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McCarthy directs House committee to open Biden impeachment inquiry

President Joe Biden’s White House has dismissed the impeachment push as politically motivated (Evan Vucci/AP)
President Joe Biden’s White House has dismissed the impeachment push as politically motivated (Evan Vucci/AP) President Joe Biden’s White House has dismissed the impeachment push as politically motivated (Evan Vucci/AP)

Speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy has said he is directing a House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into US President Joe Biden over his family’s business dealings, launching historic proceedings ahead of the 2024 election.

Mr McCarthy said the House Oversight Committee’s investigation so far has found a “culture of corruption” around the Biden family as Republicans probe the business dealings of Mr Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, from 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,” Mr McCarthy (Republican-California) said outside the speaker’s office at the Capitol.

“That’s why today I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.”

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy speaks at the Capitol in Washington
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy speaks at the Capitol in Washington Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy speaks at the Capitol in Washington (J Scott Applewhite/AP)

The announcement comes as the Republican leader faces mounting pressure from his right flank to take action against Mr Biden while he is also struggling to pass legislation needed to avoid a federal government shutdown at the end of the month.

Mr McCarthy is launching the inquiry on his own, without a House vote, as he may not have enough support from his slim Republican majority for approval.

Several Republican legislators oppose the effort.

The White House called it “extreme politics at its worst”.

“House Republicans have been investigating the president for nine months, and they’ve turned up no evidence of wrongdoing,” said White House spokesman Ian Sams.

The White House and others pointed to Mr McCarthy’s past statements when he insisted a speaker could not unilaterally launch an impeachment inquiry or it would have no legitimacy.

“He vowed to hold a vote to open impeachment, now he flipflopped because he doesn’t have support,” Mr Sams said.

An inquiry is a step towards impeachment, and Mr McCarthy essentially outlined potential charges.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy arrives at the Capitol in Washington
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy arrives at the Capitol in Washington Kevin McCarthy arrives at the Capitol in Washington (J Scott Applewhite/AP)

He is planning to convene legislators behind closed doors multiple times this week, including for a meeting to discuss the Biden impeachment.

The Republican leader is once again at a political crossroads – trying to keep his most conservative legislators satisfied and prevent his own ouster.

It is a familiar political bind for Mr McCarthy, who is juggling the impeachment inquiry and the government shutdown threat with no clear end game.

Government funding is to run out on September 30, which is the end of the federal fiscal year, and Congress must pass new funding bills or risk a shutdown and the interruption of government services.

Minutes after Mr McCarthy spoke a chief Republican critic stood on the House floor deriding the inquiry as “a baby step” and reviving the threat of ousting the speaker.

“We must move faster,” said Representative Matt Gaetz (Republican-Florida).

The White House has insisted Mr Biden was not involved in his son’s business dealings.

And Democrats are stepping up to fight against what they view as unfounded claims against him ahead of the 2024 election as Republicans attempt to blur the lines with Donald Trump, who is the Republican frontrunner in a comeback bid for the White House.

Former president Donald Trump
Former president Donald Trump Former president Donald Trump (Toby Brusseau/AP)

Former president Mr Trump was twice impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.

He now faces more serious charges in court, indicted four times this year, including for trying to overturn the 2020 election Mr Biden won.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the impeachment inquiry “absurd”.

“This is a transparent effort to boost Donald Trump’s campaign by establishing a false moral equivalency between Trump – the four-time indicted former president” and Mr Biden, who faces “zero evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever”, said Representative Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.

House Republicans are probing the business dealings of Hunter Biden but so far have not produced hard evidence linking them and the president.

They have shown a few instances largely during the time the elder Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president when he spoke by phone with his son and stopped by dinners his son was hosting with business partners.

An impeachment inquiry would provide more heft to the House investigation, especially as it battles in court for access to Biden family financial records.

Republicans contend the Justice Department has not fully probed the allegations against Hunter Biden, and say he received preferential treatment in what they call a sweetheart plea deal that recently collapsed.

The Department of Justice has appointed a special prosecutor in that probe.

President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden
President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden (Andrew Harnik/AP)

“We will go wherever the evidence takes us,” Mr McCarthy said.

The White House has insisted Mr Biden was not involved in his son’s business dealings.

And Democrats on the Oversight Committee are stepping up to fight against what they view as unfounded claims against him ahead of the 2024 election.

Representative James Comer, the Republican chairman leading the Oversight Committee, is digging into the Biden family finances and is expected to seek banking records for Hunter Biden as the panel tries to follow the flow of money.

On Tuesday, Mr Comer demanded the State Department produce documents about the work Mr Biden did as vice president during the Obama administration to clean up corruption in Ukraine.

Mr Comer wants to understand the State Department’s views of former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, whom Mr Biden and many Western allies wanted removed from office because of allegations of corruption.

This comes as federal government funding is set to run out on September 30, and Congress must pass new funding bills or risk a shutdown and the interruption of government services.

Conservatives who power Mr McCarthy’s majority want to slash spending, and the hard right is unwilling to approve spending levels the speaker negotiated with Mr Biden earlier this year.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy speaking at the Capitol in Washington
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy speaking at the Capitol in Washington Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy speaking at the Capitol in Washington (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Mr McCarthy is trying to float a 30-day stopgap measure to keep government running to November 1, but conservatives are balking at what is called a continuing resolution, or CR, as they pursue cuts.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (Republican-Georgia) said late on Monday exiting Mr McCarthy’s office that she has “red lines” against any new money being spent for Covid-19 vaccines or mandates or Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Mr Gaetz, a top Trump ally, is warning that Mr McCarthy could face blowback from conservatives if he does not push hard for spending cuts.

At the start of the year, Mr Gaetz and other Republicans secured agreements from Mr McCarthy as he struggled to win their votes to become House speaker.

Under the House rules, Mr McCarthy’s opponents are able to call a vote at any time to try to oust the speaker from office.