Washington — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday that he is directing House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden, escalating GOP lawmakers’ investigations into the president and his family’s foreign business dealings.
“This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public,” he said in brief remarks to reporters. “That’s exactly what we want to know, the answers.”
McCarthy said allegations that Mr. Biden profited off his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings are “serious” and “credible,” and directed the House Oversight, Judiciary and Ways and Means Committees to lead the impeachment inquiry.
Despite McCarthy’s claims, the investigations mounted by House Republicans into Hunter Biden’s conduct have yet to uncover direct evidence of wrongdoing by the president. Mr. Biden has denied any involvement in his son’s foreign work, and the White House has said the president is not involved in Hunter Biden’s business activities.
Still, McCarthy said the allegations uncovered thus far warrant further investigation by the House. He accused Mr. Biden of lying about his knowledge of his family’s overseas business dealings and claimed bank records show the president’s family members made millions of dollars from foreign firms. The speaker also alleged that Hunter Biden received “special treatment” by the Biden administration.
“Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption,” he said, later adding that the accusations should be a concern to all Americans regardless of their political preferences. “The American people describe to now that the public offices are not for sale and that the federal government is not being used to cover up the actions of a politically associated family.”
Ian Sams, White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, criticized McCarthy’s move and said it is driven by politics.
“House Republicans have been investigating the President for 9 months, and they’ve turned up no evidence of wrongdoing. His own GOP members have said so,” he said in a social media post. “He vowed to hold a vote to open impeachment, now he flip flopped because he doesn’t have support. Extreme politics at its worst.”
Launching an impeachment inquiry is a significant escalation of Republicans’ investigations into Mr. Biden and Hunter Biden, which began after Republicans took control of the House in January. It also comes as McCarty faces increasing pressure from the far-right flank of the House GOP conference to pursue an inquiry against the president or risk being removed from his post as speaker.
It is unclear, however, whether there is broad Republican support for the move. At least two Republicans, Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and Don Bacon of Nebraska, have expressed skepticism toward pursuing an impeachment inquiry. There will also be one fewer Republican in the House GOP conference as of Friday, when Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah steps down because of his wife’s health concerns.
“There is not a strong connection at this point between the evidence on Hunter Biden and the evidence connecting the president,” Buck told MSNBC in an interview Sunday.
Bacon told reporters in July that he does not support opening an impeachment inquiry, but added that if after continued investigating, “we ever get to a threshold, or there’s more facts that seem clear, then you go to an inquiry.”
The House is not expected to hold a vote authorizing the impeachment inquiry, an aide to McCarthy told reporters. The decision to proceed with the inquiry without the House’s approval is an about-face for the speaker, who criticized Democrats in 2019 for launching an impeachment inquiry into former President Donald Trump without a vote first. McCarthy also told Breitbart News in an interview published Sept. 1 that an impeachment inquiry would occur after a vote by 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,” he said. “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.”
McCarthy under pressure
The decision to pursue an impeachment inquiry also comes as Congress is facing a Sept. 30 deadline to pass legislation to fund the government and avoid a shutdown. The far-right faction of the House GOP has been pushing McCarthy to cut government spending, and several have come out against any short-term measure to maintain government funding at existing levels while Congress works to pass individual spending bills.
In August, the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers, said they would oppose any spending measure that doesn’t include a GOP-introduced plan to boost border security, fails to address alleged “unprecedented weaponization” of the Justice Department and the FBI and doesn’t roll back spending levels to those for 2022. The far-right group also said they oppose “any blank check for Ukraine.” The president asked Congress last month for more than $21 billion in emergency defense and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, a request Senate Republican leaders support.
In addition to their demands for a government spending plan, conservative lawmakers have been pushing McCarthy to stop resisting efforts to pursue an impeachment of Mr. Biden. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz warned in a social media post last week that the speaker could be forced from the job if he blocks action focused on impeachment.
Among the concessions McCarthy made to conservatives in order to secure enough support to win the speaker’s gavel in January was a rule that allows a single member to force a vote to oust the speaker. The threat of removal has been looming over McCarthy ever since.
The White House criticized Gaetz’s push for impeachment, saying his comments confirmed that far-right lawmakers are driving the focus on the president and his son.
“If Speaker McCarthy opens an impeachment inquiry simply to throw red meat to the right wing, it will yet again prove this is nothing more than a costly, illegitimate, politically-motivated exercise not rooted in reality,” Sams, the spokesman, said last week.
McCarthy’s endorsement of an impeachment inquiry comes after he has been signaling that the House’s GOP majority may take action. He told Fox News in an interview last month that an inquiry is a “natural step forward” and would give Congress “the apex of legal power to get all the information they need.”
Michael Kaplan contributed to this report