Day 1 of formal Biden impeachment inquiry: 7 big takeaways

By Around the Web

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks on the House floor Thursday.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks on the House floor. (C-SPAN screen shot)

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]

By Fred Lucas
The Daily Signal

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee held its historic first hearing Thursday in the impeachment inquiry examining the conduct of President Joe Biden.

Republicans on the House committee laid out some of the gathered evidence of what they call influence peddling by Biden, son Hunter Biden, and other members of his family.

Committee Democrats insisted, however, that there is no evidence  the president directly benefited from foreign money flowing to his son and other relatives.

The House hearing featured a panel of experts in constitutional and tax law and was titled “The Basis for an Impeachment Inquiry of President Joseph R. Biden Jr.,” indicating that it could be the first of many such hearings.

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Here are seven takeaways.

1. Potential Articles of Impeachment
Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., asked Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and a Fox News legal analyst, about potential articles of impeachment.

“To date, we’ve shown that the Biden family and their companies received more than $15 million without providing any known legitimate services between 2014 and 2019,” Comer told Turley. “If you include the business associates and their companies, they’ve received over $24 million.”

“Based on evidence we’ve developed so far, what are some of the potential laws we should be analyzing during our impeachment inquiry?” he asked.

Turley mentioned four potential legal violations:  bribery, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and abuse of power.

He stressed that a presidential impeachment should be based on an alleged violation of a criminal statute, even though the U.S. Constitution doesn’t require such a crime as a prerequisite to impeachment.

“One of the things I recommend is that the committee start by looking at potential crimes,” Turley said. “I’ve said that in the past two impeachments; it’s an important thing to front-load criminal acts.”

In 2019, the House’s then-Democrat majority impeached then-President Donald Trump on two articles for noncriminal acts: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

“As I talk about in my testimony, bribery, obstruction, conspiracy, abuse of power, those have all been raised in past impeachments,” Turley said. “Abuse of power is the article that is very, very common. It tends to be a catch-all, which is why I suggest you end there rather than start there, because that’s the article that brings in a lot of noncriminal conduct. Frankly, I think you need to focus as much as you can on the evidence and whether you can establish these connections.”

Eileen O’Connor, a former assistant attorney general overseeing the Justice Department’s Tax Division, said Hunter Biden’s alleged crimes could open the door to larger offenses committed in the U.S. government.

“The Hunter Biden investigation must not be viewed in isolation,” O’Connor said, “but rather as part of a broad landscape of corruption. Don’t forget that a full year after that, in October 2020, FBI officials were telling Twitter that [Hunter Biden’s] laptop was Russian disinformation.”

2. Biden DOJ and ‘Political Figure 1’
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee but also a member of the Oversight Committee, raised what he called “four fundamental facts” while calling out the Biden administration’s Justice Department.

Jordan began by citing the younger Biden’s hiring in May 2014 by Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. At the time, Biden was in the sixth of eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president.

“Hunter Biden gets put on the board of Burisma, gets paid a lot of money,” Jordan said. “Hunter Biden is not qualified. Fact No. 2: Not my words, his words. He said he got on the board because of the brand, because of the name.”

“Fact No. 3, the executives at Burisma asked Hunter Biden to weigh in and help them with the pressure they are under from the prosecutor in Ukraine,” Jordan added. “Fact No. 4, Joe Biden goes to Ukraine on Dec. 9, 2015, gives this speech, attacks the prosecutor, then starts the process of getting that guy fired.”

The Ohio Republican noted that an FBI form known as an FD-1023 details an alleged $5 million bribe paid to then-Vice President Biden to suppress the Ukrainian state prosecutor’s probe of Burisma.

“Those facts, by the way, are consistent with what the confidential human source told the FBI and the FBI recorded in the 1023 form—the same form the Justice Department didn’t want to let this committee see,” Jordan said.

Jordan said the sworn testimony of two IRS whistleblowers, plus a federal judge in Delaware who rejected the Justice Department’s plea deal with Hunter Biden, prevented the agency from Biden stopping a probe of someone known as “Political Figure 1.”

“The final step is the Biden Justice Department tries to sweep it all under the rug,” Jordan said. “They slow-walk the investigation. They let the statute of limitations lapse for the most important years, ’14 and ’15, the Burisma years, when all that income is coming in. They try to put together this sweetheart deal and get it past the judge.”

“And we learned yesterday, in the search warrant application examining Hunter Biden’s electronic communications, they weren’t allowed to ask about Political Figure 1,” Jordan said. “Political figure No. 1 is ‘the big guy,’ is Joe Biden.”

The House Judiciary chairman added: “They would have gotten away with it all except for two brave whistleblowers [in the Internal Revenue Service] who sat in those seats two months ago and told their story. And their story has stood up. Two brave whistleblowers and a judge in Delaware who said, ‘We’re not going to let this happen.’”

3. ‘10 Times, Joe Biden Lied’ 
Comer, the Oversight Committee chairman, stressed that Biden has claimed for years that he had no role in the business ventures of his son or other family members, including those in China and Ukraine.

“At least 10 times, Joe Biden lied to the American people that he never spoke to his family about their business dealings,” Comer said. “He lied by telling the American people that there was an ‘absolute wall’ between his official government duties and his personal life.”

“Let’s be clear: There was no wall,” the Kentucky Republican said. “The door was wide open to those who purchased what a business associate described as ‘the Biden brand.’”

Comer continued:

Evidence reveals that then-Vice President Joe Biden spoke, dined, and developed relationships with his family’s foreign business targets. These business targets include foreign oligarchs who sent millions of dollars to his family. It also includes a Chinese national who wired a quarter of a million dollars to his son. Joe Biden also lied to the American people about his family making money in China.

He continued to lie about it even when the House Oversight Committee uncovered bank wires revealing how the Bidens received millions from a Chinese company with significant ties to Chinese intelligence and the Chinese Communist Party.

Just this week, we uncovered two wires sent to Hunter Biden that originated in Beijing, from Chinese nationals. This happened while Joe Biden was running for president of the United States. And Joe Biden’s home is listed as the beneficiary address.

To date, the House Oversight Committee has uncovered how the Bidens and their associates created over 20 shell companies, mostly created when Joe Biden was president, and raked in over $20 million between 2014 and 2019.

Comer said all this was about the Biden “brand.”

“What were the Bidens selling to make all this money? Joe Biden himself,” he said. “Joe Biden is the brand. And Joe Biden showed up at least two dozen times with business targets and associates, sending signals of access, influence, and power to those prepared to pay for it.”

4. Family and Benefits
Jordan asked Turley, the GWU law professor, whether someone has to be paid directly to be guilty of a financial crime.

“Can a benefit to your family be a benefit to you?” Jordan asked.

Turley responded that even in criminal law, which has a higher bar, convictions for bribery and other financial crimes occur without direct payments being proved.

“There have been repeated statements that you need to show that President Biden accepted direct money in order for this to constitute a benefit,” Turley said, referring to congressional Democrats’ arguments. “Even under criminal cases, when you deal with bribery, extortion, the Hobbs Act, courts actually have rejected that. They’ve said that money going to family members is in fact a benefit.”

Turley added: “Obviously, the strongest case is if you have a direct payment. This idea that you can have millions going to a politician’s family and that’s not a benefit, I think is pretty fallacious.”

Nine members of the Biden family, including the president’s brother James Biden, owned more than 20 companies that provide no clear goods or services yet took in over $20 million from 2014 through 2019, according to House Oversight Committee findings.

Forensic accountant Bruce Dubinsky, who has been an expert witness for over 100 cases of financial crime, stressed that shell companies exist for the purpose of hiding who benefits.

“While I will note shell companies can be used for legitimate activities, more often than not they are affiliated with fraudulent activities like money laundering, fraud, hiding of assets, and other illicit practices,” Dubinsky said.

Making a veiled reference to the recent indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., on bribery charges, Dubinksy said that most modern corruption occurs through shell organizations.

“Fraudsters typically create a labyrinth of limited liability companies to create an opaque number of entities that are then used to hide improper conduct,” Dubinsky said. “In many instances, these complex entities revolve around illicit activities and moving money around the globe in a manner designed to avoid the detection of the underlying illegal activity, as well as the movement of the money tied to that illegal activity.”

“Gone are the days—for the most part—when suitcases full of currency and gold bars are exchanged for the conduct of illegal activity,” he said.

5. ‘China Money Based on Burisma Conspiracy?’
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, repeatedly talked about Trump during the hearing.

Raskin asked that the committee call as witnesses former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a former lawyer for Trump, and Lev Parnas, a one-time Giuliani associate-turned-enemy. The committee voted along party lines to table the motion.

At another point, Raskin said the committee’s impeachment inquiry, which was authorized by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, is based only on what the Maryland Democrat called “the Burisma conspiracy.” He referred to a letter to Comer and himself from Parnas.

“In it, he called upon you to call off this wild goose chase,” Raskin said.

Comer responded: “Because of China money that the Biden’s have received.”

The committee chairman seemed to be making the point to the ranking member that foreign money routed to the Bidens is much larger than a Ukrainian energy company.

Raskin, seemingly surprised, replied: “No, because all of this is based on the Burisma conspiracy.”

Comer asked him: “The China money is based on the Burisma conspiracy?”

Appearing unsure how else to answer, Raskin said, almost predictably: “Well, I’ve seen a lot of China money go to the Trump family.”

6. ‘Arrested for Speeding’
Democrats’ only witness at the House committee’s hearing was Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Let me give you an example of what I fear is similar to the current proceedings,” Gerhardt said at one point. “Hunter Biden is arrested for speeding in a car owned by his father, and police go after the father.”

Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., said Republicans lacked a “smoking gun” to implicate the president.

“If my Republican colleagues had a so-called smoking gun, they would have presented it and would have talked about it nonstop,” Lee said.

Comer asked Lee: “Can the gentlelady read a bank statement, an email, a text message?”

Lee retorted: “Instead we’re sitting here with no ‘fact witnesses,’ with no evidence in this sham, so-called impeachment.”

A fact witness is someone who could testify about his or her direct knowledge about what happened, rather than an analyst or other expert witness.

7. AOC v. MTG Showdown
At one point, two of the most colorful members of Congress got into a shouting match as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., quarreled with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Greene was noting how Hunter Biden has treated women over the years. She held up a picture of a woman in a bathing suit who apparently had had a relationship with the younger Biden.

Initially, Raskin reminded the panel that in a past hearing Greene had held up a nude photo of Hunter Biden.

“A bathing suit is not pornography,” Greene told Raskin.

The Maryland Democrat retorted: “Well, we can’t see it down there and you didn’t make it available to the minority before you started.”

Greene replied: “You’ve seen it before. It’s on the internet, it’s everywhere.”

Ocasio-Cortez then jumped in to tell Greene, “You are submitting a naked woman’s body.”

Greene said, “It’s a bathing suit.”

Ocasio-Cortez: “It has not been cleared before this committee.”

Greene: “You have glasses. Do you wear them or not?”

Ocasio-Cortez: “I have contacts on, thank you.”

Greene responded by saying, “Well, congratulations.”

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]


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