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House Republicans won’t take ‘no evidence’ for an answer in impeachment inquiry

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) ducked out of the closed-door deposition of President Biden’s son Hunter a few hours before it ended. But, no matter. He’d seen enough.

“I think this was a great deposition for us,” he told reporters waiting outside the hearing room. “It proved several bits of our evidence that we’ve been conducting throughout this investigation. But there are also some contradictory statements that I think need further review. So this impeachment inquiry will now go to the next phase, which will be a public hearing.”

When they arrived at the microphone once the testimony had ended, Democrats scoffed.

“To quote Congressman Issa, who was there, it was a big nothing,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the committee. “Although I would amend it by saying it was a little nothing. Everything that we learned was what we knew before, which was that President Biden is not involved and has never been involved in his son’s businesses.”

Much of the hearing, he said, involved “picking over the flotsam and jetsam of this shipwrecked investigation.” When asked about the possibility of a public hearing, Raskin shrugged.

“I don’t see any particular purpose for doing that,” he said, adding that “if that’s something that the parties agree to, we would have no objection to it because I suppose the whole country can see what an absurd waste of time this has been.”

How do we reconcile these two ideas, that Comer is so confident his side made progress and Raskin is so confident that they didn’t? Easily. Comer and his Republican allies have proved immune to the evidence contradicting their assertions for months. That immunity certainly extends to Hunter Biden, who they view as hopelessly dishonest. If objective reporting fails to dent the protective barrier that surrounds Comer, why would claims offered by someone named Biden?

Ahead of Hunter Biden’s appearance, the Oversight Committee on Tuesday published a lengthy thread of allegations on social media. Many of the posts were flatly erroneous, nearly all were in some way misleading. Others were simply irrelevant to the putative question at hand, whether Joe Biden did something untoward. What the posts compiled, though, were the elements of the narrative that has been propagated by the joint efforts of House Republicans and the right-wing media. They were little slices of Foxnewsium presented to Biden-haters like a charcuterie tray.

Before the hearing began, Comer again insisted that Hunter Biden had several shell companies, which is misleading. He said a Russian woman had paid millions to Hunter Biden, which was disproven by one of Comer’s witnesses. He insinuated that $200,000 Joe Biden received from his brother James in repayment of a loan was nefarious. He at least more accurately described the investments received through Hunter and James Biden’s work as involving some of their associates; previously, he’d claimed that the Bidens took in $20 million.

His allies appear either to not be paying much attention to the specifics here or to trust Comer’s presentations or both. That’s a mistake. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) appeared on CNN as Hunter was offering his testimony and repeated the $20 million thing, only to have the anchor point out that he was wrong. Not how one ideally wants a cable news appearance to go.

We don’t yet know many specifics about what unfolded in the deposition. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) told reporters that Hunter Biden had contradicted other witnesses, which is almost certainly true. After all, his former business partner Tony Bobulinski has claimed nearly everyone else is lying (which has generated at least one embarrassing response). Only Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) offered a specific point on which Hunter Biden was supposedly caught being dishonest.

“He talked about not being involved in anything between Blue Star Strategies,” she said, “but yet we presented an email that showed he was involved.”

There you go. Later asked what grounds for impeachment might exist, she confidently asserted, “influence peddling, for one. We can see that he sold his father’s name and business.” Of course, that describes Hunter, not his father. Impeaching Hunter Biden would, in fact, be a lower hurdle to clear.

What’s important is that people like Greene and the right-wing media have been agitating for impeachment for months. They believe — and many Republicans believe — that impeachment is warranted. Republicans believed that before the impeachment inquiry began. There’s a huge demand to hold a president they see as corrupt to account. Since the reality of the flimsiness of Comer’s case rarely penetrates their media universe and because denials from Hunter Biden are going to be dismissed out of hand, there’s no reason not to move forward.

Well, except that they have already held one public impeachment inquiry hearing and it went poorly. Comer and other Republican leaders did a little cleanup on Fox News a few hours later, but Comer later said he didn’t think public hearings were useful.

It seems like we may get another one anyway, promising to offer very little new insight but lots of opportunity for both sides to grandstand. Perhaps this time Democrats spend less time blaming the process on Donald Trump and instead point out the gaping holes in the Republican case. And perhaps Republicans and their allies viewing at home will slowly come to realize that the person willfully spreading false information to members of Congress isn’t Hunter Biden but James Comer.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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