WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday that he is directing the United States House of Representatives to initiate an impeachment investigation into President Joe Biden over his family’s business dealings, ushering in unprecedented procedures ahead of the 2024 election.
McCarthy claimed House investigations so far “paint a picture of a culture of corruption” around the Biden family, as Republicans look into the president’s son, Hunter Biden,’s business connections before the Democratic president took office.
“These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction, and corruption, and they warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said at the Capitol, saying he will urge the House, lead by the Oversight Committee, “to open a formal impeachment inquiry.”
The White House retaliated, labeling the move during the presidential campaign “extreme politics at its worst.”
“For nine months, House Republicans have been investigating the president and have found no evidence of wrongdoing,” said spokesman Ian Sams.
Acting alone, Republican Speaker McCarthy is under increasing pressure from his right-wing to take action against Biden or risk losing his leadership position — all while battling to pass legislation needed to avoid a federal government shutdown at the end of the month.
McCarthy is initiating the investigation without a House vote, and it’s uncertain whether he’ll get enough backing from his tiny Republican majority. Some politicians have dismissed the evidence as not meeting the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
McCarthy’s previous words, in which he claimed that a speaker acting unilaterally to initiate an impeachment inquiry would be without legitimacy, were cited by the White House and others. McCarthy “flip-flopped because he doesn’t have support,” according to Sams.
An inquiry is a step toward impeachment, which was once uncommon, and McCarthy essentially described the probable allegations that could be filed. With Donald Trump now the Republican front-runner to oppose Biden in next year’s election, GOP allies are seeking to divert attention away from the indicted former president’s legal troubles and toward Biden.
Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer will lead the investigation in collaboration with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan and Ways & Means Chairman Jason Smith. They’ll be making their way across the Capitol on Wednesday to brief the Senate.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has urged House Republicans against the effort, but on Tuesday he said, “I don’t think Speaker McCarthy needs advice from the Senate.”
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries labeled it an “illegitimate impeachment inquiry” and stated that Democrats will protect Biden “until the very end.”
“There is not a shred of evidence that President Joe Biden has engaged in wrongdoing,” Jeffries stated. “President Joe Biden is a nice guy.” He’s a good man. He’s a patriotic individual.”
The Republican speaker is once again at a political crossroads, attempting to appease his most conservative legislators while still preserving his position. McCarthy is in a familiar political bind, juggling the impeachment investigation and the danger of a government shutdown with no clear end game.
Government funding is set to expire on September 30, the end of the federal fiscal year, and Congress must enact fresh spending legislation or risk a government shutdown and disruption of services.
Minutes after McCarthy spoke, a key Republican opponent rose on the House floor, dismissing the investigation as “a baby step” and resurrecting the possibility of speaker impeachment. “We must move faster,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
According to the White House, Biden was not involved in his son’s business transactions. And, as Republicans strive to blur the lines with Trump, Democrats are stepping up to defend what they see as unjustified charges against him ahead of the 2024 race.
Former President Trump was impeached twice by the House but acquitted both times by the Senate. He is now facing more serious allegations in court, having been indicted four times this year, including for attempting to reverse Biden’s 2020 election victory.
House Republicans are investigating Hunter Biden’s business transactions, but have yet to show clear proof linking them to the president. They’ve documented a handful of instances, mostly when the elder Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president when he called his son and stopped by dinners his son hosted with business partners.
An impeachment investigation would give the House investigation more heft, especially because the Oversight Committee is fighting in court for access to the Biden family’s financial information.
Republicans argue that the Justice Department has not thoroughly investigated the claims against Hunter Biden and that he received preferential treatment in what they describe as a sweetheart plea deal that recently fell through. In that investigation, the Department of Justice has designated a special prosecutor.
“We will go wherever the evidence takes us,” McCarthy stated.
Comer, the Oversight Committee’s chairman from Kentucky, is investigating the Biden family’s finances and is anticipated to demand Hunter Biden’s banking records as the body attempts to track the flow of money.
Comer demanded information from the State Department on Tuesday regarding Biden’s work as vice president during the Obama administration to clear out corruption in Ukraine. Comer wants to know the State Department’s position on former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, whom Biden and several Western allies wanted removed from office due to corruption charges.
As a federal shutdown approaches, McCarthy’s conservative majority wants to cut expenditures, and the extreme right is hesitant to endorse spending levels established with Biden earlier this year.
McCarthy is attempting to introduce a 30-day stopgap measure to keep the government functioning until Nov. 1, but conservatives are opposing what is known as a continuing resolution, or CR, as they pursue budget cutbacks.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., told reporters outside McCarthy’s office late Monday that she has “red lines” against any more funding for COVID-19 vaccinations, mandates, or the Ukraine war.
And Gaetz, a close Trump friend, warned McCarthy that if he puts a continuing resolution up for a vote, conservatives will respond with a motion to vacate the chair and remove him from office.
Gaetz and other Republicans got concessions from McCarthy at the start of the year as he fought to earn their votes to become House speaker, including a House rule that permits opponents to schedule a vote to remove him from the speaker’s post.