Republicans’ long-shot attempt to impeach President Joe Biden got off to a rocky start Thursday, with their star witness, legal expert Jonathan Turley, outright saying he doesn’t see any evidence to support impeachment.
“I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment,” he testified.
Turley, a Fox News legal analyst and D.C. lawyer who argued against Donald Trump’s 2019 impeachment, was called on by House Republicans to testify in the first hearing of an inquiry into whether Biden should be impeached. Republicans have been desperately searching for evidence of wrongdoing since well before Biden was elected, and the inquiry gives them the ability to obtain materials like bank records.
While he conceded there was no evidence to support impeachment, Turley did say that he believed the House had “passed the threshold” for holding an inquiry. He speculated that information could emerge if an official impeachment inquiry was launched. This, he said, should be enough for Republicans to launch an official probe.
The less-than-convincing comment was seized on by the Biden campaign, which shared a video of the quote to its social channels. And Turley’s comment clearly irked some GOP officials, one of whom reportedly told CNN that Thursday’s hearing was an “unmitigated disaster.”
“You want witnesses that make your case,” the unnamed Republican told CNN. “Picking witnesses that refute House Republicans' arguments for impeachment is mind-blowing.”
Turley wasn’t the only GOP witness to say there’s no evidence to support articles of impeachment. Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant called on by Republicans, said, “I am not here today to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud, or any wrongdoing. In my opinion, more information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment.”
Dubinsky said there was a “smokescreen” surrounding the finances of Hunter Biden—who is not a government employee—that needed to be uncovered before an impeachment decision could be reached. Turley agreed, saying he’d vote against impeachment if it was his job to make a decision based on the evidence they have today.
Republican’s decision to call Turley as their first witness appeared to irk Steve Bannon, the ex-Trump adviser and conservative pundit, who called out House members for not vetting Turley enough. Speaking on Real America’s Voice, Bannon, citing Turley’s doubts about impeachable evidence, said “that’s maybe not a witness I call initially to lay out the case.”
“Why don’t we maybe we bring him in in a couple of weeks,” Bannon said, insinuating Republicans should have chosen someone who would have spoken harsher on Biden. “Maybe we don’t start with him. It’s just an idea.”
Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) flamed House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) over the apparent witness gaffe, mocking him with Bannon’s comments.
“What a day we are having here,” said a laughing Moskowitz. “I mean, listen, as a former director of emergency management, I know a disaster when I see one. I mean, if you don’t believe me, just ask Steve Bannon. Your guy just went on and said perhaps the Republicans shouldn’t have started with a witness—talking about Professor Turley—who was going to say right off the bat that there wasn’t an impeachable offense.”
Impeachment talks have swirled for nearly a year, with a cohort of Republicans centering their claims around Hunter Biden’s shady business dealings and so-far-unsubstantiated suspicions that his father engaged in corruption and abuse of public office.
Earlier this year, a former business associate of Hunter’s told House Republicans in a closed-door interview that Hunter often sold “the illusion of access to his father” and often spoke to his dad during business meetings. But Devon Archer said those conversations were about but trivial matters and he was “not aware of any” wrongdoing by the president.
Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY) tried to have that latter part of Archer’s testimony entered into the record on Thursday as proof that Biden didn’t personally meddle in, or benefit from, his son’s business dealings. But Comer, who is leading the inquiry along with Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Jason Smith (R-MO), blocked the effort.
It prompted Goldman and Comer to get into a heated argument, yelling at and interrupting each other for nearly five minutes until Comer moved on to the next line of questioning.
The testy interaction was one of many on Thursday. Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI) and Democrats’ key witness, Michael Gerhardt, also sparred when McClain took issue with Gerhardt’s comparison of Hunter Biden’s federal gun and tax charges to that of a speeding ticket that shouldn’t involve his father.
Instead, McClain likened Hunter’s alleged crimes to that of a murder and insinuated his father could have been an accomplice—despite zero evidence.
“If a criminal pulls a trigger for a murder, he’s guilty, right?” McClain said to Gerhardt. “But don’t you also agree with me if somebody ordered that hit, we would also charge him, too?”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) pointed to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was given a plum White House job and later made a reported $2 billion business deal with Saudi Arabia, as proof that a president’s relatives can make business deals separate from the office of the president.
“Would it be fair to attribute all of that to Donald Trump? Because it’s his son-in-law? No, not without any evidence,” Raskin said. “The principle of American law is that people are responsible for their own conduct and not the conduct of their adult children.”
Raskin grilled Republicans for concocting what he claimed is a phony inquiry based on lies peddled by Trump and Rudy Giuliani in the last election cycle.
“If Republicans had a smoking gun or even a dripping water pistol, they would be presenting it today,” he said. “They’ve got nothing on President Joe Biden. All they can do is return to the thoroughly demolished lie that Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump launched five years ago.”