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House Republicans prepare for official vote to authorize impeachment inquiry

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is one of three House GOP committee chairs pressing to impeach President Biden.
Chip Somodevilla
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House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is one of three House GOP committee chairs pressing to impeach President Biden.

House Republicans are teeing up a vote to formally launch an impeachment inquiry as early this week. The move comes as far right lawmakers and the party's hardline base press for action against President Biden.

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan briefed reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday on elements of the Republican case against Biden. Jordan said he hoped the House would vote "as soon as possible" and possibly as early as this week. The move comes as key committee chairs continue to negotiate with witnesses they believe can help develop a case for corruption charges against Biden.

"We think it's helpful to have that vote because we do think that someone will take us to court. Constitutionally it's not required," Jordan said. But he added, "if you have a vote of the full House of Representatives and a majority say we are in that official status as part of our overall oversight work, our Constitutional oversight duty that we have, it just helps us in court."

Jordan told reporters that Republicans have not yet made a decision on what the charges against President Biden would be. Jordan said he still wants to talk to roughly ten people over the course of 6 - 7 weeks. These witnesses include the president's son, Hunter Biden, James Biden, the president's brother, some of their business associates, the tax attorneys at the Justice Department involved in reviewing the probe of Hunter's tax filings over time, and other officials who discussed whether or not to charge him, and what the case they were developing against him involved.

Jordan outlined what he believes amounts to a pattern of corruption that started in 2015 when Hunter Biden was approached about working for Burisma, an energy company in Ukraine.

"We don't know that there are going to be articles yet, but I think the case is pretty compelling," Jordan said. He cited possible charges as bribery, abuse of power and obstruction, but said, "but we'll look at all the facts and make a decision." He also acknowledged the case is a mirror of the case against President Trump in 2019 when he was charged with abuse of power and obstruction.

Political pressure for a case against Biden

The decision to hold a vote on an impeachment inquiry comes months after then House Speaker Kevin McCarthy unilaterally directed three panels in September to probe whether the president and his family engaged in corrupt business practices. At the time GOP leaders didn't have the votes to approve a formal resolution due to pushback from a number of moderate Republicans, who argued the House needed to develop the case first.

Over the weekend in an appearance on Fox News House Speaker Mike Johnson argued that the response from the Biden administration to the three House panels conducting the investigation was insufficient and the GOP chairs were "being stonewalled." Johnson said a House vote has "become a necessary step."

Johnson has just a three vote majority after Friday's expulsion of New York Rep. George Santos. But he predicted he would have the votes to approve an inquiry, telling Fox, "I believe we will." He cited conversations between the president and his son and banking records. Johnson noted that he served as a member of the legal team defending President Trump during his two impeachments.

House Oversight Chairman Jim Comer posted a video on social mediaon Monday laying out allegations, including reporting that bank records the panel has indicate that Hunter Biden set up an account that sent monthly payments to his father in 2018.

"President Biden and his family must be held accountable for this blatant corruption. The American people expect no less," Comer said.

But press reports indicate that the payments were related to Hunter repaying personal loan from his father.

Looking for leverage against witnesses

GOP leaders argue that witnesses are not cooperating, and they have sent subpoenas to key witnesses. But Hunter Biden's attorney Abbe Lowell sent a letter to House Republicans saying his client would testify, but instead of a closed door deposition Lowell offered for Biden to appear at a public hearing on December 13.

Two whistleblowers told the Ways and Means panel earlier this year that senior officials slow walked an investigation into Hunter Biden's tax returns, and that the statute of limitations expired before any felony tax charges could be brought by prosecutors. In September he was indicted on three felony firearms charges. An earlier deal for Hunter to plead guilty on misdemeanor tax charges fell apart and the Justice Department continues to investigate his records.

Jordan told reporters Monday that Lesley Wolf, a prosecutor in Delaware, was expected to talk to the committee soon.

Ian Sams, White House Spokesperson, maintained that Johnson was "throwing red meat" to "the far right flank" of his conference.

He added, "This baseless smear campaign is solely intended to satisfy their most extreme members and proves once again that these House Republicans are wasting time on the wrong priorities, instead of working with the President on real issues American families care about, like lowering costs, creating jobs, strengthening health care, and protecting our national security."

Republicans concede that if the House approved articles of impeachment the Democratic-led Senate would acquit Biden.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
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