Republican United State House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy yesterday, launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, propelling Congress toward a contentious and unlikely-to-succeed effort to remove the Democratic president that follows two impeachments of former President Donald Trump.
McCarthy’s move sets the stage for months of divisive House hearings that could distract from congressional efforts to avoid a government shutdown and could supercharge the 2024 presidential race in which Trump hopes to avenge his 2020 election loss to Biden and win back the White House.
White House spokesperson Ian Sams said Republicans have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.
“Extreme politics at its worst,” Sams wrote on social media.
Republicans, who now narrowly control the House, have accused Biden of profiting while he served as vice president from 2009 to 2017 from his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business ventures, though they have not presented substantiation.
Biden previously had mocked Republicans over a possible impeachment. No U.S. president has ever been removed from office by impeachment, but the procedure – once a rarity – has now become commonplace.
“I am directing our House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden,” McCarthy told reporters.
A former business associate of the younger Biden told a House hearing that Hunter Biden sold the “illusion” of access to power while his father was vice president, according to a transcript released last month.
McCarthy said lawmakers on three committees will begin gathering evidence of possible financial misconduct. They will begin their work without a vote from the full House, as was held before Trump’s first impeachment in 2019. Such a vote is not required, but can add legitimacy to the move.
Democrats have sought to portray Republican impeachment talk as an effort to distract public attention from the legal woes of Trump, who faces four separate criminal indictments while running for his party’s 2024 presidential nomination to face Biden.
“Republicans’ probe is a transparent effort to weaponize Congress to do Trump’s bidding,” Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin said in a statement before McCarthy’s announcement.
Trump has pressed Republicans to try to remove Biden from office.
Several hard-right Republicans have said they will not vote for must-pass spending bills without an impeachment inquiry. If Congress does not pass those spending bills by the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, large swaths of the U.S. government would have to shut down. The U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to impeach federal officials including the president for treason, bribery and “other high crimes and misdemeanors.” A president can be removed from office if the House approves articles of impeachment by a simple majority and the 100-seat Senate votes by a two-thirds majority to convict after holding a trial.
Any Biden impeachment effort would be unlikely to succeed. Even if the House votes to impeach Biden – an uncertain prospect, given the party’s narrow 222-212 vote margin – it would almost certainly fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who voted to remove Trump from office in 2021, said the White House had “coddled” Hunter Biden. “To suggest an inquiry is not inappropriate. That’s very different from an impeachment.” Trump is the only U.S. president to have been impeached twice. He was acquitted both times after trials in the Senate thanks to votes by his fellow Republicans that prevented the chamber from achieving the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.
In his first impeachment, the House in 2019 charged Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son on unsubstantiated corruption accusations. In his second impeachment, the House impeached him in 2021 on a charge of inciting an insurrection following the attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters. The first impeachment sought to remove him from office. The second, with a trial held after he left office, sought to disqualify Trump from ever again holding the presidency.
Trump, as he has done with many investigations into his actions, called both impeachments politically motivated witch hunts.
Public opinion polling has shown many Americans believe Hunter Biden has received special treatment.
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