House GOP Sues in Bid to Force Justice Department Lawyers to Testify as Part of Impeachment Inquiry

(AP) -- 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.

"To craft effective legislative reforms and to determine whether President Biden has committed an impeachable offense, it must have all the facts," the lawsuit says.

A Justice Department spokesperson said Thursday that it is "committed to working with Congress in good faith," adding that the department already took the "extraordinary step" of making six senior officials available to testify.

"It is unfortunate that despite this extraordinary cooperation from senior DOJ officials, the Committee has decided, after waiting for months, to continue seeking to depose line prosecutors about sensitive information from ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions," the Justice Department said. "We will continue to protect our line personnel and the integrity of their work. We will review the filings and respond in court."

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 pushing back against the subpoenas, the Justice Department said it had already gone to great lengths to answer concerns about the probe, including first-of-its-kind testimony from the special counsel overseeing the Hunter Biden prosecutions.

Special counsel David Weiss 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 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.