In a significant development, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has officially initiated an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. This announcement comes after weeks of subtle hints and implications, with McCarthy citing “serious and credible allegations regarding President Biden’s conduct” that, when considered together, warrant further investigation.
The process of impeachment by the House of Representatives is the initial step in formally removing a president, or other high-ranking executive or judicial official, from office. It requires a simple majority vote in the House to trigger a trial in the U.S. Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required for conviction and removal. Notably, former President Donald Trump faced two impeachment trials during the Democratic-controlled House, one in 2019 related to Ukraine and another in 2021 tied to the January 6 Capitol riot, but he was acquitted by the Senate on both occasions.
So, what grounds could lead to President Biden’s impeachment? In his announcement at the U.S. Capitol, McCarthy listed several accusations against the president and his son, Hunter Biden. These allegations included claims that President Biden lied about his knowledge of his son’s business dealings and that “Biden family members” had received substantial payments from shell companies, with some transactions raising concerns flagged by the U.S. Treasury Department. McCarthy also mentioned an FBI informant’s allegation that President Biden accepted a bribe in exchange for official actions during his tenure as vice-president and that he used his government position to collaborate with his son’s business associates. Furthermore, McCarthy alleged that the Biden administration showed favoritism to the president’s family and associates during investigations into potential criminal violations.
It’s important to note that Republicans have yet to provide concrete evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden. McCarthy’s move comes approximately two months after a House committee heard testimony from two Internal Revenue Service officials who claimed that the Department of Justice obstructed a more thorough investigation into President Biden’s involvement in Hunter Biden’s financial affairs. In late July, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley released an FBI document that included allegations of the Biden family receiving two $5 million payments from a Ukrainian energy company, allegedly tied to then-Vice President Biden’s actions in pressuring Ukraine to remove a senior government official responsible for corruption investigations. However, neither the IRS investigators nor the FBI document provided conclusive evidence of illegal or improper conduct by President Biden. Nonetheless, House Republicans believe that this information justifies a formal impeachment inquiry.
McCarthy asserted that an impeachment inquiry would grant House Republicans “the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public.” Historically, courts have granted congressional committees broader authority to issue and enforce subpoenas for documents and testimony when such orders are issued within the context of an impeachment inquiry. McCarthy drew parallels with the Nixon administration, which faced a congressional inquiry in 1974, leading to Nixon’s resignation before formal impeachment.
Previously, McCarthy had been hesitant to endorse calls for impeachment proceedings, citing that it was premature. However, mounting pressure from conservative members of his party and the looming votes on government spending forced him to change his stance.
Despite these developments, the success of an impeachment resolution in the House remains uncertain. Republicans hold a narrow majority in the chamber, and some moderate members of the party, contemplating re-election races in November 2024, have expressed concerns about pursuing a process that could further divide the country. The Biden administration swiftly responded to McCarthy’s impeachment announcement, with White House spokesperson Ian Sams stating that “House Republicans have been investigating the President for nine months, and they’ve turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.”
It’s worth noting that only three U.S. presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Donald Trump twice. None of them were convicted by the Senate. Currently, Democrats maintain a 51-49 majority in the Senate, making it highly unlikely that any impeachment referral from the House concerning President Biden will lead to a conviction.