During a tumultuous session, Republicans leveled accusations of criminality and corruption against President Joe Biden, but even their own witnesses conceded that they hadn’t presented a compelling case for impeachment.
The inaugural hearing in the House Republicans’ impeachment investigation into President Biden showcased prominent witnesses testifying that they were unable to substantiate claims of impeachable actions on his part. The proceedings were marked by several close calls for the G.O.P. majority during procedural disputes and, on occasion, the sight of nearly a dozen vacant Republican seats.
Notably absent from the hearing was any fresh information concerning Mr. Biden’s behavior or any substantiation of the Republican allegations that he had engaged in corrupt dealings abroad.
“If the Republicans had a smoking gun or even a dripping water pistol, they would be presenting it today,” said Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee. “But they’ve got nothing on Joe Biden.”
Representative James R. Comer, a Republican from Kentucky and the chairman of the Oversight Committee, vowed to produce additional evidence against Biden.
However, even some witnesses, handpicked by House Republicans to testify on Thursday, admitted that lawmakers don’t have the necessary evidence to support an impeachment charge.
“I am not here today to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud or any wrongdoing,” said forensic accountant Bruce G. Dubinsky. “In my opinion, more information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment.”
Another prominent witness, Jonathan Turley, told the panel: “I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment. That is something that an inquiry has to establish.”
The witnesses’ testimony stood in stark contrast to that set by the committee’s Republicans, who for months have leveled accusations against what they called the “Biden crime family.”
In his opening statement, Comer promised to bring forward more than two dozen pieces of evidence that would reveal “Joe Biden’s corruption and abuse of public office.”
Similarly, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, posted a video promoting the hearing, calling Biden “the most corrupt president in the history of the United States.”
But as the hearing was underway, some Republicans fretted that Comer did not appear in control of the proceedings and had undercut his own narrative by calling witnesses whose testimony worked against them.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid publicly criticizing colleagues, one senior House Republican aide called the session “disastrous.”
The hearing took place on an extraordinarily busy day in Congress as infight among House Republicans threatened to cause a government shutdown by the weekend.