House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) met with skeptical Senate Republicans on Wednesday to lay out their roadmap for conducting an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.
The House Republican chairmen highlighted dozens of suspicious activity reports filed by multiple banks in connection to companies that funneled millions of dollars to Hunter Biden, the president’s son, and said they would seek bank records to delve more deeply into the Biden family’s businesses.
Comer and Jordan told senators they don’t have any preconceived timeline for the inquiry and instead will follow the facts, which means the House impeachment inquiry is likely to stretch well into the 2024 election year, possibly reaching a crescendo in the summer or fall.
Jordan told The Hill before the meeting the timeline for the impeachment inquiry would be “driven by the facts,” something he also told GOP senators behind closed doors.
One of the biggest obstacles the House chairmen face is the public and private skepticism of their Republican colleagues in the Senate, who have privately dismissed the inquiry as “a waste of time” and publicly questioned whether there is enough evidence to pursue an impeachment inquiry at all.
House Republicans are probing foreign business dealings by Biden’s family members while he was vice president, as well as allegations by whistleblowers that federal authorities slow-walked an investigation into Hunter Biden.
The White House has repeatedly denied President Biden had any involvement with his son’s business dealings.
The complexity of Hunter Biden’s business dealings, as well as the claims and counterclaims of various whistleblowers and witnesses, has made it difficult for Republican senators to keep track of the sprawling House investigations.
Senate Steering Committee Chairman Mike Lee (R-Utah) said he invited Comer and Jordan to speak to the Wednesday Republican lunch so skeptical colleagues could hear directly from the men leading the impeachment inquiry.
“We wanted to hear their thoughts about the progress of their investigations on the respective committees,” Lee said.
He added it was “important” that colleagues with questions about the justification for the inquiry hear from the two lawmakers most familiar with what the House probes have found so far.
“Sometimes there’s not quite as much interaction as there should be with our House colleagues,” he said.
Some Republican senators who listened to the presentation from Comer and Jordan say they were struck by the sheer number of instances in which banks reported suspicious financial activity linked to Hunter Biden.
“There were more than 100 suspicious activity reports filed by a lot of different banks with respect to Mr. Hunter Biden and the shell companies and that shocked me,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said.
Suspicious activity reports do not necessarily mean illegal activity occurred, and only a small percentage of the millions of reports from banks filed each year lead to law enforcement investigations.
Kennedy said Comer and Jordan told senators that they will try to obtain bank records to learn more about the sources of money that funneled into Hunter Biden’s bank account.
“They were very careful to say we’re not putting a timeline on anything,” he said. “They’re trying to get personal bank accounts, which is the logical next step and that’s more complicated than it sounds.”
Other Republican senators said they remain skeptical after listening to Comer and Jordan explain why they believe an impeachment inquiry into Biden is necessary.
“I don’t see what the evidence is, what the charge is,” said a Republican senator who requested anonymity to comment frankly on the House investigation.
“I hate to see an impeachment every other year,” the senator said, noting Comer and Jordan gave their presentation to overcome Senate GOP skepticism about the House endeavor.
The Democratic-controlled House impeached former President Trump in 2019 and 2021.
The senator warned of a potential public backlash to the House Republican impeachment inquiry in next year’s presidential election.
“We got high prices and spending and all these other things we should be thinking about, and yet we’re going to be spending all our time investigating basically a guy with addiction problems,” the senator said, referring to Hunter Biden. “It’s a waste of time.”
The House Republicans’ rationale for pursuing an impeachment inquiry against Biden suffered a blow Wednesday when The Hill and other media outlets reported that Thomas Sobocinski, the FBI lead on the team investigating Hunter Biden, disputed the claims of an IRS whistleblower who alleged senior Justice Department officials gave the younger Biden preferential treatment.
McCarthy earlier this summer floated the possibility of launching an impeachment inquiry into Attorney General Merrick Garland based on the IRS whistleblower’s claim.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said after the meeting that House investigators believe Hunter Biden’s business network received $24 million in foreign money.
“I think Comer’s saying they’re up to about $24 million — I don’t know what the exact figure is — of money coming in from overseas into this labyrinth … of shell companies,” he said.
House Republicans have argued elevating the House investigation of the Bidens to an impeachment inquiry would help them enforce subpoenas in the courts.
“Their hope and their belief is that by elevating it to an impeachment inquiry, which is a constitutional authority which only the House has, the courts are going to be far more likely to speed up their consideration of these cases” to obtain records, Johnson said.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), a member of the Senate Republican leadership team, said he felt more confident about the impeachment inquiry after hearing the presentation from the House chairmen.
“I liked the structure that they’re putting around it,” he said. “Unlike the Democrats in the past two impeachments, they’re committed to discovery, they know that will take time.
“I am convinced that Jordan and Comer are serious about getting the evidence that they need to substantiate very serious allegations. They’ll do their homework. That of course raises a question how much time that’s going to take,” Tillis said.
Some Republican senators are leery about stretching an impeachment inquiry and possibly a House vote on articles of impeachment and a subsequent Senate trial into the election year, when they hope to win back the Senate majority.
They note that the House Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton backfired politically in the 1998 midterm election, when the president’s party picked up five House seats — a break from the well-established historical trend of the president’s party losing seats during the midterm election of a second presidential term.
The impeachment of then-President Trump in 2019 didn’t help House Democrats keep the majority they won in the 2018 midterm elections. They wound up losing 13 seats in the 2020 presidential election, putting Republicans in position to win back control the House in 2022.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) warned last month that impeachment is bad for the country.
He criticized Democrats for rushing to impeach Trump twice, which he thought lowered the bar for future impeachment proceedings.
“I said two years ago, when we had not one but two impeachments, that once we go down this path it incentivizes the other side to do the same thing,” he told The New York Times.
“Impeachment ought to be rare,” he said. “This is not good for the country.”