James Comer is set to show his hand on Wednesday after months of investigating the Biden family. But he’s facing skepticism that he can meet his own standard of a “credible” probe.
The Oversight Committee chair’s pivotal moment comes in the form of a long-planned press conference on his panel’s investigation into President Joe Biden, his son Hunter who’s already facing a federal investigation, and other family members. Comer’s move follows weeks of doubt, including from some within his own party, that the Kentucky Republican can back up his promises to find a smoking gun that would tie the president to the private affairs of his relatives.
No such link has publicly emerged.
And unless Comer’s yet-to-be-released findings — based on bank records and payments made to Biden family members — contain that hard proof, his maneuver is at serious risk of backfiring just as he’s ramping up efforts to get more buy-in for his probe.
“It’s an investigation of Joe Biden,” Comer said in a brief interview, asked if Wednesday would focus on the president or more broadly on his family. “The thing that’s been most frustrating to me in the media: They say we’re investigating Hunter Biden. We’re investigating Joe Biden. This is all about Joe Biden.”
Comer said he would “talk about” further details, such as whether any bank records showed a direct link to President Biden or any distinctions he’d make between potentially unethical versus illegal actions, at his press conference Wednesday.
Democrats, the White House and their off-Hill allies are already gearing up to push back on the Oversight chair, betting that Republicans will fail to conduct the independently legitimate oversight that Comer once insisted upon.
“There’s a lot of innuendo and a lot of gossip taking place and much of it is recycled from prior claims,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said in a brief interview.
That’s not to say that Wednesday marks the end of Comer’s investigation. He plans to unveil his next “investigative actions,” which will likely include requesting a broader swath of third-party financial records, as part of the press conference. But he’s also fighting to gain traction, after getting pushback from high-profile pundits within his own party, while kvetching that “mainstream” media have also downplayed his probe.
Still, the press conference marks the most information Comer’s been willing to share about the investigation in months. Though he disclosed in March that Biden family members had received money from an associate who had made a business deal with a Chinese energy company, much of the information about the Kentuckian’s subpoenas has come from Democrats on the committee. Even some Republicans on the panel have indicated that they aren’t in the loop on his investigation.
And there are other Biden investigations competing for the spotlight.
Recently, Comer subpoenaed the FBI and accused the bureau of having a document alleging a “criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.” The deadline for the subpoena is also Wednesday. The allegation from Comer provided no details — though Democrats and Trump allies have signaled they believe it is related to Ukraine. Asked about that theory, Comer singled out Raskin, saying he’d advise that “sometimes it’s best to keep your mouth shut when you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Meanwhile, Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who is also a member of Comer’s Oversight Committee, is conducting a separate investigation into a 2020 letter from 51 former intelligence officials who warned that a New York Post story related to Hunter Biden could be the product of Russian disinformation. Jordan’s also gobbled up weeks of media attention over a high-profile standoff with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg over his investigation involving former President Donald Trump.
And unspoken but far from forgotten, Justice Department officials still have to decide whether to charge Hunter Biden as part of a yearslong tax- and gun-related case. That probe into Hunter Biden began in 2018 and initially centered on his finances, related to overseas business ties and consulting work. Investigators later shifted their focus to whether he failed to report all of his income and whether he lied on a form for buying a gun.
But the larger sweep of the Biden family is where Comer’s piled a lot of his chips. It’s also the investigation that has earned him skepticism from some members of his own party and made the once under-the-radar GOP lawmaker a target of Democrats, the White House and outside groups.
Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), another member of the committee, credited Comer for handling the political crosswinds of his high-profile committee. Asked about his expectations for Wednesday, he caveated that lawmakers “don’t prosecute crimes” but he believes Republicans will lay out “very clearly that the Biden family was influence peddling.”
“You’re not getting Jim Jordan lite. You’re getting a very different person,” Armstrong added of Comer. “He’s methodical. He’s smart. He trusts his staff. He trusts his members and he communicates well. Pretty good place to be when you’re dealing with a pretty fractious caucus.”
Democrats have knocked Comer for probing payments made to Biden family members while brushing off similar questions about Trump family members. (Comer has argued Trump’s family has been the subject of its own investigations in previous Congresses and that he will eventually craft ethics and financial disclosure legislation that would impact both presidents’ family members.)
Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, accused Comer of a “history of playing fast and loose with the facts and spreading baseless innuendo while refusing to conduct his so-called ‘investigations’ with legitimacy.”
“He has hidden information from the public to selectively leak and promote his own hand-picked narratives as part of his overall effort to lob personal attacks at the President and his family,” Sams added.
Meanwhile, Comer has a right flank pushing him to go further, faster. His committee is stacked with conservative firebrands including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.). Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a member of the Freedom Caucus and Comer’s panel, described the allegations that will be unveiled Wednesday as “damning.”
Asked if he meant for President Biden or Hunter Biden, he said: “Both.”
Comer and Greene, meanwhile, are in frequent contact, with the Georgia Republican floating potential investigative avenues and raising questions. But she’s also going down lanes that Comer isn’t following: Greene and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who is not on Comer’s committee, have met with a woman who has accused Biden of sexual assault dating back to his time in the Senate, an allegation the president denies.
And while Comer has thanked Trump when he’s voiced support for the Kentucky Republican’s investigation, he’s also bristled when he gets questions about any talks with the former president, noting that he voted to certify Biden’s Electoral College win despite coming from a deeply red district.
“I get asked … ‘What do you and Trump talk about?’ I haven’t talked to Trump,” Comer said in a recent interview. “I voted to certify the presidential election. … I don’t know why people think I’m on the phone with Donald Trump all the time.”