House Republicans are itching to investigate Hunter Biden. But they have a problem: The feds got there first.
Though their probes differ in focus and scope — Republicans are looking at possible conflicts of interest by the Biden family writ large while the Justice Department homes in on potential crimes by Hunter Biden — they’re treading on overlapping terrain. That’s an issue for the House GOP, because any DOJ indictment of Hunter Biden would effectively close off certain investigative paths.
The turf battle has flown largely under the radar, but it threatens to undermine one of House Republicans’ most highly visible priorities for their new majority. Investigating Hunter Biden is one of the few things they could do unilaterally, at least in theory. But the DOJ looms as a potential roadblock.
In fact, Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) suggested in a brief interview with POLITICO that the Justice Department should hold off on issuing any indictment against Hunter Biden so Republicans can complete their probe. He openly acknowledged that criminal charges could hinder his investigation, giving any witnesses in the DOJ case clearance to assert their Fifth Amendment rights.
If the DOJ does go that route, one option would be for the panel to pivot to focus more heavily on other Biden family members, including brothers of the president, the GOP chair said.
“If they indict Hunter Biden, there’s still a lot of stuff out there. And say we can’t touch anything [Hunter-related], it freezes up all the evidence — there’s still a lot of stuff out there,” Comer said.
In calling for the DOJ to delay, Comer said prosecutors had already “waited this long” and Republicans would only “need a matter of months.” But his recommendation is all but guaranteed to fall flat. If the DOJ did listen, it would mirror the sort of unfounded coordination accusations that Republicans have previously lobbed at Democrats.
The DOJ tends to purposely avoid linking its work to Congress’ timeline — a frequent source of frustration for both parties. For example, members of the Jan. 6 select committee routinely groused that the department didn’t appear to be pursuing matters they had uncovered in their inquiry that they believed potentially rose to criminal levels.
Republicans are formally kicking off their investigation into the Biden family this week with their first public hearing tied to the probe, focused on Twitter’s decision to restrict a New York Post story on Hunter Biden just before the 2020 election. (Twitter officials have publicly acknowledged that they view the decision as a mistake.)
As part of the hearing, three former company executives — James Baker, former Twitter deputy general counsel; Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former global head of trust and safety; and Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s former chief legal officer — are expected to testify. Comer formally subpoenaed them, but aides said it was meant to give the witnesses legal cover to appear before the panel.
Democrats, meanwhile, are expected to use the hearing to ask their own questions about Twitter’s handling of former President Donald Trump’s controversial tweets. Their witness for the hearing will be Anika Collier Navaroli, a whistleblower who previously spoke with the House’s Jan. 6 committee over the social media platform’s handling of Trump’s tweets.
The former president was banned from the platform in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by his supporters, only to be allowed back on recently by its current owner, Elon Musk.
The hearing serves as Comer’s opener into his larger Biden family investigation, which is expected to take a broad dive that specifically touches on Hunter Biden’s business dealings, bank records and art sales but also spans beyond the First Son. Republicans are hunting for a smoking gun that ties Joe Biden’s decisions to his son’s business agreements, though no evidence has yet emerged linking the two.
POLITICO has not undergone the process to authenticate the Hunter Biden laptop that underpinned the New York Post story, but reporter Ben Schreckinger has confirmed the authenticity of some emails on it. A committee aide described themselves as highly confident that the information gleaned from the laptop was connected to Hunter Biden, but argued that the onus was on skeptics of its veracity to prove that any specific email or document on it isn’t valid.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the Oversight Committee, questioned the need for either the DOJ or House GOP investigation, arguing that they were both “based on false premises.” But he also identified the undeniable political pickle that the DOJ’s active investigation would present for Republicans by limiting their requests for information and cooperation from potential witnesses.
“Why not, in some cases, say … ‘we know DOJ is investigating, and we’re gonna wait to hear the results before we do.’ We did that with the Mueller report,” Connolly added.
The DOJ declined to comment for this story. But the department previously outlined how it responds to congressional investigations in a letter last month to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chair of the Judiciary Committee and a member of the Oversight panel.
That letter detailed how the DOJ handles information requests spawning from congressional investigations, effectively warning that it was reserving the right not to cooperate with GOP demands if they’re tied to an ongoing internal matter.
Carlos Uriarte, DOJ’s legislative affairs chief, noted in the letter that “consistent with longstanding policy and practice, any oversight requests must be weighed against the Department’s interests in protecting the integrity of its work.” The DOJ, in accordance with long-standing policy, hasn’t formally confirmed the existence of a Hunter Biden investigation.
Regardless of whether the DOJ ultimately issues any Hunter Biden-related indictments, though, the ongoing federal probe has cast a shadow over Congress’ fight on that front.
Republicans say they are basically in the dark about the tightly held inquiry, which has reportedly gone on for years. And some Democrats view the DOJ probe as a legitimate counterpart to House Republicans, saying it is the proper lane for investigating any of Hunter Biden’s potential missteps.
Hunter Biden and his team are also going on offense, urging the DOJ, Delaware attorney general and IRS to investigate many of the figures who came to possess the files culled from his alleged laptop — and some of the “inconsistencies” in stories about how those various offices came to access the records.
That request from Hunter Biden would require the administration to take up the politically explosive matter at the same time House Republicans are preparing to seek similar information from the same offices. Administration officials have given no indication they plan to do so.
Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this story.
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Author: By Jordain Carney and Kyle Cheney