Key takeaways from House Republicans' 1st Biden impeachment inquiry hearing

Looming large over the proceeding was the impending government shutdown.

September 28, 2023, 5:59 PM

The first hearing of the Republican-led impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden was dominated by contentious moments between Republicans and Democrats but offered no new evidence.

The proceeding, which stretched for more than six hours on Thursday, provided House Republicans the opportunity to lay out the various allegations they've already levied about the Biden family and their business dealings over the past nine months.

Four witnesses were called to testify but none had firsthand knowledge of the claims being made. Instead, they provided legal and financial expertise in response to member questions.

Representative Jamie Raskin speaks during a hearing titled "Basis for an Impeachment Inquiry of President Joseph R. Biden Jr.," Sept. 28, 2023, in Washington.
Anna Rose Layden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Looming large over the hearing was the impending government shutdown, as several Democratic members kept a countdown clock at their side. In his opening statement, ranking member Rep. Jamie Raskin blasted Republicans moving ahead with the inquiry amid Saturday night's deadline, stating, "It's hard to grasp the complete derangement of this moment."

Here are key takeaways from the hearing.

GOP witnesses say no sufficient evidence for impeachment articles

Several of the witnesses, including two witnesses called by Republicans, told the committee there wasn't enough evidence yet to warrant impeaching President Biden.

"I want to emphasize what it is that we're here today for," Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor and Fox News contributor, said in his opening statement. "This is a question of an impeachment inquiry. It is not a vote on articles of impeachment. In fact, I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment. That is something that inquiry has to establish."

George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley speaks during a House Oversight and Accountability Committee impeachment inquiry hearing into U.S. President Joe Biden, Sept. 28, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

"I am not here today to even suggest that there was corruption fraud or any wrongdoing," said Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant. "In my opinion More information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment."

Their comments were highlighted by several Democrats in their criticism of the inquiry.

"Three hours and 45 or so minutes into this, the Republicans' own witnesses have confirmed they have seen no evidence of any evidence," said Democratic Rep. Summer Lee of Pennsylvania. "I think that if my Republican colleagues had a so-called smoking gun, they would have presented it by now."

Shutdown casts a shadow

The impending government shutdown got plenty of airtime as Democrats criticized Republicans for moving ahead with the inquiry as the caucus remains divided on a path forward for spending.

"We're 62 hours away from shutting down the government of the United States of America and Republicans are launching an impeachment drive based on a long debunked and discredited lie," Raskin said in his opening statement. "No foreign enemy's ever been able to shut down the government United States but now MAGA Republicans are about to do just that."

(L-R) Rep. Stephen Lynch, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Rep. Jamie Raskin and Rep. James Comer participate at the House Oversight and Accountability Committee impeachment inquiry hearing into President Joe Biden, Sept. 28, 2023, in Washington.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Lee spent some of her time listing the monetary impact of a shutdown on residents from the districts of Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and other Republican committee members.

Greene pushed back at one point, stating "Democrats are the party of shutdowns."

Democrats, Republicans spar over legitimacy of inquiry

Members on the committee fiercely debated whether an inquiry was necessary, with Democrats pointing to an apparent lack of direct evidence implicating President Biden and Republicans arguing more investigation is needed.

Turley, the constitutional law expert called by Republicans to testify, said he believed there was "certainly a basis for this inquiry to go forward."

Though University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt, the witness called by Democrats, had more reservations.

"Let me give you an example of what I fear is similar to the current proceedings: Hunter Biden is arrested for speeding in a car owned by his father, and the police go after the father," Gerhardt said. "I don't think that's how the law should work. I don't think that's how impeachment should work."

Another point of contention was the lack of a full House vote to launch the inquiry, as has been tradition in the past.

Michael Gerhardt, professor at the University of North Carolina's law school, speaks during a House Oversight and Accountability Committee impeachment inquiry hearing into President Joe Biden, Sept. 28, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

At times, Democrats called the hearing an "embarrassment" or "disgraceful" and accused Republicans of doing former President Donald Trump's bidding.

Rep. William Timmons R-S.C. contended that there was enough evidence against Hunter Biden to start the inquiry and that lawmakers needed to do due diligence.

"The Congress has a duty to determine whether Joe Biden was a loving favor taken advantage of a delinquent son or knowingly participant complicit in the scheme and financially compensated for his role. That's why we are here today, to answer that simple question," he said.

Comer says he will subpoena Hunter Biden, James Biden bank records

As the more than six-hour hearing came to a close, Comer announced he would be issuing a subpoena to the president's son and brother "today."

Top Republicans, Comer included, have been threatening the move for months. They have said they believe the bank documents could provide the smoking gun evidence so far missing in the case.

Chairman of the House Oversight Committee James Comer presides over a Committee hearing titled "The Basis for an Impeachment Inquiry of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr." on Capitol Hill, Sept. 28, 2023, in Washington.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Comer claimed the witness testimony "confirms the evidence compiled by this committee justifies the investigation of Joe Biden's role in his families business schemes and justifies the next step of this investigation.

"One of those steps is gaining insight of where the foreign money ended up, for what purposes," he said.

ABC News' Benjamin Siegel and Katherine Faulders contributed to this report.

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