By LISA MASCARO, STEPHEN GROVES and KEVIN FREKING (Associated Press)
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s sudden decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden has won over even the most reluctant Republicans, with some Republican lawmakers pushing for her to move quickly rather than to drag on until the 2024 election year.
McCarthy opened and closed a private meeting of House Republicans on Wednesday, justifying his reasoning for the investigation requested by former President Donald Trump, the party’s favorite to challenge Biden next year.
The White House moved to combat what it called “unprecedented and baseless complaints” against the president over his son Hunter and the family’s finances.
In a 14-page memo to media executives, the White House urged them to hold Republicans “accountable for moving toward impeachment based on allegations that are not only unfounded but, in virtually all cases, all cases, have been actively refuted.”
“They found no evidence,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “It’s a political stunt.”
The moment is politically crucial for Republican President McCarthy, whose office is targeted by Trump’s right-wing allies who are working daily to oust him.
Other Republicans are preparing for a months-long investigation that could result in articles of impeachment against Biden next year, in the midst of the presidential campaign. McCarthy already flagged potential charges of abuse of power, corruption and obstruction when announcing the investigation.
“There are a lot of accusations that you just want answers to,” McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol. “The impeachment inquiry simply allows Congress, Republicans and Democrats, to get the answers to the questions.”
As part of the investigation, House Republicans are trying to link Biden to the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden, and distract from Trump’s own legal peril as the two men once again fight over White House. Trump is the only president to have been impeached twice – acquitted both times – and he is the first to face criminal charges in four separate indictments, including for trying to overturn the election of 2020 which he lost to Biden.
The White House said Joe Biden was not involved in his son’s business affairs. And so far, Republicans have uncovered no significant evidence of wrongdoing by the elder Biden, who often spoke to his son and, as vice president, stopped by a dinner business with his son’s associates.
The sooner the better to go after Biden, some Republican lawmakers say.
“I hope we can pass it as quickly as possible,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the oversight committee leading the impeachment inquiry.
Comer and the other House speakers involved in the impeachment inquiry marched through the Capitol to privately brief Senate Republicans. They spent nearly an hour explaining to Senate Republicans the evidence they claimed to have gathered over the past eight months. Some members, like first-term Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, said it was the first time they had heard many of the allegations.
Afterward, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican, said the briefing made him feel “there’s enough smoke out there that there are legitimate questions.”
Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham said what investigators have compiled so far is compelling. But he and other senators said they urged Comer and other House speakers to solidify the process by holding a vote on the House floor to move the investigation forward.
“I think they better vote. It gives it more legitimacy,” said South Carolina’s Graham.
Absent a vote to initiate the investigation, the impeachment inquiry is proceeding without formal ground rules adopted by the House. This allows Republicans to conduct the investigation in a way that Democrats say is not always transparent, releasing only partial information to the public.
On another front, McCarthy’s decision to launch the impeachment inquiry appears to have done little to appease the conservative lawmakers he needs to convince for his more immediate task: persuading the Republican majority to pass the impeachment bills. federal spending needed to avoid a government shutdown in just over a year. two weeks.
Far-right Republicans still want McCarthy to cut federal spending below the levels he and Biden agreed to as part of a budget deal earlier this year. And that position risks a federal shutdown if they don’t fund the government by September 30, when the current money runs out.
Democrats should oppose these Republican efforts and fight Biden’s impeachment.
Rep. Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, who led Trump’s first impeachment proceedings, said McCarthy’s failure to bring the investigation to the full House for a vote was “an acknowledgment that “He doesn’t have the support of his conference to move forward.”
“He is beholden to the most extremist elements,” Schiff said as lawmakers returned to Washington Tuesday evening. “This is yet another indication of the weakness of the presidency and the degree to which he is being manipulated by Donald Trump.”
Still, moderate Republicans representing districts that Biden won in 2020 against Trump and that are most at risk in next year’s elections have generally supported McCarthy’s decision to launch an impeachment inquiry.
“I would have voted for it,” Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., said of the impeachment inquiry.
Garcia said, “There’s smoke there, so we need to investigate there and see if there’s a fire there.” »
Rep. Nick LaLota of New York, another Republican from districts Biden won in 2022, said he wasn’t worried about any backlash at home. “I think my constituents deserve answers,” he said.
The freshman lawmaker, along with other potential holdouts like Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., were offered private briefings this week from leaders to allay any concerns.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. said McCarthy did not discuss a timetable for the impeachment inquiry.
“I don’t think there’s a timetable because there’s no predetermined outcome,” Cole said. “You do it until you think you have the truth, or you don’t and you can’t go any further. »
On the issue of government funding, this is “really the first thing we need to do between now and the end of the month,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said after Wednesday’s meeting.
McCarthy does not appear to have a viable plan for keeping the government open, several lawmakers said.
One of McCarthy’s proposed plans to avoid a shutdown is to have the House approve as many spending bills as possible at the lower levels desired by Republicans and submit them to the Democratic-led Senate in the hope of forcing a compromise.
A massive Republican bill to fund the Department of Defense and related military affairs is up for a vote this week, but it’s unclear whether the House will be able to pass it. The chamber came to a standstill in the afternoon as a key test vote on Wednesday was threatened.
Republicans are trying to pass amendments that include defunding Ukraine and shrinking the Pentagon’s diversity, equity and inclusion offices. An amendment would reduce Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s salary to $1.
Democrats are expected to vote against these measures as well as impeachment if the investigation gets that far.
Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Darlene Superville contributed to this story.