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House Republicans start a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Under pressure from far-right Republicans in his party, House speaker Kevin McCarthy has announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption, and they warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

House Republicans have already been investigating the Biden family for months and so far haven't found any clear evidence of corruption. The White House dismissed the investigation as extreme politics at its worst.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR political correspondent Susan Davis joins us now. Susan, now that it's a formal inquiry, what changes?

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: You know, there isn't anything dramatically different today than there was yesterday. These investigations have been and will continue to be run by two Republicans, James Comer of Kentucky and Jim Jordan of Ohio. Republicans say that they hope the seriousness and the weight of an impeachment inquiry will prod the White House to be more forthcoming with things like document requests and requests for testimony, but all of that obviously remains to be seen.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. So what exactly are Republicans alleging about the president?

DAVIS: Well, McCarthy outlined yesterday that Republicans are going to focus the inquiry on any of Biden's official interactions with his son's former business, and specifically work with foreign clients like Burisma. That's the former Ukrainian energy company. They also want to look at money that's been paid to Biden family members for work they've done with foreign entities, as well as whether Hunter has been given any special treatment by the Justice Department in their ongoing investigation of him.

Altogether, Republicans believe they can paint this picture of corruption against Joe Biden. But again, there hasn't really been any concrete evidence that they can point to yet in attempting to make this case that the president benefited financially, or his family did, from official actions.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, if the House were to pass these articles of impeachment, it would force the Senate to hold a trial. So what's been the GOP Senate reaction to that possibility?

DAVIS: It was pretty lukewarm on Capitol Hill yesterday. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has previously voiced some skepticism about the merits of moving ahead with an impeachment process. Yesterday, he essentially said the Senate's just going to focus on the legislative agenda and wait and see what the House does.

Mitt Romney - he's one of the seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial. He said he thought there was enough there to merit an investigation but that the case had not yet been made for an impeachment.

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MITT ROMNEY: There's been no allegation of a high crime or misdemeanor that would meet the constitutional test. So that's a very different matter, and we'll see if that arises.

DAVIS: There's almost no chance any of this ends in a Senate conviction. The Senate is controlled by Democrats. And skepticism from senators like Romney, who would be in the orbit of potentially gettable senators, I think makes that pretty clear.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, it doesn't seem like a coincidence that Kevin McCarthy made this announcement at least as one member of his party, Matt Gaetz of Florida, was threatening to force a vote to remove him from the speaker's office if he didn't make this exact move, right?

DAVIS: Right. And it doesn't come from a move that makes the speaker look particularly strong in his job at this moment. All of this is going to be a test for McCarthy - not just how he manages an impeachment inquiry, but also how he's going to avoid a government shutdown in a way that doesn't provoke a revolt from other far-right members of his conference who might try to remove him for the job depending on what spending bills he brings to the floor and what they have in them. So how he navigates all of this and whether he can succeed and also keep his job is going to dominate Capitol Hill in the weeks and certainly the months ahead.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR political correspondent Susan Davis. Thanks for keeping track of this.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.