WASHINGTON – House Republicans on Wednesday opened their long-promised investigation into President Joe Biden and his family, wielding the power of their new majority to demand information from the Treasury Department and former Twitter executives as they laid the groundwork for public hearings.
“Now that Democrats no longer have one-party rule in Washington, oversight and accountability are coming,” Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement.
The Republican-led committee sent a series of letters requesting financial information from the Treasury Department about financial transactions by members of the Biden family that were flagged as suspicious activity. Those reports are routine, with larger financial transactions automatically flagged to the government, and are not evidence on their own of misconduct.
Lawmakers also requested testimony from multiple former Twitter executives who were involved in the company’s handling of an October 2020 story from the New York Post about Hunter Biden, the president’s younger son. Republicans say that story was suppressed for political reasons.
Moving quickly after taking control of the House, Republicans are setting up a messy, politically explosive showdown with the White House that could delve deeply into the affairs of the president’s family and shape the contours of the 2024 race for the White House.
“In their first week as a governing majority, House Republicans have not taken any meaningful action to address inflation and lower Americans’ costs, yet they’re jumping out of the gate with political stunts driven by the most extreme MAGA members of their caucus in an effort to get attention on Fox News,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesman, said in a statement, referring to former President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, Make America Great Again.
In a statement, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the senior Democrat on Oversight, echoed the White House sentiment, saying Democrats will work with Republicans “when they get serious about tackling problems that affect the American people.”
The Treasury Department declined to comment.
Comer and other Republicans set out their plan for probing the Biden family the day after clinching a slim majority in the November midterm elections. The Kentucky Republican told reporters there are “troubling questions,” specifically about the business dealings of Hunter Biden and one of the president’s brothers, James Biden, that require deeper investigation.
GOP investigations into the Biden family are nothing new. Republican lawmakers and their staff have been analyzing messages and financial transactions found on a laptop that belonged to Hunter Biden for the past year. Comer told reporters late Wednesday that he’s been in touch with GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who led the investigative efforts against Hunter Biden in the Senate, and there is information sharing between the two chambers.
But Republicans now have subpoena power in the House, giving them the authority to compel testimony and conduct a far more aggressive investigation.
Republicans have discussed issuing congressional subpoenas to foreign entities that did business with Hunter Biden, and they recently brought on James Mandolfo, a former federal prosecutor, to assist with the investigation as general counsel for the Oversight panel.
Hunter Biden’s taxes and foreign business work are already under federal investigation, with a grand jury in Delaware hearing testimony in recent months. While he never held a position on the presidential campaign or in the White House, his membership on the board of a Ukrainian energy company and his efforts to strike deals in China have long raised questions about whether he traded on his father’s public service, including reported references in his emails to the “big guy.”
Joe Biden has said he’s never spoken to his son about his foreign business. And there are no indications that the federal investigation involves the president in any way.
A suspected electrical fire quickly spread throughout a Canonsburg home and destroyed the structure Tuesday night, although the residents were not injured.
Canonsburg fire Chief Tim Solobay said they were called to 159 Valley Road about 5:15 p.m. and found the building engulfed in flames.
“For as quick as we were there ... already the whole front face of that building was completely involved in fire and obviously worked its way in the back of the house,” Solobay said.
The building at one time was a grocery store and bakery, but had been converted into a home, Solobay said. Because of its history as a store, three sides of the building were enclosed and the roof had multiple layers due to various renovations throughout the years, making the fire harder to fight, Solobay said. Because of that, Solobay said crews struggled to get to the fire and had to demolish the building to extinguish the blaze.
“It immediately was one of those fires that was exterior defense only,” Solobay said. “There was quite a bit of stuff inside.”
The homeowner told firefighters he was working outside with power cords that were running into the house, which may have sparked the fire.
“He had things plugged in, it got real hot and next thing he knew he had a fire going,” Solobay said.
The man and his wife were not injured in the blaze, although they did not have insurance for the home. A firefighter who suffered minor injuries in a fall went to the hospital for treatment. A pet cat and iguana died in the fire, Solobay said.
Crews were at the scene for about eight hours. Canonsburg firefighters were assisted by departments from Houston, North Strabane, Chartiers, Muse and Peters Township, while a crew from Cecil Township manned the Canonsburg station during the call.
HARRISBURG (AP) – Republicans who control Pennsylvania’s Senate on Wednesday kicked off the new legislative session by pushing through a trio of proposed constitutional amendments that sparked a partisan fight and poses a challenge to the incoming Democratic governor, Josh Shapiro.
The proposals, if approved by the state House of Representatives, would give voters say over expanding voter-identification requirements, curtailing a governor’s regulatory authority and giving victims of child sexual abuse a new chance to sue perpetrators.
Republicans tied together the proposed amendments into one bill, prompting objections from Democrats who have long supported the measure concerning victims of child sexual abuse – including when Republicans opposed it – but oppose the other two amendments.
The Senate’s 28-20 vote was largely along party lines, with one Democrat siding with Republicans after more than two hours of debate.
The Senate’s vote – the chamber’s first consequential vote of the new legislative session – comes six days before Shapiro is sworn in, as Republicans moved speedily to enact pet policies without facing the veto pen of a Democratic governor.
Shapiro, the two-term state attorney general who is to be inaugurated as Pennsylvania’s 48th governor next Tuesday, cannot veto proposed constitutional amendments.
Asked about the measures Wednesday, Shapiro declined to join the fight publicly, saying “clearly this is going to have to be a negotiation between the House and the Senate.”
Still, Shapiro reiterated that he wants to avoid the kind of partisan fights that led Wolf to pursue policymaking through regulations and Republican lawmakers to pursue constitutional amendments.
“We’re going to have a reset when I’m governor,” Shapiro said after a tour of the Pennsylvania Farm Show exhibition in Harrisburg. “We’re going to talk again and we’re going to find some common ground; where we have disagreements, we’re going to work at it and try to find that common ground. We’re going to get back to legislating again.”
The legislation must make it through the House before it goes to voters for ultimate approval in a statewide referendum in May 16’s primary election.
However, the House is paralyzed amid a partisan fight for control, and the clock is ticking if the measures are to make it to May’s ballot.
Wolf’s administration said the Legislature must pass the measures in the coming weeks to allow time for the constitutionally required advertising of the ballot questions in newspapers and for ballot wording to be written and approved by the state attorney general’s office.
Off-year primary elections – such as the one on May 16 – typically feature low turnout, possibly as low as one-fifth of Pennsylvania’s registered voters.
One of the proposals would give lawmakers more strength to veto regulations written by executive branch agencies under the governor, a hangover from fights between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Wolf.
Under it, the Legislature would no longer need a two-thirds vote in each chamber to prevent an agency’s regulation from taking effect. Rather, the Legislature would only need a majority vote, giving lawmakers far more say over the fine print of policies that guide laws on everything from abortion to energy.
Another proposal would expand the requirements of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law.
Under it, voters would be required to show a valid identification every time they vote at a polling place, instead of just the first time they vote in a particular precinct. State law already dictates what forms of identification are acceptable.
However, Democrats warned that it would mean new burdens for voters and that its vague outlines could open the door to intolerable hurdles to mail-in voting, although Republicans say it is not designed to change mail-in voting.
The measure long-sought by Republicans received new life from former President Donald Trump’s lies that he lost the battleground state’s 2020 election because of fraud.
The third measure would give now-adult victims of child sexual abuse another chance to take their perpetrators or conspirators to court in decades-old cases.
Many of those adults lost the chance to sue when they turned 18, under now-loosened time limits in state law, and supporters say the two-year “window” to sue would give victims a path to justice.
The long-simmering debate over those time limits received new momentum from 2018’s landmark report from a state grand jury’s investigation into child sexual abuse coverups in six of Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses.
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Brooke Schultz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.