McCarthy’s announcement appears intended to appease far-right lawmakers who have demanded he step up House investigative efforts amid government spending negotiations that threaten to paralyze the government — and oust the president from his seat.
The survey puts House Republicans and the White House on a remarkable collision course at a time when Biden is seeking re-election while poll numbers are down. Biden also faces a potential rerun of his 2020 election campaign against former President Donald Trump, who himself was impeached twice in his single term and is far ahead of his rivals in the Republican primary.
The White House has called the investigation an “evidence-free goose chase” that will only help the president rally support around him. Biden ignored shouted questions from reporters about the investigation during an appearance Wednesday.
House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.) were tasked by McCarthy to lead the investigation. Comer’s committee will continue to investigate the Biden family’s finances while Jordan’s investigators will continue their investigation into the Justice Department’s investigation into Hunter Biden.
Comer and Jordan shed light Wednesday on the people and documents they intend to subpoena in the coming days and weeks. They both argued that by formally launching an investigation, they now had more investigative tools at their disposal — a claim that some of their colleagues who urged them to stay the course disputed.
Jordan told reporters he plans to subpoena lawyers from the Justice Department’s tax division who worked on the investigation of Hunter Biden led by newly appointed special prosecutor David Weiss. Several officials involved in the investigation showed up for closed-door interviews with lawmakers and investigators, including the FBI agent overseeing the investigation who last week disputed claims that Weiss was blocked by the department of Justice. That claim was cited Tuesday when McCarthy announced the investigation.
“We’re going to want certain documents … and we’re going to want certain people to come in and be deposed or set up a transcribed interview,” Jordan said. “And if they are reluctant to do that, we could end up in court and (after formalizing an impeachment inquiry) help us.”
Comer has previously said he intends to subpoena members of the Biden family, but he did not specify to reporters Wednesday whether he planned to call Hunter Biden to testify. Jordan deferred to Comer when asked if his committee wanted to hear from Hunter Biden himself.
The House GOP conference is scheduled to meet Thursday to further discuss the investigation, during which McCarthy will face lawmakers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who is eager to subpoena Hunter and Joe Biden.
Several Republicans on Wednesday remained uncomfortable with the prospect of moving forward with the investigation and warned that if House Republicans ultimately decide to adopt articles of impeachment against Biden, McCarthy would not get the votes unless stronger and more convincing evidence was presented. They also argued that there was no material difference between the investigations currently being conducted by House Republicans and the now-formalized impeachment inquiry.
“You have three committees that are investigating the activities of Hunter Biden and their work is not affected at all, whether we call this oversight or impeachment investigation,” said Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), far-right member of the House of Representatives. Freedom Caucus which criticized McCarthy for launching the investigation. “So it was a mistake to raise the issue of impeachment. This created inappropriate expectations.
Buck added that he was primarily concerned about the institutional repercussions of removing opposing party leaders for political retaliation. Others speculated that the investigation could also have unfavorable political ramifications for Republicans: who seek to maintain their majority in the House in 2024 – even among those who said they supported McCarthy’s decision.
“I haven’t seen anyone do very well after impeachment,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “It didn’t go very well for us in 1998 after (President Bill) Clinton. It certainly hasn’t worked out well for the Democratic majority – they’re now in the minority and they’ve had multiple impeachments that haven’t expanded the base. I don’t consider this a good policy.
No American president has ever been removed from office, but impeachment proceedings, which are primarily a political process, have become increasingly common. However, legal experts and historians told The Washington Post that this investigation stands out as a unique departure from previous impeachment proceedings.
“It’s putting the cart before the horse,” said Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and co-author of “Impeachment: An American History.” “That’s certainly not how it’s been done the majority of times in the past. If evidence emerges, impeachment proceedings will continue. But do I think this will produce more evidence? Thousands of people are already investigating the president.
Yet even some lawmakers in competitive districts, who are generally more cautious about antagonizing their more moderate constituents, said they supported McCarthy’s decision to launch an impeachment inquiry.
Rep. Mike Garcia (R), who represents a California district won by Biden in 2020, rejected the idea that an investigation would be politically losing in swing districts — as long as lawmakers continue to legislate and keep the government open .
“What I hear from my constituents is that they want clarity, that they have seen enough information to want to know the truth,” Garcia said. “If, once everything is settled, and we don’t see that connection, then there’s no indictment. If there is (evidence of wrongdoing), then we have an obligation to do it.
Lawyers and staff with experience in impeachment investigations said opening an investigation could put House Republicans in a stronger position to challenge their potential document requests and subpoenas, all by adding more legal weight to a case. But, they said, the committees gain no new powers to obtain that information.
“Under the rules of the House, an impeachment inquiry does not give the committee any new powers — none,” said a House lawyer with extensive experience handling impeachment inquiries that have arisen. expressed on condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “No new tools. Nothing.”
The lawyer noted that “50 years ago, if you were investigating a break-in at the Watergate Hotel, the committees didn’t even have subpoena power, and the House might have to authorize an investigation into a specific thing. » But now House committees have the power to subpoena people and documents, with lawmakers expanding those abilities over the years.
Additionally, an opinion issued in January 2020 by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under Trump stated that for a committee to use the “mandatory process” afforded in a pretrial investigation accusation, the House “shall expressly authorize” the committee to do so by vote before requiring the production of documents or testimony.
A 2019 Congressional Research Service report states that ultimately, “a congressional committee engaged in a legislative inquiry could arguably obtain much of the same information as in an impeachment inquiry, because legislative inquiries and impeachment constitutes an exercise of important constitutional authority.
Comer, for example, obtained thousands of pages of financial documents related to the Biden family’s income, business dealings and related companies. Comer’s team also released memos summarizing findings from those files that show Hunter Biden entered into business deals that overlapped with his father’s political portfolio while he was vice president, but they did not show direct link with Joe Biden.