The White House is warning House Republicans that a potential impeachment inquiry into President Biden will only backfire on an already fractured conference.
The possibility of an impeachment inquiry appears to be growing, with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) giving signals recently that one could be launched as soon as September.
Republicans have hammered the White House over allegations of corruption in the form of the business and lobbying work of Hunter Biden, the president’s son, arguing the younger Biden used his ties to power to win business in Ukraine.
Conservative media is also shouldering into the Biden-corruption narrative, particularly in the context of former President Trump’s two federal indictments being brought by Biden’s Justice Department, with a number of Republicans and GOP voters itching to take a fight to Biden over what they claim are politically motivated investigations of his predecessor.
But through it all, the White House remains steadfastly confident that if the GOP goes forward with an inquiry, one that would center on the Biden family’s finances, it will hurt Republicans more than it could hurt Biden.
“This baseless impeachment exercise would be a disaster for congressional Republicans, and don’t take our word for it: just listen to the chorus of their fellow Republicans who admit there is no evidence for their false allegations and that pursuing such a partisan stunt will ‘backfire,’” White House spokesperson Ian Sams said this week.
While McCarthy spent the summer flirting with the idea of bringing forth an impeachment inquiry when Congress returns in the fall, the White House has been bullish in speaking out against the idea through memos and statements.
Aides have name-checked lawmakers such as Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) who said that there needs to be more concrete evidence to move forward, and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who said he doesn’t want to see the U.S. go down a path similar to that of British Parliament.
They also use Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), who represents a district Biden won, as an example of someone who has said the GOP is not there yet on impeachment. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), meanwhile, has called the idea “impeachment theater.”
“The White House sees highlighting the divisions within the Republican caucus as a way to further show that these half-baked efforts are little more than a political stunt and driven by their extreme right-wing flank,” a source familiar with their thinking told The Hill.
The House Republicans’ slim majority means McCarthy has few votes to spare in order to launch an inquiry. He also risks his party’s majority if enough moderate Republicans who won in Biden districts are forced to take such a vote during a pivotal election year in which they seek to expand their majority.
“Some people say he’s threading a needle, I think he’s threading a quantum atom. A needle is easy,” said former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y). “This is a whole new level. When you’ve got a four-vote majority right now, it’s a whole new level of maneuvering.”
Israel said despite the math, the White House shouldn’t entirely blow off the threat due to pressures on McCarthy from the House’s conservative wing.
“The White House has an obligation to take these threats seriously, because you just never know how far MAGA Republicans will go and whether Kevin McCarthy will succumb to their pressure. But, you can contrast it to your own policy achievements, and that’s exactly what they’re doing,” he said.
While the potential for an impeachment inquiry swirls, the White House has installed a team in place seemingly in anticipation of the potential moves by Republicans.
Sams, the White House spokesperson, has sounded the bullhorn on impeachment matters for months and recently, Biden appointed Ed Siskel as White House counsel to lead Biden’s legal team on managing responses to oversight and investigations. Siskel’s background includes overseeing the White House legal responses to congressional oversight investigations on Benghazi and Solyndra under former President Obama.
When it comes to how seriously voters are taking the threat by Republicans, it appears the White House also has public opinion on their side, for now.
Fifty-six percent of Americans think an impeachment inquiry into Biden would be more of a partisan political stunt, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning group. Also, 51 percent of those polled said they think an impeachment inquiry would be more about damaging Biden politically, while only 45 think it would be about finding the truth.
But while juggling a potential impeachment inquiry, Biden and his White House will also be dealing with uncomfortable questions regarding his son, who himself is under investigation by the Justice Department. Republicans are also floating an investigation into the appointment of a special counsel in that case after a plea deal between Hunter Biden and federal prosecutor fell apart during a court hearing in July.
The White House repeatedly fends off questions regarding Hunter Biden, while the president has addressed it piecemeal, maintaining that he’s proud of his son in response to questions about the charges.
And Biden himself is under the Justice Department spotlight for classified documents found at his residence and an old office from his time as vice president. Biden has long stressed independence from Attorney General Merrick Garland and the department in an effort to differentiate from his predecessor — but there’s only so much distance between the president and the nation’s top prosecutor whom he appointed.
At an event at the White House on Monday, Biden quipped that he hadn’t seen Garland in some time.
“Attorney General Garland, haven’t seen you in a long while. Good to see you,” Biden said. “You think I’m kidding? I’m not.”
Democrats, meanwhile, are taking their cues from the White House on how to handle impeachment, a national Democratic source told The Hill.
Israel maintained it’s vital for the White House to continue to push the notion that contrasts it with the opposing party.
“The Biden campaign needs to constantly create contrast between the fractures within the Republican caucus and their partisan attacks and the administration’s own policy achievements. This is a contrast that plays particularly well with independent, swing voters in battleground states,” said Israel, who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
“It’s vitally important for congressional Democrats to be in sync with the White House and the Biden campaign. The cooperation, as compared to the civil war that’s going on in Republican ranks, is especially important,” he added.
Even some Republicans think the president and his team could benefit from highlighting that those pushing for impeachment are the extreme side of the conference.
“While a lot depends on the underlying facts, Democrats often benefit politically when Republicans appear to overplay their hand, because it gives substance to the broader ‘extremism’ narrative advanced by so much of the media,” said a former official under President George W. Bush.
Ivan Zapien, a former Democratic National Committee official, said the timing of an impeachment inquiry in September coming up against the fiscal year deadline could also benefit Biden.
“For Biden, I like the juxtaposition of impeachment, government shutdown, and holds on military promotion versus reducing drug prices, infrastructure, and saving the planet. It’s more than policy disagreements — it’s actions vs. nonaction” Zapien said.
Biden himself has also signaled that he isn’t worried about the impacts of impeachment.
During remarks at a textile manufacturer in July, he quipped that Republicans will have to find something else to criticize him for because inflation is improving.
“Maybe they’ll decide to impeach me because it’s coming down. I don’t know. I love that one,” the president said. “Anyway, that’s another story.”