House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is directing House committees to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden after months of building pressure from some of the most conservative lawmakers in the conference.
The House Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means committees are now tasked with carrying out an inquiry into whether the president should be removed from office. Each of the committees have been investigating multiple aspects of Biden’s administration and his family’s business dealings.
“House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden’s conduct,” McCarthy said in a brief statement outside his office at the Capitol. “Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption.”
None of the investigations have produced evidence directly linking the president to any wrongdoing, but McCarthy and the Republicans leading the investigations have said they need advanced subpoena power only available through impeachment to uncover such evidence. McCarthy also said the allegations made by the investigative committees were enough to warrant an impeachment inquiry.
The White House was quick to criticize the decision, calling it “extreme politics at its worst.”
“House Republicans have been investigating the president for 9 months, and they've turned up no evidence of wrongdoing,” White House spokesperson Ian Sams said.
What to know about what comes next:
WHY DO REPUBLICANS WANT TO IMPEACH THE PRESIDENT?
The impeachment inquiry is centered around the president’s family’s foreign business dealings and whether a tax crimes investigation into his son, Hunter, was slow-walked or interfered with by the Justice Department.
Hunter Biden’s foreign business activity has come under heavy scrutiny since Republicans took the House in the 2022 midterms, with multiple committees issuing subpoenas for interviews and thousands of pages in records. Some have tried to tie the president to his son’s activities and accused him of leveraging his power as vice president during the Obama administration to help Hunter Biden and personally enrich himself, though they have not released evidence supporting those claims.
Hunter Biden’s legal troubles for tax crimes and a gun charge have also been heavily scrutinized by Republicans, who say the Justice Department gave him special treatment in reaching a plea deal that has since fallen apart. Whistleblowers also told lawmakers that they believed he had received special treatment throughout the investigation that stretched back to the Trump administration.
“These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption and warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives,” McCarthy said Tuesday.
WHO IS LEADING THE INQUIRY?
McCarthy said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky. and leader of the House Oversight Committee, will lead the effort in cooperation with Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio and Judiciary Committee chair, and Jason Smith, R-Mo, and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Each committee has multiple investigations into the president and his family and have collaborated before on advancing their probes. All three joined forces this summer to start a larger investigation of the Justice Department’s handling of its case against Hunter Biden.
HOW DOES IMPEACHMENT WORK?
The House can bring impeachment charges against federal officials, which the House historian says often begins when “a lawmaker introduces an impeachment resolution, or when the House initiates proceedings by passing a resolution authorizing an inquiry.”
Once investigations are finished and the House votes on its impeachment rules, the Judiciary Committee considers articles of impeachment before sending them to the full House for a vote. If the House passes any articles, a president has been impeached and a trial will be started in the Senate.
In the Senate, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, currently John Roberts, oversees a trial where House impeachment managers lay out their case to the Senate. At the conclusion of the trial, the full Senate will vote on whether to convict, with two-thirds needing to support it to remove an official from office.
MOVING FORWARD WITHOUT A FLOOR VOTE
Congressional Democrats and the White House have criticized McCarthy for walking back on comments he made less than two weeks ago and during Trump’s impeachments over launching an inquiry without a House vote.
There is no constitutional requirement or House rule requiring a vote, but McCarthy has taken past stances against starting an inquiry without one and recently said he would have a vote in the House.
“To open an impeachment inquiry is a serious matter, and House Republicans would not take it lightly or use it for political purposes. The American people deserve to be heard on this matter through their elected representatives,” McCarthy told Breitbart earlier this month. “That’s why, if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person.”
He also sent a letter to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2019 urging her to take a formal vote to authorize an impeachment committee into former President Donald Trump. McCarthy did not say when the House would hold a full vote, which may face difficult odds of passing with unified opposition from Democrats and hesitation from moderate Republicans and GOP members in seats that Biden won in 2020.
TRUMP-ERA DOJ OPINION COULD STYMIE SUBPOENAS
A Trump-era Justice Department memo could hamper House Republican efforts to get more access to records and Biden administration officials.
In January 2020, the Justice Department formally declared impeachment inquiries by the House not valid unless the chamber took formal votes to authorize them in response to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s launch of an impeachment inquiry into Trump without holding a vote in the full House.
“[We] conclude that the House must expressly authorize a committee to conduct an impeachment investigation and to use compulsory process in that investigation before the committee may compel the production of documents or testimony,” the 54-page opinion from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel stated.
McCarthy, who criticized Pelosi for not holding a vote, took the same step on Tuesday directing the committees to open an inquiry.
Internal DOJ opinions do not have weight in court, but they do apply to later administrations unless they are revoked or overridden by new opinions.