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House set to formalize impeachment inquiry into President Biden

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

But first, the House voted along party lines this evening to approve a resolution formalizing its impeachment probe of President Biden. The vote came on the same day that the president's son, Hunter Biden, appeared at the Capitol for an interview with GOP investigators. But he said he wanted to testify in public.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HUNTER BIDEN: I'm here. I'm ready.

SUMMERS: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh is at the Capitol. Hi there.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: So, Deirdre, why now? Why the move now to approve an impeachment inquiry?

WALSH: It's really a political and a legal move by House Republicans. The speaker was facing a lot of pressure from far-right lawmakers to act on impeachment. And former President Trump has been pushing House Republicans to impeach Biden. Three House committees began investigating the president and his family back in September, but leaders skipped holding this official vote because of splits inside their party about whether or not they should move forward on impeachment. Now, House speaker Mike Johnson says, because these committees aren't getting the information they asked for, this step formalizing that probe will help their legal position. The White House said in a letter recently the investigation wasn't official because the House never voted on it.

SUMMERS: OK and help us understand, what exactly do House Republicans allege is the wrongdoing by President Biden?

WALSH: These three committee chairs are alleging corruption and abuse of power by the president. Oversight Chairman Jim Comer points to money that Hunter Biden made working for foreign business interests, but they have no evidence showing that Joe Biden received any financial benefit from any of his son's business dealings. In terms of this inquiry resolution today, South Carolina Republican Ralph Norman argues it's the same process that Democrats used for Trump's impeachment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RALPH NORMAN: If Democrats thought this process was fair for President Trump, they should think it's fair for President Biden.

WALSH: But Democrats say that's what this is really all about, not a process to investigate Biden but payback for Trump's impeachments. And they say Hunter Biden, who does face some serious legal issues for criminal charges on tax evasion, is not an elected official, but he's a private citizen.

SUMMERS: OK, let's talk more about Hunter Biden. What did he have to say today, and why did he oppose doing an interview with the House committees?

WALSH: Right. He argued that because Republicans have distorted information about him in the past, he didn't want a closed-door interview and instead wanted to appear in public. He also pushed back at the Republican claims that his father profited from his business dealings.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: My father was not financially involved in my business, not as a practicing lawyer, not as a board member of Burisma, not in my partnership with a Chinese private businessman, not in my investments at home nor abroad, and certainly not as an artist.

WALSH: Republicans leading the investigation say the way you do these kinds of investigations is to hold closed-door interviews first and then have a public hearing. And they said they eventually wanted one with Hunter Biden. They say the next step is possibly to hold Hunter Biden in contempt because he defied a congressional subpoena by not agreeing to this deposition today.

SUMMERS: OK. And, Deirdre, this has all been about formalizing an investigation that has been going on for months now. So how soon could we see Republicans introduce actual articles of impeachment?

WALSH: It could be early next year, which coincides with the presidential election and with the trials facing former President Trump. But Republican leaders are going to face another split inside their conference about possibly moving forward with any charges. As we've said before, they don't have any clear evidence of any high crimes or misdemeanors by President Biden. And some of the moderate Republicans who back this inquiry are saying that's fine, but they are not ready to vote to impeach the president yet.

SUMMERS: That's NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Deirdre, thank you.

WALSH: Thanks, Juana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
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