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GOP impeachment inquiry faces make-or-break moment with Hunter Biden appearance

Hunter Biden is poised to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill, representing the most crucial witness to be interviewed in House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into President Biden — and marking perhaps the last best chance for the GOP to salvage an investigation that’s been kneecapped by a series of recent setbacks.

Republicans on the Oversight and Judiciary committees have placed Hunter Biden at the very center of their impeachment inquiry, alleging he engineered an elaborate web of lucrative, overseas business ventures that leaned heavily on his father’s international influence — and that the president himself has benefited financially from those shady arrangements.

At the heart of their case were allegations from an FBI informant that Hunter and Joe Biden had each received a $5 million bribe from Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company the younger Biden sat on the board of.

Yet their case suffered a blow earlier this month with the arrest of that informant, Alexander Smirnov, on charges that he fabricated those very allegations.

Republicans have sought to downplay the significance of the arrest, maintaining the Smirnov claims were only a small part of the broader pattern of corruption and influence peddling they’ve accused the Biden family of employing.

But Republicans have yet to offer any clear evidence to substantiate their allegations, raising the already high stakes surrounding Hunter Biden’s appearance behind closed doors Wednesday.

GOP investigators will be under the gun to locate the damaging proof that’s so far eluded them.

Top Republicans say they are ready to go head-to-head with the witness.

“The House Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means Committees have unearthed a record of evidence revealing Joe Biden was ‘the brand’ his family sold to enrich the Bidens. Joe Biden knew of, participated in, and benefited from these schemes,” House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said in a statement.

“Our committees have the opportunity to depose Hunter Biden, a key witness in our impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden, about this record of evidence,” he added.

Democrats, on the other hand, have amped up their criticism of the impeachment inquiry in the wake of Smirnov’s arrest. Last week, Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said the GOP’s probe “essentially ended” after Smirnov was indicted and told the Justice Department after his arrest that “officials associated with Russian intelligence” played a role in devising his false claims.

At the core of the Republicans’ investigation are allegations that members of the Biden family erected a complex network of corporate accounts and “third-party associates” who could field wire transfers from foreign sources — companies and individuals alike — thereby insulating the family from receiving the payments directly. Republicans say these associates then channeled the funds to “various Biden family members in incremental payments over time.”

The president, they contend, was among the beneficiaries.

GOP lawmakers have highlighted transactions between Joe and Hunter Biden that, they claimed, are evidence of the president’s involvement in his son’s foreign business dealings — charges the younger Biden’s legal team has denied.

Republicans, for example, have called attention to three wire transfers — each priced at $1,380 — that were sent between a Hunter Biden business account and his father, contending the elder Biden was associated with his son’s business entanglements.

Hunter Biden’s legal counsel, however, said those transfers were meant to repay Joe Biden for helping his son finance a truck purchase when he was unable to secure credit.

Republicans have also argued that the president was aware of his son’s business dealings, citing testimony from Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s foreign business partner, who told lawmakers about calls and dinners involving the president and his son’s business associates.

Archer, for example, told the Oversight Committee that Joe Biden dined with him, Hunter Biden and Ukrainian Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi at Cafe Milano, a posh Washington, D.C., restaurant, in April 2015. The group, Archer said, “talked about the world, I guess, and the weather.” The White House had previously said the dinner did not take place.

Archer also told lawmakers that Hunter Biden would sometimes put his father on speakerphone when he was with foreign business partners for conversations that were limited to brief pleasantries.

He testified, however, that he was not aware of any wrongdoing by the president, telling members of the Oversight Committee he had “no knowledge” of Biden, when vice president, altering any U.S. foreign policy to benefit his son.

Hunter Biden, 54, has rejected allegations that his father was involved in his business dealings, telling reporters at the Capitol complex in December: “My father was not financially involved in my business.”

“There’s no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business, because it did not happen,” he added.

James Biden, the president’s brother, also testified last week that the president was not involved in his business dealings.

James Biden’s testimony was meant to be another opportunity for Republicans to turn the heat on a Biden family member but was overshadowed by Smirnov’s arrest days earlier.

Wednesday’s deposition marks the culmination of the House GOP’s months-long effort to drag Hunter Biden before the Oversight and Judiciary committees as part of their impeachment inquiry into the president, a battle that brought the younger Biden to the brink of being held in contempt of Congress.

Republicans issued Hunter Biden a subpoena in November, requesting he sit for a closed-door deposition in December. Biden’s lawyers, however, had insisted their client testify publicly rather than privately, expressing concerns that the panels would selectively leak and twist his statements.

GOP lawmakers refused to give in to the demands — despite Comer previously saying he would “drop everything” if Hunter wanted to appear before the panel — prompting the president’s son to buck his subpoena. Instead of appearing for his deposition, Hunter Biden delivered a statement to reporters at the Capitol complex, denying that his father had any involvement in his business dealings.

Republicans, as a result, launched contempt of Congress proceedings against Hunter Biden, advancing a resolution targeting the first son in January. But before the full House could vote on the measure, Hunter Biden’s team said he would testify privately if the committees reissued the subpoena, arguing the initial one was invalid because it was sent before the chamber voted to formally authorize the probe.

The Republican-led committees acquiesced, setting the stage for Wednesday’s hearing.

The closed-door deposition, however, is unlikely to be the last act in the GOP’s inquiry, with Comer vowing more witnesses.

“This deposition is not the conclusion of the impeachment inquiry. There are more subpoenas and witness interviews to come,” Comer said Tuesday. “We will continue to follow the facts to inform legislative reforms to federal ethics laws and determine whether articles of impeachment are warranted.”

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