Last week was supposed to bring “Judgment Day” for President Joe Biden and his family, with the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee predicting a “bad day at the White House” ahead of the panel’s press conference on its investigation.
It wasn’t, and GOP House members last week acknowledged they didn’t – yet – have the goods on Biden, and the “informant” who supposedly had damning information on foreign cash funneled to the Bidens seems to have disappeared.
This week was supposed to feature another political bombshell hitting Biden, with special prosecutor John Durham releasing a 300-plus page report four years in the making, an inquiry the GOP anticipated would prove that the FBI was politically motivated when it investigated whether a connection existed between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
It didn’t. Instead, Durham – who spent twice as much time investigating the Trump-Russia inquiry than the Justice Department spent on the original investigation – had harsh words for the FBI and the standards it used to launch the inquiry.
But Durham – while blasting the FBI for not being more skeptical of information coming from people and places with a political agenda – did not say the investigation never should have happened. Nor did he conclude that the FBI indeed was motivated by political bias.
Cartoons on the Democratic Party
As the 2024 campaign heats up, Republicans are determined to cast Biden and his family – especially son Hunter Biden, who indeed is under investigation by his father’s Justice Department – as corrupt. The term “Biden crime family” has become a common phrase in conservative media and among some GOP lawmakers who insist they are on the path to prove Biden made foreign policy decisions as payback for cash family members received from foreign sources.
But what was supposed to be a back-to-back set of explosive hits against Biden themselves bombed, with Republicans having little material to either cast Biden as a criminal or the president’s possible 2024 general election foe, Trump, as the innocent victim of a “witch hunt.”
“There’s zero evidence indicative of the [sitting] president’s involvement in any of this” foreign cash, says Leslie Dach, senior adviser to the Congressional Integrity Project, who worked for both the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations.
Durham’s investigation indeed excoriated the FBI for “confirmation bias,” meaning agents filtered evidence through their preconceived ideas of what was going on, but the prosecutor, who was appointed by Trump, did not find that the inquiry itself was politically motivated.
Durham brought two cases during his investigation, and juries came back with not guilty verdicts. A third person pleaded guilty for altering an email and was sentenced to probation.
That doesn’t mean – as critics claim – that Durham’s inquiry was a waste, law enforcement experts note, since it is useful to examine whether the FBI upheld professional standards and to let the public know the result.
“That’s part of the job as an FBI agent. You go down a lot of cul-de-sacs. You do all the work, like Durham has done,” says Michael Clark, a former FBI agent who once served with Durham in Connecticut. Sometimes, even after a lengthy investigation, “the facts don’t bring you to an indictment,” adds Clark, a senior lecturer in criminal justice at the University of New Haven.
“It takes courage not to charge someone when the public sentiment may be saying, there’s got to be something there,” Clark says.
Republicans, however, are not letting either case go. Rep. James Comer, Kentucky Republican, insists his committee is still investigating and will “enter a new phase” looking more specifically at the president himself.
“I want to be clear: This committee is investigating President Biden and his family’s shady business dealings to capitalize on Joe Biden’s public office that risks our country’s national security,” Comer said at last week’s press conference, addressing the lack of a discovery of any connection between money Hunter Biden received and what Joe Biden did as vice president.
Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, dismissed the initial Oversight Committee findings as “retread, repackaged misstatements of perfectly proper meetings and business by private citizens.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, has reached out to Durham to testify before the panel next week. The panel sent a letter to Durham saying members wanted to examine the Russia report more closely.
Trump, on his social media site, cast the Durham report as a wholesale indictment of the initial Russia probe, saying, “The American public was scammed.”
Republicans will continue to use both the inquiry into Hunter and Joe Biden and the Durham report because “they’re making points wherever they want to make them,” Dach says. “This will continue because it’s the only way they get on TV. It’s always, ‘Christmas is going to be tomorrow,'” Dach says – but that day has yet to arrive.