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House votes to formalize Biden impeachment inquiry

Hunter Biden, son of President Biden, says he is willing to appear before an open hearing of the House Oversight Committee but did not appear at a scheduled closed-door session.
Jose Luis Magana
Hunter Biden, son of President Biden, says he is willing to appear before an open hearing of the House Oversight Committee but did not appear at a scheduled closed-door session.

Updated December 13, 2023 at 5:53 PM ET

The House of Representatives has voted along party lines to formalize an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, as House Republicans intensify the investigation into Biden they opened earlier this year.

The vote was 221-212, with all Republicans in support. The vote is intended, in part, to give committees greater legal authority to enforce subpoenas.

House Republicans allege that Biden and his family engaged in an "influence peddling" scheme and took payments from foreign adversaries. The inquiry focuses largely on the president's son, Hunter Biden, and his foreign business dealings.

So far, Republicans have not presented any clear evidence of impeachable offenses by President Biden. Both Hunter Biden and the White House have vehemently denied the allegations.

Speaking on the House floor ahead of the vote, House Oversight Chair James Comer, R-Ky., said the committees "are now at a pivotal moment" in their investigation.

"We will soon depose and interview several members of the Biden family and their associates ... but we are facing obstruction from the White House," Comer said. "President Biden must be held accountable."

Congressional Democrats have decried the inquiry as politically motivated.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who served as an impeachment manager in former President Trump's second impeachment trial, said Republicans' "stupid, blundering investigation" was preventing the House from getting any work done.

"After 11 months of this, no one can tell us what President Biden's crime was, much less where it happened, when it happened, what the motive was, who the perpetrators were or who the victims were," Raskin said on the House floor.

Materially, the vote will change little about the ongoing investigations already being conducted by the House Oversight, Judiciary and Ways and Means committees. But politically, securing a formal impeachment inquiry is a victory for the far-right flank of the Republican Party.

In a statement, President Biden called the inquiry a "baseless political stunt."

"Instead of doing anything to help make Americans' lives better, [House Republicans] are focused on attacking me with lies," he said.

The White House has repeatedly dismissed the impeachment inquiry — with claims dating back before Biden was president — as a political charade. It's occurring as Biden's predecessor and likely opponent in the 2024 campaign, Donald Trump, faces dozens of criminal charges in several indictments, including for attempts to subvert the 2020 election.

Hunter Biden gives a forceful denial in rare public statement

The vote came hours after Hunter Biden failed to appear for a closed-door deposition with the House Oversight Committee.

In a rare press conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Biden told reporters that he is willing to testify in a public hearing, but not behind closed doors.

"Republicans do not want an open process where Americans can see their tactics exposed, expose their baseless inquiry or hear what I have to say," Biden said.

Comer and Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in a statement that Biden "defied lawful subpoenas" by failing to appear, and that they would now "initiate contempt of Congress proceedings."

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, Hunter Biden said that "there is no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business. Because it did not happen."

"Let me state as clearly as I can," Biden said. "My father was not financially involved in my business. Not as a practicing lawyer. Not as a board member of Burisma, not my partnership with a Chinese private businessman. Not in my investments at home nor abroad, and certainly not as an artist."

Last month, Comer presented documents that allegedly suggested President Biden received payments from Hunter Biden's law firm, which had received payments from Chinese companies and other foreign entities. Hunter Biden's lawyers responded that the payments were from Hunter to his father, to repay him for financing a truck when he was unable to secure credit.

"In the depths of my addiction, I was extremely irresponsible with my finances," Hunter Biden said. "But to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond the absurd. It's shameless."

Hunter Biden accused House Republicans of "cherry-picking lines from a bank statement, manipulating texts I sent, editing the testimony of my friends and former business partners, and misstating personal information that was stolen from me."

Republicans defend their probe

Comer defended his investigation Wednesday morning, calling it "a serious, credible, transparent investigation from day one."

"This is an investigation about public corruption at the highest levels," the Kentucky Republican added. "We have accumulated mountains of evidence that's concerning to an overwhelming majority of Americans. ... We expect to depose the president son and then we will be more than happy to have a public hearing with him."

Jordan said he was "disappointed" that Biden did not appear, and said that an initial public hearing wouldn't work.

"You do it in an open format now, you're gonna get filibusters, you're gonna get speeches, you're gonna get all kinds of things," he said. "What we want is the facts."

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Lexie Schapitl is a production assistant with NPR's Washington Desk, where she produces radio pieces and digital content. She also reports from the field and assists with production of the NPR Politics Podcast.