With a razor-thin majority in the House and no majority to speak of in the Senate, Republicans are hoping to punch above their weight in the coming year by focusing relentlessly on investigations they hope will do damage to a Democratic Party that’s riding high after the midterms — and expose international influence-peddling schemes, Big Tech corruption, and Chinese malfeasance in the process.
While it’s unclear whether House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy will have the 218 votes he needs to secure the speaker’s gavel as the House conventions today, he’s confident enough in his prospects that he’s laid out plans for a number of oversight investigations. Before Republicans had even clinched the majority, McCarthy began holding regular training sessions for members and staff over the summer, according to the Washington Postincluding a session for House GOP attorneys called “Oversight Education Series: Investigations 101,” detailing strategies for running effective investigations.
A major focus of these investigations will be Hunter Biden’s laptop and the ensuing fallout.
the New York Post first reported on the laptop, which was recovered from a Delaware repair shop, in October 2020. According to the computer-repair-shop owner who provided the laptop to Rudy Giuliani, the device became his legal property after the president’s son missed the window to pick it up, per a contract the younger Biden signed when he dropped off the laptop.
One infamous email purportedly detailed a business arrangement between a Chinese company and the Biden family.
Tony Bobulinski, who is listed as a recipient of the email first published by the New York Postoffered further details last year in a statement to FoxNews on the correspondence in October 2020, which references a proposed equity split: “20” for “H” and “10 held by H for the big guy?”
“The reference to ‘the Big Guy’ in the much-publicized May 13, 2017, email is in fact a reference to Joe Biden,” said Bobulinski, who says he was brought on as CEO of Sinohawk Holdings by Hunter Biden and James Gilliar , the sender of the e-mail. The spurned Biden business partner will presumably be called upon to testify and, given his willingness to speak with the media, likely won’t require a subpoena to show up.
Sinohawk “was a partnership between the Chinese operating through CEFC/Chairman Ye and the Biden family,” he said.
Representative James Comer (R., Ky.), who will soon chair the House Oversight Committee, said there are “troubling questions” about Hunter Biden’s business dealings and President Biden’s brother James Biden.
“Rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government is the primary mission of the Oversight Committee,” Comer said. “As such, this investigation is a top priority.”
Hey said recently that the panel will likely begin closed interviews related to the probe this month but will not hold public hearings until late February or early March, as the Republican battle over the speakership has left the party “a little behind” in organizing committees.
“We need to talk to a lot of people, verify a lot of claims, and try to have actual proof of potential wrongdoing,” he said of the investigations into the Biden family.
Hunter Biden allies met as early as September to begin devising a plan to fight back against the planned oversight. Hunter Biden’s friend and lawyer Kevin Morris held a strategy meeting at his home in which he suggested the younger Biden’s team needed to be more aggressive and suggested the team could pursue defamation lawsuits against Fox News, Eric Trump, and Rudy Giuliani, according to the Washington Post.
Morris also “outlined extensive research on two potential witnesses against Hunter Biden — a spurned business partner named Tony Bobulinski and a computer repairman named John Paul Mac Isaac.”
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley argued“Morris’ plan could easily be taken as a declaration of all-out war on potential witnesses against Hunter Biden.”
However, in response to calls from some Republican members to impeach President Biden, McCarthy has said “we’re not going to pick and choose just because someone has power.”
“We’re going to uphold the law,” he said earlier this year. “At any time, if someone breaks the law and the ramification becomes impeachment, we would move towards that. But we’re not going to use it for political purposes.”
In addition to Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings, another subject of oversight will be the efforts of intelligence officials and social-media giants to quickly dismiss and suppress the laptop story.
Twitter banned the New York Post‘s reporting on the laptop in October 2020 under the guise of its “hacked materials” policy. The decision to block the report was made without the knowledge of then-CEO Jack Dorsey, according to journalist Matt Taibbi, who has been involved in reporting on the “Twitter files.”
“They just freelanced it,” a former Twitter employee reportedly told Taibbi of Twitter’s reasoning for censoring the story. “Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that it wasn’t going to hold. But no one had the guts to reverse it.
“I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this unsafe, and I think the best explainability argument for this externally would be that we’re waiting to understand if this story is the result of hacked materials,” Trenton Kennedy, former US policy communications manager at Twitter, wrote to senior staff members at the time. “We’ll face hard questions on this if we don’t have some kind of solid reasoning to mark the link unsafe.”
After the release of the first installments of the Twitter files, McCarthy said he also plans to hold a hearing where he will call for testimony from the 51 former intel agents who signed a letter calling the laptop story Russian disinformation.
McCarthy said it was “egregious what we’re finding” about the censorship of the story from the Twitter files and also criticized members of the intelligence community who downplayed the story.
“Those 51 intel agents signed a letter that said the Hunter Biden information was all wrong — was Russia collusion — many of them had security clearance.”
“Why did they sign it?” he asked. “Why did they lie to the American public? A Clapper, a Brennan? Why did you use the reputation that America was able to give you more information, but use it for a political purpose and lie to the American public?”
McCarthy said he plans to investigate whether Facebook and Google worked to suppress information.
Republican lawmakers may press Big Tech companies on other issues of censorship as well; a lawsuit by Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt and Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry accusing the federal government of working “hand-in-hand with social media companies to censor freedom of speech on their platforms” has been winding its way through the courts.
The lawsuit has grown to include 67 defendants, including top officials at the Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the White House, and others.
Biden-world aside, House Republicans plan to investigate Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. In November, McCarthy called for Mayorkas to resign, let him face House GOP investigations and a potential impeachment inquiry.
Mayorkas has commanded DHS through a period of record illegal border crossings. US border officials recorded 2.38 million migrant encounters at the border last fiscal year, a 37 percent increase from the year before.
Republicans are also set to probe the United States’ botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. Thirteen service members died in a suicide bombing during the exit, and as many as 9,000 Americans were left in Afghanistan as the US completed its withdrawal, according to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report released in February 2022.
The world watched in horror in August 2021 as Kabul fell and masses of people scrambled to leave, with Taliban fighters whipping and beating Afghans trying to enter the airport where the US military was handling evacuations. US intelligence agencies warned that the Afghan military and government were in danger of collapse just one month earlier, as Biden publicly assured Americans that the Taliban’s takeover was “not inevitable.”
House Republicans could also probe the FBI’s raid of former president Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago. Law-enforcement officers searched the residence in August as part of an investigation into Trump for his alleged removal or destruction of records, obstruction of an investigation, and violation of the Espionage Act, according to the search warrants for Trump’s home.
“Attorney General Garland: preserve your documents and clear your calendar,” McCarthy wrote in a tweet the day of the raid, adding that he had “seen enough. The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization.”
Garland has since announced plans to name a special counsel to oversee two criminal investigations into Trump, including his alleged mishandling of sensitive government documents and a separate investigation into the extent of his involvement in the events leading to the January 6 Capitol riot.
Meanwhile, Comer said the oversight committee’s first public hearing will likely center on Covid-19 related fraud, including the misuse of federal dollars, unemployment insurance and Paycheck Protection Program loan payments at the state and local government level during the pandemic.
He also said a probe of the House select committee on the January 6 Capitol riot was “not on his agenda.”
For his part, McCarthy has vowed to form a House Select Committee on China. He first tried to launch the panel in 2020, but Republicans say Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) ended the effort around the start of the Covid-19 pandemic over fears that the issue of China had become too politicized.
Republicans also plan to take a look back at the pandemic, including the origins of Covid-19 and the decisions that led to prolonged Covid-related school closures and vaccine mandates.