Rep. James Comer Talks Up Criminal Referrals, Legislation As Impeachment Prospects Dim

Symbolic prosecution referrals could be consolation prizes for Republicans that wanted retribution for the two impeachments of Donald Trump.

WASHINGTON – Instead of impeaching President Joe Biden, Republicans may settle for telling the Justice Department to prosecute his son.

House oversight committee chair James Comer (R-Ky.), who has led Republicans’ investigation of Biden’s alleged involvement in his son Hunter’s foreign business deals, suggested Wednesday that the end result of the probe would be criminal referrals to the Justice Department, not the toppling of a president.

“The purpose of this investigation was to get the truth to the American people and then hold people accountable for wrongdoing,” Comer said on Fox News.

“We’re gonna do what we can to hold them accountable,” Comer continued. “At the end of the day, what does accountability look like? It looks like criminal referrals. It looks like referring people to the Department of Justice.”

Since launching the investigation last year, Comer has repeatedly said that his committee would refer the president’s son, Hunter Biden, for prosecution by the Justice Department. He’s also said he would draft legislation addressing “influence-peddling” by presidential family members.

But even before Republicans formally voted to make Comer’s investigation an impeachment inquiry in December, it was clear that impeachment was their ultimate prize — payback for the two impeachments Democrats lodged against former President Donald Trump.

As Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) put it last month: “You got Joe, and then you got Donald Trump, and then Joe says, ‘Donald, you’ve been impeached twice, man, you’re a bad, bad hombre.’ And then Donald says, ‘Joe, you’ve been impeached once, if you can remember.’”

The facts of the case, however, haven’t cooperated with Republicans’ plans, and a vote on articles of impeachment against Biden seems unlikely due to skepticism from a number of GOP lawmakers.

Comer and House Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have sifted through thousands of pages of bank records and conducted hours of witness interviews without turning up evidence that Joe Biden participated in his son’s deals with foreign nationals from Ukraine, China, Romania and Kazakhstan.

Former partners of Hunter Biden’s have said he talked to his father daily and would occasionally put him on speakerphone in the company of their business associates, but the older Biden only offered pleasantries and didn’t talk shop. Witness after witness have said they never saw the then-vice president involve himself directly in his son’s work, though some said Hunter Biden used his famous last name to open doors.

Republicans also pursued an allegation from an FBI informant who said a Ukrainian oligarch talked about bribing Biden — until the Justice Department arrested the informant last month and accused him of making the whole thing up.

On Thursday, Comer insisted his goal was never to impeach the president.

“I had told you a gazillion times: The goal of the investigation is to get the truth to the American people and to pass and influence-peddling legislation,” the Kentucky Republican told a reporter at the Capitol.

Comer ignored a question about his plans for a Justice Department referral for Hunter Biden. He previously said he would recommend charging the president’s son for as many as ten criminal violations, including money laundering, wire fraud, racketeering, transporting prostitutes across state lines and failing to register as a foreign agent.

The Justice Department has been investigating Hunter Biden for years, including for some of the same crimes Comer mentioned. Prosecutors have already charged Biden for failing to pay his taxes on time and for illegally owning a gun when he was addicted to crack cocaine in 2018, and they’ve said more charges are possible. Many of the former Hunter Biden associates Republicans have interviewed have also been previously interviewed by the FBI.

When the House or Senate or a congressional committee refers someone to the Justice Department for prosecution, the referral basically amounts to a non-binding suggestion — one that the department is likely to ignore when it comes from the political party that opposes the president.

Comer told Fox News that if the Biden administration won’t prosecute Hunter Biden more aggressively, maybe a future Trump administration will. (Nevermind that the prosecutor overseeing the Biden case, David Weiss, was appointed by Trump, left in his position, and was later elevated to special counsel status by Attorney General Merrick Garland so that he could finish the job.)

“If Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice won’t take any potential criminal referrals seriously, then maybe the next president with a new attorney general will,” Comer said.

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