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House GOP sues in bid to force Justice Department lawyers to testify as part of impeachment inquiry

House Republicans filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to force two Justice Department lawyers to testify about the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden as part of the chamber’s impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

The lawsuit — filed in Washington’s federal court — comes as the impeachment inquiry is all but winding down, with the Republican ranks lacking the political appetite to go forward with an actual impeachment after producing no hard evidence of presidential wrongdoing.

The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee wants the court to order two rank-and-file Justice Department tax division attorneys to comply with subpoenas demanding that they answer questions about Hunter Biden. The lawsuit says their failure to testify is impeding the Committee’s inquiry into claims that the Justice Department mishandled and “slow walked” the investigation into the president’s son.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the lawsuit. But the department has previously said it has already taken “extraordinary steps” to answer concerns about the probe, including first-of-its-kind testimony from the special counsel overseeing the Hunter Biden prosecutions.

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to gun and tax charges filed after the implosion of a plea deal that would have spared him jail time. The tax charges stem from what federal prosecutors say was a four-year scheme to skip out on paying the $1.4 million he owed to the IRS and instead use the money to fund an extravagant lifestyle that by his own admission included drugs and alcohol.

In a recent letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, the Justice Department pushed back against the subpoenas sent to the tax division attorneys and others, noting that six senior Justice Department officials have already testified that there was no interference in the investigation from President Biden or the White House.

That includes the prosecutor leading the Hunter Biden cases, special counsel David Weiss, who testified last year that no one at the Justice Department blocked or prevented him from pursuing charges or taking other necessary steps in the investigation.

It’s rare for the Justice Department to have rank-and-file attorneys give congressional testimony. Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte, the Justice Department’s head of congressional affairs, said in the letter to Jordan that forcing witnesses to answer questions related to ongoing investigations or prosecutions would also pose “serious risks to the integrity” of the probe and the fairness of ongoing court proceedings.

Hunter Biden testified behind closed doors last month in a deposition that filled more than 200 pages but left the House Oversight and Accountability Committee without evidence rising to “high crimes and misdemeanors” that would be expected to impeach a president.

Rather than drawing up articles of impeachment against the president, James Comer, the chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, is eyeing potential criminal referrals of the family to the Justice Department, a largely symbolic move.

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Richer reported from Boston.

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