US House to vote on formalising Biden impeachment inquiry

Joe Biden at a September cabinet meeting
Image caption,Democrats have defended President Joe Biden over what they say is ‘an extreme political stunt’

By Bernd Debusmann Jr on Capitol Hill & Sam Cabral

BBC News, Washington

The Republican-led US House of Representatives is moving forward with a vote to formalise an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

Members will vote later on Wednesday on the resolution, which Republicans say will give them greater powers to gather evidence and enforce legal demands.

Three Republican-led House committees allege bribery and corruption during Mr Biden’s tenure as vice-president.

He denies wrongdoing and the committees are yet to produce any evidence.

In an animated debate over the impeachment resolution on Wednesday, Democrats expressed irritation over what they have dismissed as “an extreme political stunt”.

Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin said the probe, which began in September, “isn’t a whodunit, it’s a what is it”.

“It’s like an Agatha Christie novel, where the mystery is – what’s the crime?” he added.

Republican Tom Cole, who kicked off the debate. said Republicans had been left with no choice but to bring the vote.

He said it was a “sad day for myself, the institution and the American people” and accused the White House of “stonewalling” the impeachment inquiry.

Ex-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy launched the inquiry in September claiming Republicans had unearthed a “culture of corruption” surrounding Mr Biden.

Republicans have held one hearing related to the inquiry, during which two expert witnesses called by Republicans said there was not yet enough evidence to impeach the Democratic president.

The oversight committee claims the Biden family and its business associates received more than $24m (£19m) from foreign sources in China, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia and Ukraine between 2014 and 2019.

Committee chairman James Comer has alleged that Mr Biden’s relatives – in particular his son, Hunter – sold access to the then-vice-president and influence-peddled off “the Biden brand”.

He has further alleged that the president “spoke, dined, and developed relationships with” his son’s business partners.

Before and during his presidency, Mr Biden has said repeatedly that he never talked business with Hunter Biden or his associates and that his son made no money off unethical overseas ventures.

The White House has pushed back on the claim it is refusing to co-operate and criticised the inquiry as an abuse of power by House Republicans.

“They’re going to go home tomorrow” for the Christmas congressional break, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday. “And what have they done?”

“They’re focusing on the president’s family instead of the American family,” she added.

Hunter Biden has long been viewed by Republicans as perhaps the greatest political liability for his father.

If they are able to link his business dealings and personal conduct to the president, it has the potential to damage the elder Mr Biden’s standing with American voters.

A formal impeachment investigation, that leads to a House vote and a Senate trial, could represent a major headache for the president in the midst of an election year.

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