By Emily Goodin, Senior U.S. Political Reporter
21:16 13 Sep 2023, updated 22:07 13 Sep 2023
- Jill Biden reached out to get Joe Biden’s attention when he was asked about the impeachment inquiry against him
- President Biden didn’t answer questions on the issue in his first public appearance since the inquiry was announced
- Instead he turned to talk to his wife as reporters were led out of the room
Jill Biden rescued Joe Biden from answering questions on the impeachment inquiry against him, garnering his attention when he was being asked about the topic in his first public appearance since the inquiry was announced.
The Bidens on Wednesday convened a Cabinet meeting to discuss their Cancer Moonshot initiative. At the end of it, as reporters shouted about Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s decision to start the impeachment process, Jill Biden leaned over to whisper to the president, reaching out to touch his arm.
Biden turned to his wife as aides removed reporters from the Cabinet room. The focus of the meeting was on the Bidens’ Cancer Moonshot project, their initiative ‘to end cancer as we know it.’
Jill Biden praised her husband’s work on the issue, telling him on Wednesday that: ‘You did good things, Joe.’
The White House, meanwhile, has doubled down on its defense of the president, blasting the impeachment inquiry as ‘baseless,’ setting up a war room to combat the investigation, and sending a memo to news organizations to encourage greater scrutiny of Republican motives.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday called it a ‘baseless inquiry that the House Republicans can’t even really defend themselves.’
Republicans have been investigating Hunter Biden‘s business dealings since they took control of the House in January. They are looking into whether Joe, who was vice president during the time period, personally benefited from his son’s work and if the family used Joe Biden’s official office for their personal gain.
President Biden has denied any involvement with his son’s business affairs.
Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday that he has done nothing wrong.
‘Republicans in Congress, right they have spent all year investigating the president, that’s what they’ve spent, and have turned up with no evidence that he did anything. I mean, that is what we heard over and over again, from their almost clear year-long investigation, and that’s because the President didn’t do anything wrong,’ she said in her daily press briefing.
The administration is also going on the offensive to address specific charges against the president.
Earlier Wednesday, the White House said Biden was just calling to check in on Hunter when he was on calls with his son’s business associates.
‘This is part of the right-wing’s misinformation machine to try to confuse people about what the truth is,’ White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations Ian Sams told CNN on Wednesday morning.
‘The truth is that the president, as he said publicly for years, calls his family every day to check in. He calls his son every day to check in. He calls his other family members to check in to see how they are doing. He loves them. They are a tight-knit family.’
Hunter’s former business partner Devon Archer told the House Oversight Committee in testimony this summer that Hunter had put his father on speakerphone during business meetings about 20 times.
At the time of Archer’s closed-door testimony, Democrats in the room said Archer described the calls as personal.
‘The witness indicated that Hunter spoke to his father every day, and approximately 20 times over the course of 10-year relationship, Hunter may have put his father on the phone with any number of different people, and they never once spoke about any business dealings,’ Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman of New York said at the time.
‘As he described it, it was all casual conversation, niceties, the weather, what’s going on. There wasn’t a single conversation about any of the business dealings that Hunter had,’ Goldman noted.
But Republican Chairman James Comer of Kentucky said Archer testified that Joe Biden ‘joined Hunter Biden’s dinners with his foreign business associates in person or by speakerphone over 20 times’ and was put on the phone to sell ‘the brand.’
Comer said the testimony shows ‘Joe Biden lied to the American people when he said he had no knowledge about his son’s business dealings and was not involved. Joe Biden was ‘the brand’ that his son sold around the world to enrich the Biden family.’
The White House has accused Republicans of election-year politics with its impeachment inquiry.
‘The president has been in politics for a long time. I think as he would say, he has seen a lot of malarkey along the way, but this might take the cake,’ Sams told CNN. ‘He’s focused on issues that matter to the American people.’
Sams is White House point person on countering Republican accusations against the president and his family. He is part of a war room established in the White House counsel’s office specifically to deal with GOP investigations.
He noted Biden, who was vice president at the time, was calling Hunter to check in because the family was also dealing with the illness of Beau Biden, the late son of the president. Beau Biden died in 2015 of brain cancer.
‘He was checking in with Hunter during a particularly hard time, a time where the family was going through Hunter’s brother Beau’s illness. Of course the president checks in,’ Sams said.
Hunter Biden has spoken about how he relapsed into his drug and alcohol addiction after his brother died. The Biden family later held an intervention to get him to do another stint in rehab.
It was during that intervention that Joe Biden told his son: ‘I don’t know what else to do. I’m so scared. Tell me what to do.’
Hunter Biden did get sober but his business dealings are being investigated by House Republicans. And the impeachment inquiry – the first step in the impeachment process – will investigate whether President Biden personally benefited from his son’s work.
Biden has said he had nothing to do with Hunter’s business deals.
Speaker McCarthy, under heavy pressure from the conservative wing of his party and facing threats to his speakership, declared on Tuesday the inquiry would begin.
‘House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden’s conduct,’ McCarthy said. ‘Taken together these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption.’
‘These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption. And they warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives. That’s why today I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden,’ he noted.
Republicans have charged Biden and his family made millions off shell companies Hunter Biden formed when his father was vice president. Hunter had business deals with an energy company in the Ukraine, received a discounted stake in a private-equity firm in China, and did consulting for a Romanian real-estate magnate.
The president has denied any involvement in his son’s business dealings. But Republicans claim at least a dozen Biden family members could be involved in a scheme to benefit financially from Biden’s public office.
House investigators are expected to issue subpoenas for the bank records of the president and his family. The GOP also claim Biden sat in on at least 24 calls with Hunter’s business partners and was referred to as ‘the big guy’ by Hunter’s business associates. And they say Joe Biden used pseudonyms to discuss his activities related to Ukraine with his son Hunter during his time as vice president.
It’s estimated Hunter raked in $40 million through 20 shell companies and fake accounts created while Joe Biden was vice president.