House GOP launches first public hearing on impeachment inquiry of President Biden
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We are two days away from a government shutdown.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And today, a very large House committee will spend the day on something other than trying to keep it open. The Republican-led committee will hold its first public hearing on an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. Here's House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer talking to NPR.
JAMES COMER: We want to educate everyone on what an impeachment inquiry is and how we plan to use that moving forward.
MARTIN: Many of the Republicans' allegations are related to Biden's son Hunter, but so far we haven't seen exactly what those actions have to do with the president, who would be the one impeached.
INSKEEP: NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales is covering the story. Claudia, good morning.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What are they doing today?
GRISALES: So we're going to see the House Oversight Committee hold what's normally a traditional hearing, but, of course, focused on President Biden. The panel has close to 50 members who will be asking questions, so this could be a very long day.
GRISALES: Some estimates are seven hours. Now, we're going to see three Republican committee chairs lead the hearing - James Comer, who you just heard there, who leads Oversight, as well as the chairman of House Judiciary - that's Jim Jordan - and Jason Smith, who leads the Ways and Means Committee, which focuses on tax issues. They'll split about 10 minutes in opening remarks. And then for the Democrats, the top-ranking member, Jamie Raskin, who led the impeachment against former President Trump his second impeachment, will respond to their claims.
INSKEEP: Republicans have found endless facts and information to embarrass the president's son, Hunter Biden. It's been a little harder to connect his actions directly to the president. Could today be any different?
GRISALES: We're not expecting it to be. A lot of this focus is focused on Hunter Biden and his business dealings. And as we know, he's battling his own criminal case. But Republicans are going to be looking a lot today at payments that were made to Hunter, as well as IRS tax records backing that up and two IRS whistleblowers tied to these allegations. But again, we haven't seen backup documents that connect that to President Biden.
INSKEEP: I do want to note, though, when they are confronted by reporters with their lack of evidence against the president, who they would impeach, Republicans often say, no, wait, wait; you're not paying attention.
INSKEEP: We have tons of evidence.
INSKEEP: So do they?
GRISALES: Yeah. So they do respond that way. I did ask Chairman Comer that exactly, and he said that's why today is largely going to be a rehashing of evidence of claims they've made in recent months. He says the media's been getting it wrong. So they're going to be revisiting all of that.
Now, Republicans are claiming that Hunter exploited the Biden name in his business dealings with associates. That's going to be part of that central argument, saying that there were ties to foreign associates from China, for example, and that President Biden knew about this before his presidency and he was tied to these payments. But Republicans have failed to connect those dots, and Democrats will argue that. And they're saying this is a big distraction from dealing with the shutdown threats. I talked to Raskin about this.
JAMIE RASKIN: We've been working on this for seven months, and there are no facts or evidence leading to any criminal culpability on the part of Joe Biden.
INSKEEP: OK. So I just want to follow up on this. You said that you asked James Comer, one of the co-chairs, what evidence? Do you have any evidence? Where's your evidence? And he said, we're going to work on it. We're going to rehash all the evidence today.
INSKEEP: So who are today's witnesses, and do they have any direct evidence of anything?
GRISALES: There will be four witnesses total, three for Republicans and one for Democrats. And these are largely subject matter witnesses. For example, for the Republicans, one of them is a familiar name, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. He's appeared on various media outlets, and he's often defended President Trump. And so this is largely the focus today - is subject matter experts.
INSKEEP: He's often on Fox News...
INSKEEP: ...And has occasionally been kind enough to come over and talk with us on NPR. But just to be clear, again, he's not a direct witness of any activity of any kind, right?
INSKEEP: Claudia, thanks so much.
GRISALES: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Claudia Grisales. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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