Biden impeachment hearings: Witnesses at 1st hearing say evidence doesn't meet threshold

The hearing before the House Oversight Committee might run six hours.

ByAlexandra Hutzler, Meredith Deliso, Ivan Pereira, Katherine Faulders, Benjamin Siegel, and Will Steakin ABCNews logo
Thursday, September 28, 2023
Witnesses at 1st Biden hearing say evidence doesn't meet threshold
Both law professors called as witnesses said in their opening statement that they did not believe impeachment articles against President Biden were warranted at this time.

House Republicans on Thursday held the first public hearing of their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

The House Oversight Committee hearing, lasting more than six hours, was led by chairman James Comer.

Republicans say their inquiry is focused on whether Biden was involved in or benefitted from his family's foreign business dealings, among other issues. But so far, they have yet to release evidence that Biden profited from his son Hunter's business deals or was improperly influenced by them.

The White House has blasted the impeachment inquiry as "extreme politics at its worst."

Oversight Committee Chairman†James Comer, R-Ky., speaks during the House Oversight Committee impeachment inquiry hearing into President Joe Biden, Sept. 28, 2023, on Capitol Hill.
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Comer says he will subpoena bank records 'today' in closing

In closing remarks, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., said he will subpoena bank records "today" while arguing that further investigation is needed into President Joe Biden's role in his family's business dealings.

"One of those steps is gaining insight into where the Biden's foreign money ended up, for what purposes," Comer said. "Today, I will subpoena the bank records of Hunter Biden, James Biden and their affiliated companies."

Raskin decries 'impeachment hearing about nothing' in closing

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., in his closing statement, claimed that everyone was making fun of what he called "this Seinfeld impeachment."

"An impeachment hearing about nothing, apparently, two days before the government is about to shut down," he said.

Raskin thanked the four witnesses for their time and testimony but criticized Republicans for refusing to call Rudolph Giuliani and his associate Lev Parnas to testify.

The congressman reiterated that there has been no direct evidence that would give weight to an impeachment.

"You don't impeach a president based on hypotheticals and obsolete conspiracy theories," he said.

How the impeachment hearing started

Comer, in his opening statement, said President Biden lied when he said he never spoke with his family about their business dealings and continued to claim, without direct evidence, that Biden was improperly influenced by his family's business affairs.

"At least times Joe Biden lied to the American people that he never spoke his family about their business dealings," Comer said. "He lied by telling the American people that there was an absolute wall between his official government duties, his personal life."

Biden has previously unequivocally claimed he "never discussed" business with his son but Republicans have pointed to testimony from Hunter Biden's former business partner Devon Archer, who testified that Joe Biden attended at least two dinners with Hunter Biden's foreign business associates, and frequently spoke with his son over the phone while in the presence of foreign business associates. But Archer also testified he never heard business being discussed during those interactions. "The conversation is generally about the weather and what it's like in Norway or Paris or wherever he may be. ... But it was very casual conversations, not about cap tables or financials or anything like that," Archer testified.

"The American people demand accountability for this culture of corruption," Comer continued in his opening statement. "They demand to know how these schemes have compromised President Biden and threaten our national security. They demand safeguards to be put in place to prevent public officials from selling access to their public office for private gain."

But Republicans, to date, have yet to produce any hard direct evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden or that he was involved in or personally profited from his family's foreign business dealings, or that he improperly influenced policy based on them when he served as vice president.

Read more about the various allegations levied by House Republicans here.

Who were the witnesses?

Republicans called three witnesses -- one constitutional law scholar and two financial experts.

They are Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant; Eileen O'Connor, a former Assistant Attorney General, United States Department of Justice Tax Division; and Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University and a Fox News contributor.

Turley said in his opening statement he didn't believe impeachment articles against President Biden were warranted at this time.

"I want to emphasize what it is that we're here today for," he said. "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."

Turley went on to say he supported the impeachment inquiry because of the GOP allegations Biden spoke falsely about foreign business deals and possibly benefitted from his family's business dealings -- but emphasized they're "merely allegations and they should not become presumptions of impeachable conduct."

Democrats heard from Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina. Gerhardt served as special counsel to the presiding officer of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.

Rep. Shontel Brown, D-Ohio, asked Democratic witness Gerhardt what he believes is the "primary flaw" in the Republican claims about President Biden.

"Well, I suppose I can say a lot. The problem is the dots are not connected," Gerhardt replied. "The name repeated most often is Hunter Biden, not President Biden. And the point of an impeachment inquiry is not about a president's son, it has to be about the president himself and I don't think those dots connected. Lots of assumptions and accusations, not evidence."

Like Democrats who spoke before him, Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., reiterated that the hearing has no witnesses testifying with "direct knowledge of the evidence to determine that there is a basis for this impeachment inquiry."

"And this is an impeachment inquiry," he continued.

There has been no new evidence or knowledge so far in this hearing, he said.

"So why don't we have some of the fact witnesses here?" Goldman said. "The reason is, you bring in the fact witnesses and your case goes down the drain."

Several Democrats have said they want to hear from Trump ally Rudy Giuliani.

Rep. Jamie Raskin put forward a motion to subpoena Giuliani and former Giuliani ally Lev Parnas for testimony about what Raskin said were their efforts to dig up dirt on the Biden family's business dealings -- and Biden's actions as then-vice president -- in Ukraine during the Trump administration.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, quickly moved to table Raskin's motion to subpoena both men. Republicans had the votes to kill the motion, though they seemed caught off guard by the request.

Later on, Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch also said he wanted to hear from Giuliani as he noted none of today's witnesses have first-hand knowledge about what House Republicans have alleged about the Bidens.

"When I walked into this hearing room, my first question was: where's Rudy?" Lynch said.

What polls say Americans think about the inquiry

Americans are divided on the GOP-led impeachment inquiry into Biden, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found.

Overall, 44% of Americans said that based on what they know, Congress should begin impeachment proceedings that could lead to Biden being removed from office while 47% said it should not.

Partisan views were apparent in the poll, with 74% of Republicans favoring impeachment proceedings and 83% of Democrats opposing them. Independents were split 46-45%.

Americans by 58-32% said the inquiry reflects Biden is being held accountable under the law like any president, rather than being unfairly victimized politically.