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US House launches Biden impeachment inquiry

WASHINGTON (AFP)The US House of Representatives voted Wednesday to formalise an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, escalating Republicans’ battle with Democrats ahead of the 2024 election in a move Biden himself slammed as a “baseless” stunt.

Republicans, seizing on Biden’s son Hunter’s controversial international dealings, have yet to provide evidence of corruption by the president, and the Democratic-led Senate would be unlikely to convict him even if the inquiry did lead to an actual impeachment trial.

Regardless, the procedure guarantees Republicans a new, high-profile platform to attack Biden as he campaigns for reelection — and to distract from the federal criminal trials facing his almost certain challenger Donald Trump.

The vote of 221 to 212 was along strict party lines, with every Republican voting for it and every Democrat against.

Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Jason Smith, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee James Comer and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jim Jordan speak to reporters after the House voted to formally authorise the impeachment inquiry into US President Joe Biden, in Statuary Hall at the US Capitol on December 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

Conservatives accuse Biden’s troubled son Hunter of influence-peddling — effectively trading on the family name in pay-to-play schemes during his business dealings in Ukraine and China.

The allegations against Hunter Biden refer to incidents that took place before his father became president, and the White House has stressed there has been no wrongdoing.

Biden himself responded immediately after the vote, accusing Republicans of stalling on key fronts — such as funding government — while obsessing over scoring political points ahead of the election.

“Instead of doing anything to help make Americans’ lives better, they are focused on attacking me with lies,” Biden said in a statement.

“Instead of doing their job on the urgent work that needs to be done, they are choosing to waste time on this baseless political stunt that even Republicans in Congress admit is not supported by facts.”

Republicans insist the work has merit.

“As President Biden continues to stonewall lawful Congressional subpoenas, today’s vote of the full House of Representatives authorising the inquiry puts us in the strongest position to enforce these subpoenas in court,” said House Speaker Mike Johnson and other members of Republican leadership.

“The American people deserve answers,” they said in a joint statement. “This impeachment inquiry will help us find them.”

‘Zero evidence’ 


Hunter Biden, whose chaotic personal life and business dealings have become a magnet for right-wing conspiracy theories and media investigations, issued an angry statement in Washington.

“My father was not financially involved in my business,” he said.

A Yale-trained lawyer and lobbyist-turned-artist whose life has been marred by personal tragedy, alcoholism and crack cocaine addiction, Hunter Biden was speaking to reporters from Capitol Hill, after refusing to attend a closed-door hearing led by Republicans just inside.

Egged on by Trump — who was impeached twice, including for his attempts to overturn the results of his 2020 election loss to Biden — the Republican Party first began probing a possible Biden impeachment earlier this year. Hearings began late September, leading to the decision to hold Wednesday’s vote.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer charged Wednesday that the investigations so far have “revealed how Joe Biden knew of, participated in, and benefited from his family cashing in on the Biden name around the world.”

Experts interviewed during the proceedings, however, said there was no evidence to justify a Biden impeachment.

And Democrats say the Republicans are playing pure politics.

“There is zero evidence that President Biden has engaged in any wrongdoing,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Tuesday.

The US Constitution provides that Congress may remove a president for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Impeachment by the House, which is the political equivalent of a criminal indictment, would spark a trial by the Senate, with the president losing his job if convicted — an unlikely scenario for Biden given the chamber’s Democratic control.

Although three US presidents have been impeached — Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Trump in 2019 and 2021 — none has ever been removed from office by the Senate.