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Chairman of the House Oversight Committee James Comer

Attendance issues at influence peddling hearing

House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer’s (R-Ky.) hearing today on alleged influence peddling by President Joe Biden’s family is facing an attendance problem.

The person at the heart of the hearing, Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, isn’t showing up. Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former business associate who shed light on then-vice president Joe Biden’s involvement in phone calls with Hunter’s partners, won’t be attending either.

That leaves Tony Bobulinski — who clashed heavily with Democratic investigators — and Jason Galanis — who’s appearing virtually from federal prison — as the GOP witnesses.

Obviously, this isn’t ideal for Comer, who has faced growing questions from Republican colleagues over where the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden is heading. Today’s hearing was billed by Comer as a chance to publicly grill Hunter Biden on discrepancies between his testimony and what his former business partners told investigators.

First in Punchbowl News: A new memo from Oversight Democrats takes aim at Bobulinski and Galanis, arguing their testimony lacks any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Joe Biden.

“Republicans are attempting to erase exculpatory testimony from nearly 20 witnesses, instead depending on two discredited witnesses with significant ties to Donald Trump and his allies — and even they cannot provide evidence of wrongdoing,” the memo states.

How we got here: Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, turned down the invitation to the public hearing. Lowell said his client would consider taking part only if Comer also probed the business deals of former President Donald Trump’s family members. So Hunter Biden won’t be coming. Archer’s lawyer wrote to Oversight GOP staff on Monday that his client wasn’t given a proper heads-up about the hearing and won’t be testifying as a result.

Asked about the fact that two of his witnesses aren’t coming, Comer told us to worry about “the timeline” — a reference to our item last week about House Republicans flailing on impeachment.

“I’m taking a break from Punchbowl,” Comer said. “I’m looking at you like the comics section in the paper.”

Democrats are inviting Lev Parnas, a former Rudy Giuliani associate who has urged Comer to drop his impeachment inquiry.

It’s safe to say that we can expect some fireworks from the proceedings today. Comer has previously said he doesn’t view public hearings as the best venue due to the start-stop nature of the questioning. Left unsaid is that firebrands on both sides of the aisle sit on the Oversight panel and will use their five minutes to try to go viral.

— Max Cohen

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