Representative James Comer has prioritized investigating the Biden family since he took over the House Oversight Committee. He has talked of almost nothing else in his media appearances. But the months-long investigation so far has revealed next to nothing, and if you look closely at his past statements, you begin to see the truth: It’s not clear how many so-called Biden informants even exist.
Comer released a 65-page memo last month detailing his sprawling investigation into President Joe Biden and some of his relatives, particularly his son Hunter Biden. The massive document accuses the Biden family of influence peddling and foreign business dealings, but there were no specific allegations of a crime committed by any member of the family, least of all the president.
Despite the lack of actual evidence, Comer swore up and down that Republicans had informants who would soon provide some. He didn’t even seem all that bothered when he revealed that one of his sources had gone missing. Presumably, the lack of concern must mean that Comer has a host of other whistleblowers plying him with incriminating information.
Or maybe not.
It’s actually not clear how many informants the House Republicans have on Biden’s alleged corruption. Not even Comer seems to know the exact number, which experts warn could spell legal trouble.
In March, Comer said that four whistleblowers had spoken to Oversight Committee investigators about the Biden family. But when committee Democrats asked him to share the new information, they were told that there wasn’t actually any new witness information. Comer’s statements referred to just two people: Eric Schwerin, the president of Hunter Biden’s investment firm, and Kathy Chung, who worked as Biden’s executive assistant when he was vice president.
Ranking member Jamie Raskin argued that neither of these people were whistleblowers because they neither claimed to have nor provided any incriminating evidence about the Bidens.
“Your repeated statements about ‘four people’ suggest that either you have intentionally misrepresented the Committee’s investigative progress to your conservative audience or that key investigative steps have been deliberately withheld from Committee Democrats,” Raskin wrote in a letter to Comer in April.
Comer’s roster of informants allegedly grew over the next few weeks. In late April, he told Fox News that two new whistleblowers had come forward. On May 8, he told Newsmax that “more than one” whistleblower had approached Oversight Republicans.
On May 14, during the same Fox News interview in which he admitted a source had gone missing, Comer said there were “10 people that we’ve identified that have very good knowledge with respect to the Bidens.” The next day, he told the Fox News podcast Fox Across America that there were “many whistleblowers.”
Comer’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Comer says his refusal to share information with Oversight Democrats stems from his desire to keep his sources confidential. But this, in and of itself, is bizarre. Under House rules, committee records must be provided to every member of the committee regardless of party.
But beyond that, the Oversight Committee has for years abided by a bipartisan agreement established under Representative Elijah Cummings to share information while protecting sources’ confidentiality. Committee members agreed that if a whistleblower approached one party, it would ask the whistleblower if they were comfortable speaking with the other party.
If yes, then both parties would protect the whistleblower’s anonymity and share any records—such as documents, audio recordings, official testimony—that had been provided. But if the whistleblower did not agree, then any records provided would not be released, nor would they be used in committee hearings, depositions, or interviews unless they had already been shared with all members.
“If we wanted to use something publicly, we would have to give it to the other side,” said Dave Rapallo, who served as the Oversight Committee staff director under Cummings. “Part of that is you want to be able to share all the relevant information with all the committee members. Especially if you’re in the majority, you have an obligation to the entire committee, not just certain partisans.”
But sharing information was also helpful because it allowed the committee to test information, Rapallo, who is now an associate professor at Georgetown Law, explained to The New Republic. When all members could question a whistleblower, it allowed them to make sure that no potential issues were missed and produced a result they felt had more integrity.
“What we wouldn’t do is just go out unilaterally and talk publicly about a whistleblower or information from a whistleblower that one side has been completely blocked from having access to,” Rapallo said.
But when Comer took over, he rejected the standard agreement. “Chairman Comer is conducting Committee investigations behind closed doors and refusing to share alleged evidence with Committee Democrats to shield his unsubstantiated claims from fact-based scrutiny,” a spokesperson for the Oversight Democrats told TNR.
“These tactics reflect Republicans’ willingness to weaponize the Committee to achieve their political ends instead of engaging in responsible oversight.”
And it seems to be a problem that goes beyond just the Oversight Committee. Last month, during a Judiciary Committee hearing on the alleged politicization of the FBI, Stacey Plaskett, the ranking member, took Chair Jim Jordan to task for not sharing whistleblower testimony before the hearing. She slammed Jordan for violating committee rules by giving Democrats next to no information, choosing instead to push conspiracy theories.
But in Comer’s case, because he’s been talking about his investigation all over right-wing news media, he could potentially be in bigger trouble than for just breaking with standard committee protocols.
Two days after Comer admitted a source had gone missing, a bipartisan advocacy group called for him to be investigated over the Biden probe. In a letter to U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves, Facts First USA pointed out that it is a federal crime to lie to a congressional investigation.
“If there is a whistleblower who concocted a story about an informant, doing so violated Section 1001,” the letter said. “Alternatively, it is Representative Comer who violated the law by lying to the American people about the existence of an informant.”
Facts First USA argued that if Comer is lying about the whistleblowers, then he would not be protected by the speech and debate clause. That clause’s purpose is to protect members of Congress from having things they say during legislative activities be used against them in lawsuits. But because Comer “repeated his lies across right-wing media,” it would not apply to him.
“Our main point was that he went on TV, he made these statements, everybody laughed at him, and he made himself into a laughingstock,” Facts First CEO David Brock said. “But underneath it, there is a serious issue about what’s actually going on here.”
While Comer hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with evidence, he did let one very big detail about the investigation slip last week. In an interview on Fox News, he discussed how Biden and Donald Trump were polling as 2024 presidential candidates.
“You look at the polling, and right now Donald Trump is seven points ahead of Joe Biden and trending upward,” he said. “I believe that the media is looking around, scratching their head, and they’re realizing that the American people are keeping up with our investigation.”
Democrats have long argued that Comer’s investigation is just a political stunt. He finally admitted they’re right.