GOP probes into Biden to test Chairman Comer’s power

WASHINGTON – In early 2017, freshman Rep. James Comer found himself aboard Air Force One with the two most powerful Republicans in the country, President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Returning to Washington from a rally in Kentucky, the conversation turned to the president’s first bill in which McConnell encouraged Trump to seek an infrastructure deal.

But Trump and House GOP leaders opted to go ahead with it instead a futile fight to get the Affordable Care Act repealed. It was a mistake Comer believes cost his party years – and one that serves as a lesson for him as he now takes over the powerful House Oversight and Accountability Committee.

“Let’s commit to things that are achievable, not just red meat talk that gets you 4 1/2 minutes on Fox News,” Comer said in a March interview with The Associated Press Republicans fought to regain control of the House.

These high-minded words will soon be put to the test.

Comer, grandson of the political leaders of rural Kentucky, will chair a committee whose Members are among the hardest conservatives in Congress. Some have launched impeachment proceedings against President Joe Biden and pledged wide-ranging investigations into his administration and his family, particularly his son Hunter.

Comer has also called for vigorous investigations, and while Rep. Kevin McCarthy grueling road to get elected Speaker of the House of Representativesargued that the lengthy process – 15 votes over several days – only delayed the start of this much-needed work.

And yes, Comer has landed on Fox News regularly.

The 50-year-old, who is often called Jamie and speaks in a thick Appalachian intonation, is little known nationally. Comer is described by members of both parties as balanced and approachable, and his rise to power is taking place in an openly partisan environment as Republicans hold a narrow majority in the House of Representatives and face Democratic control in the Senate.

Comer, who was first elected to public office aged 27, has pledged to tackle waste, fraud and abuse in government. But he is faced with committee members who are totally committed to Trump and his return to the White House. Some cling to the unfounded claim that Trump beat Biden in 2020 and seem more intent on attracting attention than a legislative outcome.

“I think we have an important job and I think it’s important to keep our heads down,” Comer said in an interview with the AP last week. “I think it’s important for the future of the congressional investigation because congressional investigations don’t have a lot of credibility right now because they’ve been so partisan.”

The former state legislature then entered Congress Losing the Republican nomination for governor in 2015just 83 votes behind Matt Bevin, a Tea Party-backed rival.

Days before this primary, a former college friend presented multiple allegations of abuse against Comer in one Article in the Louisville Courier-Journal. Comer, who admitted to being with the woman, denied abusing herwho said at the time that the crime of domestic violence “makes me disgusting”.

He came to Washington with a mission to work his way up from the backbench of the committee he now chairs. In the last Congress, he became the top Republican on the committee chaired by the then congressman. Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y.

Maloney, who lost a Democratic primary to Rep. Jerry Nadler last year, said she has a good working relationship with Comer. “He was a partisan fighter, but it was also reasonable,” she said in an interview. “And we’ve worked together on several bills that have helped the country.”

When asked if she thinks Comer could lead the committee in a divided Washington, Maloney said, “I think you’ll find out soon enough. He was a serious legislator with me.”

You were appointed to Comer’s committee last week ultra-conservative arsonists and staunch Trump allies Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Paul Gosar of Arizona. Her additions are expected to further complicate the chair’s ability not to sideline the committee.

“I think Kevin McCarthy got him into a kind of squeeze play, giving in to all the far-right demands to rally his thin majority and then getting so many of the extremist members on the oversight committee,” he told Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the chief Democrat on the committee.

“And I know it takes every ounce of political savvy to both exercise serious oversight and meet the demands of a group of members who can often be fanatical and unreasonable.”

Greene introduced impeachment procedures against Biden on his first day in office and vowed to continue the effort once he sits on the committee.

“Joe Biden, be prepared. We will expose every corrupt deal, foreign involvement, abuse of power and check wrecking for The Big Guy,” Greene said in a statement last week.

The White House responded this week by saying Comer “sets the stage for unrealistic political stunts.”

Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House Attorney’s Office, said in a statement that the chairman “once said his goal was to ensure the committee’s work is ‘credible,’ but Republicans are handing over the keys of oversight to the… most extreme MAGA members the Republican faction, which promotes violent rhetoric and dangerous conspiracy theories.”

It’s the acronym for Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” which has described his policies and supporters ever since.

Comer said he made it clear to those members that their mandate is the truth: “I said, ‘We’ll investigate everything, but it won’t appear on Oversight’s stationery unless we can back it up with facts.”

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., who is returning to the committee this session, said he has confidence in Comer’s ability to pilot the ship. “He’s interested in facts and details,” Donalds said. “He’s not chasing news cameras and stuff like that. He just wants to get his job done.”

A new committee member, Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., said Comer will bring a measure of “level prudence” to “a very hot-headed committee.”

One of The main targets of the GOP will be the Biden familyparticularly the business dealings of Hunter Biden and James Biden, the President’s brother.

Republicans now have subpoena power in the House of Representatives, giving them the power to compel testimony and conduct far more aggressive investigations. GOP staffers have spent the past year analyzing news and financial transactions found on a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden. Comer said the evidence they have compiled is “overwhelming but lacks detail.

Hunter Bidens Taxes and foreign business activities are already being examined by the federal government by a federal grand jury in Delaware. The younger Biden has never held a position in the presidential campaign or in the White House. But his serving on the board of a Ukrainian energy company and his efforts to secure deals in China have long raised questions about whether he was acting in his father’s public service.

Joe Biden said he never discussed foreign business with his son. There is no evidence that the federal investigation involves the President.

And Comer has pledged that there will be no hearings regarding the Biden family until the committee has the evidence to support allegations of alleged wrongdoing. He also acknowledged that the stakes are high when an investigation focuses on the leader of a political party.

“I just feel like, for better or for worse, we’re judged differently than Adam Schiff,” Comer said, referring to the Democratic congressman from California who led Trump’s first impeachment and who has become a bogeyman of the right. “I don’t think he’s suffered media ire like Republicans would if we put out things that aren’t true.”


Associated Press writer Bruce Schreiner of Frankfort, Kentucky contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. GOP probes into Biden to test Chairman Comer’s power

Sarah Y. Kim

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