Democrats on the House Oversight Committee repeatedly sought to refocus the attention on former President Donald Trump during the Republican-led impeachment inquiry hearing on President Biden Thursday.
The committee, led by Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., held its first impeachment inquiry public hearing, where members presented evidence uncovered to date as part of their investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings, while examining "the value" of the inquiry.
Committee Democrats repeatedly accused Republicans of taking cues from Trump in launching the inquiry and used the opportunity to highlight the former president’s myriad legal issues.
"President Trump has gone on his social media account and said we should be impeaching President Biden," Ranking member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said in his opening statement. "Kevin McCarthy said we have an impeachment inquiry. You draw the conclusion. Directly or indirectly, this impeachment inquiry was a result of President Trump's pressure."
"It's scandalous to use impeachment to establish a counterfeit moral equivalence between President Biden, an honorable public servant who has never been indicted or convicted of anything in his career of more than 50 years in public life," Raskin continued. "And Donald Trump, a twice impeached president who's recently been found in court to have sexually abused and defamed a woman and fraudulently inflated the value of his real estate properties, while facing 91 criminal charges in four separate indictments on everything from conspiring to overthrow an election and defraud the American people to making criminal hush money payoffs, to stealing classified government documents and hiding them while obstructing justice."
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., accused the Republicans of trying to "distract" and "deflect" before launching into a guessing game with the only Democrat-appointed witness, law professor Michael Gerhardt, in which he inserted Biden's name for Trump's in order to try to illustrate that Trump, not Biden, should be investigated.
"Hold on to those two words ‘distract’ and ‘deflect,’ because I think this hearing's all about, ‘Look over here, not over there,’" Connolly said.
"So, Professor Gerhardt, I've heard concern about branding, so shouldn't we be concerned about all those Biden towers all over the world where foreign partnerships were formed and influence was used here in the United States?" Connolly said, knowingly alluding to Trump Towers located in cities across the globe.
"I think we are talking about Mr. Trump," Gerhardt responded.
Connolly continued, "Shouldn't we be concerned that a New York judge just found President Biden's organization committed fraud every year for the last ten or 15 years, and that under the Martin Law in New York, that Biden organization is now subject to dismemberment and dismantlement because of the fraudulent activity."
"That should be of concern with respect to Mr. Trump," Gerhardt replied.
"Mr. Trump again," Connelly responded, feigning incredulity.
Later in the hearing, Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., mused that the former president "lives free in the Democrats’ heads."
"I'm amazed at, and I love the fact that Trump lives free in the Democrats’ heads every day," she said. "That is a beautiful thing. Even though we're here talking about the impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden."
Committee Democrats also repeatedly mentioned Rudy Giuliani, a former lawyer for Trump, during the impeachment inquiry hearing.
Democrats say Giuliani promoted a "big lie" that then-Vice President Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was threatening to investigate Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, whose board Hunter Biden served on.
Raskin said this was the "opposite of the truth," and that Biden led a "coordinated global effort" to remove Shokin because he was corrupt. He asserted that Giuliani twisted the facts to accuse Biden of corruption — an accusation repeatedly made by Trump — and quoted Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, who said there was "no evidence that Shokin was engaged in an investigation of Burisma or that Joe Biden's role in his firing was in any way connected to Burisma."
Raskin later pointed to a letter Giuliani associate Lev Parnas sent to Congress urging Republicans to drop their Burisma investigation, calling it a "wild goose chase."
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., demanded to know why Giuliani was not testifying at the hearing, since Trump sent Giuliani to Ukraine to urge the government there to open investigations into the Biden family. The pressure Trump exerted on Ukraine to investigate Biden ultimately became the basis for the first impeachment effort led by Democrats against Trump, of which the former president was acquitted.
Fox News’ Chris Pandolfo contributed to this report.