With Subpoenas, the House Impeachment Inquiry Is Speeding Up

Hunter Biden departs a court appearance at the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on Wednesday, July 26, 2023, in Wilmington, Delware. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/Washington Post/Getty Images)

Hello and welcome once again to The Collision. This week, we’ll get into both Donald Trump’s civil trial and developments in the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden.

The Docket

  • Ivanka Trump testified Wednesday in a Manhattan courtroom, becoming the third adult child of Donald Trump to testify in the ongoing civil trial. New York Attorney General Letitia James has alleged Trump and his co-defendants committed fraud by inflating the former president’s wealth. Ivanka is the final of 25 witnesses called by James (including Trump himself, more on that below) to provide testimony in the trial, but she is not a co-defendant like her brothers Donald Jr. and Eric. Unlike her father and brothers, Ivanka was “cordial” and not combative, James said. Trump’s defense will begin to argue its case next week. The presiding judge, Arthur Engoron, already issued a summary judgment before the trial began that Trump had committed fraud. The trial will help Engoron determine how much Trump will have to pay in damages and what limitations will be placed on the Trump Organization.
  • On Tuesday, special counsel David Weiss appeared voluntarily before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee—a remarkable move for a lead investigator still in the middle of a criminal probe. In the seven-hour closed-door hearing Weiss, who is leading the Justice Department’s investigation into Hunter Biden, reportedly testified that there had been a “misunderstanding” about his autonomy in the role. Republicans have accused the Justice Department of dragging its feet on investigating the president’s son. “I am, and have been, the decision-maker on this case,” Weiss said, according to CBS News. “At no time was I blocked, or otherwise prevented from pursuing charges or taking the steps necessary in the investigation by other United States Attorneys, the Tax Division or anyone else at the Department of Justice.” Weiss began his investigation into Hunter Biden during the Trump administration, when he had been appointed U.S. attorney for Delaware, and he stayed in the role into the Biden administration.
  • Republicans left the Tuesday interview grumbling that Weiss was not as forthcoming as they’d like, particularly regarding whether his investigation had ever been impeded by the Biden Justice Department. Chairman Jim Jordan said that Weiss testified that he had requested a “special attorney” status in the spring of 2022 and had been denied at the time by his superior at Justice—though Weiss still insisted he was not stymied in his investigation. In a June 2023 letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Weiss wrote that he had not yet requested “special counsel” status, which is derived from a separate statute governing special investigations, but that he had been “assured” by higher-ups at Justice that he would receive such a status if it became necessary. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Weiss special counsel in August of this year, shortly after Weiss made the request.
  • The other special counsel, Jack Smith—who is investigating Donald Trump’s actions surrounding the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election—and his team filed their opposition to a motion from the Trump legal team to throw out the case. The Trump motion argued, in part, that the federal government’s indictment made “prejudicial and inflammatory” references to the attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters on January 6, 2021. In their filing this week, the prosecution said that the words and actions of Trump before, during, and after the riot are “relevant and probative evidence of the defendant’s conduct and intent.” The filing also makes it clear how the storming of the Capitol will be a central part of Smith’s case against Trump. As Politico’s Kyle Cheney notes, this strategy carries some risk, since judges in Washington who have presided over trials of January 6 rioters “have noted that Trump didn’t explicitly tell his supporters to breach barricades, commit violence or break other laws, and they’ve held repeatedly that defendants who sought to blame Trump for their illegal conduct were responsible for their own actions.”

A Subpoena for Hunter Biden

We’re back on the impeachment sub-beat here at The Collision, because House Republicans made a significant move in their otherwise slow-moving inquiry this week.

Rep. James Comer, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and leader of the impeachment effort, issued subpoenas on Wednesday for Hunter Biden; James Biden, the president’s younger brother; and Rob Walker, a business associate of Hunter and James. Each has been summoned to appear before the committee for individual depositions: Walker on November 29, James on December 6, and Hunter on December 13.

This ratcheting up of the impeachment effort comes after weeks of chaos in House Republican leadership and a lone impeachment hearing that did not quite live up to the hype. In a statement, Comer made it clear that the line of inquiry for these subpoenaed witnesses will try to show a financial trail from Hunter’s business interests overseas to Joe Biden’s coffers.

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