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House GOP may vote to formalize impeachment inquiry despite lack of direct evidence

House Republicans are moving toward formalizing their impeachment inquiry against President Biden with a potential floor vote in coming weeks, and they are readying for a possible court fight over the Biden administration’s compliance with congressional requests.

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) told House Republicans in a closed-door conference meeting on Wednesday morning that members probably will have to vote on formally authorizing an impeachment inquiry into Biden into the coming weeks, after then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unilaterally initiated the inquiry without a House vote, according to a person familiar with the meeting, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail a private conversation.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders are working to increase awareness among members and ramp up pressure on the Biden administration as the White House has grown more resistant to what House Republicans view as legitimate requests for oversight, according to people familiar with the matter.

The impeachment inquiry centers on whether Biden benefited from his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings, among other allegations. But House Republicans so far have not released any direct evidence that Biden benefited from his son’s financial involvement in Ukraine or elsewhere. As part of the inquiry, House Republicans have unearthed allegations that the Justice Department under Biden stymied an investigation into Hunter Biden’s financial background, but that testimony has been repeatedly disputed by officials involved in the case.

In a four-page letter sent to House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) a few weeks ago, White House special counsel Dick Sauber queried the validity of the impeachment inquiry on the basis that the House had yet to formally authorize the investigation with a floor vote and also argued that some requests were unjustified and outside of the scope of the investigation.

Some House Republicans viewed the letter as the White House laying the groundwork for a court fight over whether various officials and Biden family members will ultimately comply with requests and subpoenas made by Comer and Jordan.

“If we are going to have to fight in court” against the administration, “we want the House to be in the best legal position possible,” argued Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.). The Trump-led Justice Department issued an opinion in 2020 that impeachment inquiries authorized by the House without a floor vote are constitutionally invalid.

So far, the Biden administration has largely cooperated with the House GOP’s various oversight efforts. Nearly a dozen former and current administration officials have appeared before the committee and congressional investigators have obtained thousands of pages of private banking records, along with over 2,000 pages of Suspicious Activity Reports from the Treasury Department, as well as documents from the National Archives.

“This is yet another sad attempt by extreme House Republicans to try to distract from their own chaos and dysfunction, including whether to expel their own member and how they are yet again on a path to shut down the government,” Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the White House Counsel’s Office, said in a statement. “Their baseless fishing expedition targeting the President has been going on for an entire year and, over and over again, their allegations of wrongdoing by President Biden have been thoroughly debunked.”

On Tuesday, a lawyer representing Hunter Biden responded to a subpoena from House Republicans seeking a closed-door deposition with a counteroffer to testify in a public hearing. Comer previously welcomed public testimony from witnesses, though he rejected Hunter Biden’s request for a public appearance. Private negotiations over his deposition, which is scheduled for Dec. 13, are ongoing.

It remains to be seen whether Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will have the votes to open a formal inquiry, as some GOP lawmakers have continued to cast doubt on an investigation. In that vein, House GOP leadership has moved to sharpen the messaging around the inquiry, unveiling a website to track and consolidate the investigative findings of the Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means committees.

“I thought [McCarthy] didn’t bring it to the floor before because he didn’t have the votes, and my guess is that we still don’t have the votes,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who previously opposed McCarthy’s decision to open an inquiry because of a lack of evidence, said on Wednesday.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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