Joe Biden.” Raskin also had a laptop open displaying a countdown clock for when the government shuts down in a little more than two days – another point Democrats used to bash Republicans for focusing on impeachment and failing to pass bills to fund the government.
CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Avery Lotz contributed reporting to this post.