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House panel subpoenas Hunter Biden and James Biden, stepping up impeachment probe

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., sent subpoenas to Hunter Biden, James Biden and several other family members and business associates. The move suggests the impeachment inquiry of President Biden is entering a new phase.
Chip Somodevilla
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House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., sent subpoenas to Hunter Biden, James Biden and several other family members and business associates. The move suggests the impeachment inquiry of President Biden is entering a new phase.

House Oversight Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., sent subpoenas on Wednesday to the president's son Hunter Biden, his brother James Biden and other family members and business associates, directing them to appear for depositions and transcribed interviews. The move signals the impeachment inquiry into the president was entering a new phase.

Comer, in a written statement, says the panel has "followed the money and built a record of evidence revealing how Joe Biden knew, was involved, and benefited from his family's influence peddling schemes." He maintains that bank records the panel has received during their investigation "reveal how the Bidens sold Joe Biden around to the world to benefit the Biden family, including Joe Biden himself, to the detriment of U.S. interests."

The subpoenas direct Hunter Biden to appear for a deposition on December 13 and James Biden on December 6.

In the tumultuous weeks following the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and the chaotic effort to find agreement for his replacement among House Republicans that left the chamber frozen, the impeachment probe slipped to the back burner. But newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., who served on the House Judiciary Committee, emphasized last week that nothing was predetermined, but told reporters that "very soon we are coming to a decision" on whether the House will move forward with articles of impeachment against President Biden.

Abbe Lowell, counsel for Hunter Biden, in a written statement to NPR called the subpoena "yet another political stunt aimed at distracting from the glaring failure of Rep. Comer and his MAGA allies to prove a single one of their wild and now discredited conspiracies about the Biden family."

But Lowell suggested that Hunter is open to cooperate in some form with the panel, saying he is "eager to have the opportunity, in a public forum and at the right time, to discuss these matters with the Committee."

Comer and House Republicans on the House Judiciary and House Ways and Means panels argue that Hunter Biden and his father and business associates engaged in "influence peddling." They claim they set up entities during the time that Biden served as vice president to hide payments from business deals with foreign companies. A former business associate of Hunter's, Devon Archer, has testified in a closed door deposition, and mentioned that the then vice president was put on speakerphone when Hunter was with business associates, but Archer did not have evidence that President Biden received any direct financial benefit as a result of any of these interactions.

A memo issued by White House spokesman Ian Sams after the announcement of the subpoenas argued House Republicans have made "this partisan investigation a higher priority than virtually all issues Americans really care about. Turn on Fox News, and you're more likely to see a House Republican talking about the President's family than making life better for American families." The memo ticks through allegations and says GOP members have misled the public about the interviews and evidence they have received in recent months.

The top Democrat on the Oversight panel, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., criticized Comer's investigation in a written statement, pointing out that the records the GOP panel has already "discredits their false claims about President Biden" and "there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by President Biden." He said the new round of subpoenas is an effort to "jump-start this epic flop of an investigation."

Former President Trump has publicly pushed for House Republicans to move forward with charges against President Biden, insisting after he was impeached twice under a Democratic House it was appropriate to retaliate.

GOP lawmakers have been split on whether the House should approve articles of impeachment, with some Republicans who represent competitive districts arguing voters care more about action on legislation focused on the economy.

Congress also faces a big deadline next week — November 17 — when federal agencies will shutdown if both chambers fails to pass a stopgap spending bill.

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

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