House GOP pushes Hunter Biden probe despite thin majority

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even with their House majority, Republicans doubled down this week to use his new power next year to investigate the Biden administration and, in particular, the president’s son.

But the midterm results have encouraged a White House that has long prepared for this moment. Republicans secured much smaller margins than expectedand aides to President Joe Biden and other Democrats believe voters have punished the GOP for its reliance on conspiracy theories and lies fueled by Donald Trump about the 2020 election.

They see it as a validation for the administration’s playbook for the midterms and going forward to focus on legislative achievements and continue, in contrast to the candidates aligned to Trump whose complaints about the president’s son have played to their most loyal supporters and were too far into the weeds. for the average American. Democrats have retained control of the Senate, and the GOP’s margin in the House is expected to be the slimmest majority in two decades.

“If you look back, we took seats in New York, New Jersey, California,” said Mike DuHaime, a Republican strategist and public affairs executive. “These weren’t voters who came to the polls because they wanted to investigate Hunter Biden — far from it. They came to the polls because they were upset about inflation. They are angry about gas prices. They are angry about what is happening with the war in Ukraine.”

But House Republicans used their first press conference after striking a majority to discuss presidential son Hunter Biden and the Justice Department, renewing longstanding complaints about what they say is a politicized law enforcement agency and a bombshell corruption case neglected by Democrats and the media.

“From their first press conference, these congressional Republicans have made it clear that they are going to do one thing in this new Congress, which is investigations, and they are doing this to pay back politically for Biden’s efforts on an agenda that helps workers ,” said Kyle Herrig, the founder of the Congressional Integrity Project, a newly relaunched multimillion-dollar effort by Democratic strategists to counter the onslaught of House GOP probes.

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In the White House, the attorney general’s office added staff months ago and beefed up its communications efforts, and staff members have been deep in research and preparation for the assault. They worked to try to identify their own vulnerabilities and plan effective responses. But everything the House is looking for in relation to Hunter Biden, who is not a staff member of the White House, comes from his lawyers, who have refused to respond to the allegations.

Rep. James Comer, incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said there are “troubling questions” of the utmost importance about the business dealings of Hunter Biden and one of the president’s brothers, James Biden , which require a deeper investigation. He said they also examined the president.

“Eradicating waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government is the primary mission of the Oversight Committee,” said Comer, R-Ky. “Therefore, this investigation is a top priority.”

Republican lawmakers promised a slew of new information this past week, but what they’ve presented so far has been a condensed review of several years of complaints about Hunter Biden’s business dealings, which go back to the conspiracy theories raised by Trump.

Hunter Biden joined the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma in 2014, around the time his father, then vice president, was helping lead the Obama administration’s foreign policy with Ukraine. Senate Republicans said the appointment may be a conflict of interestbut they did not present evidence that the assumption influenced American policies, and they did not involve Joe Biden in any action.

Republican lawmakers and their staff for the past year have been analyzing messages and financial transactions found on a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden. They have long discussed issuing congressional subpoenas to foreign entities that have done business with it, and recently brought in James Mandolfo, a former federal prosecutor, to help with the investigation as general counsel for the Oversight Committee. .

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The difference now is that Republicans have the subpoena power to follow through.

“Republicans have to move forward,” said Tom Davis, a Republican lawyer who specializes in congressional investigations and legislative strategy. “I think their members are excited to go after this stuff… there are a lot of unanswered questions. Look, the trend of 40 years is that parties investigate under their own and more investigate the other party. It didn’t start here.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dismissed the GOP’s focus on the investigations as “off-brand” thinking.

“They said they’re going to fight inflation, they said they’re going to make it a priority, then they get the majority and their first priority is actually not to focus on the American family, but on the the president’s family,” he said.

Even some recently elected Republicans oppose the idea.

“The first priority is to deal with inflation and the cost of living. … What I don’t want to see is what we saw in the Trump administration, where the Democrats went after the president and the administration relentlessly,” Rep.-elect Mike Lawler of New York told CNN.

Hunter Biden’s taxes and foreign affairs work are already under federal investigation, with a grand jury in Delaware hearing testimony in recent months.

Although he has never held a position in the presidential campaign or in the White House, his membership on the board of the Ukrainian energy company and his efforts to make deals in China have long raised questions about s He traded on his father’s public service, including informed. references in his emails to the “big guy”.

Joe Biden said he never spoke to his son about his foreign business, and nothing the Republicans have proposed suggests otherwise. And there is no indication that the federal investigation implicates the president.

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Trump and his supporters, meanwhile, have advanced a widely discredited theory that Biden pushed for the firing of Ukraine’s chief prosecutor to protect his son and Burisma from the investigation. Biden really pressed for the dismissal of the prosecutor, but that was a reflection of the official position not only of the Obama administration, but of many Western countries and because the prosecutor was perceived as morbid to corruption.

House Republicans also pointed to upcoming investigations into immigration, government spending and parental rights. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Chris Wray have been tipped as potential witnesses.

The Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has long complained about what he says is a politicized Justice Department and the ongoing probes into Trump.

On Friday, Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the presence of classified documents at the Trump estate in Florida, as well as key aspects of a separate probe involving the January 6, 2021, insurgency and efforts to cancel the 2020 elections.

Trump, in a speech Friday night at his Mar-a-Lago estate, blasted the development as “the latest in a long line of witch hunts.”

Of Joe and Hunter Biden, he asked, “Where is his special prosecutor?”

Matt Mackowiak, a Republican political strategist, said it’s one thing if the investigation into Hunter Biden stops at questions of corruption, but if it extends to the kind of malicious messaging that has been floated in the circles of far right, “I” I don’t know that the public will have much patience for that.

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Associate press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

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