A top Republican legislator in the United States has directed a House of Representatives committee to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden over his family’s business dealings.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Tuesday that a House Oversight Committee investigation so far has found a “culture of corruption” around the Biden family.
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“These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption, and they warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives,” McCarthy told reporters during a brief news conference outside his office at the Capitol.
“That’s why today I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.”
The move comes as McCarthy faces mounting pressure from his right flank to take action against Biden and it is certain to further divide lawmakers as they struggle to pass legislation to avoid a government shutdown at the end of September.
The White House has said there is no basis for an investigation and Biden has mocked Republicans over a possible impeachment.
I am directing our House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. Over the past several months, House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden’s conduct—a culture of corruption. https://t.co/3uoDlUB3Sy
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) September 12, 2023
The White House immediately condemned Tuesday’s announcement, with spokesman Ian Sams calling it “extreme politics at its worst”.
“House Republicans have been investigating the President for 9 months, and they’ve turned up no evidence of wrongdoing,” Sams wrote on social media.
Republicans, who now narrowly control the House, have accused Biden, a Democrat, of profiting while he served as vice president from 2009 to 2017 from his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business ventures, though they have not presented any evidence to back up their claims.
A former business associate of the younger Biden told a House hearing that Hunter Biden sold the “illusion” of access to power while his father was vice president, according to a transcript released last month.
The impeachment push comes as Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who was twice impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate, faces four separate criminal indictments, including two related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election that he lost to Biden.
Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to use an impeachment inquiry to distract the US public from Trump’s legal troubles and hurt Biden’s presidential re-election bid.
They also argue the impeachment drive aims to boost Trump’s own 2024 campaign. The former president maintains a sizeable lead in the GOP nomination race despite the criminal cases against him.
“This is a transparent effort to boost Donald Trump’s campaign by establishing a false moral equivalency between Trump, the four-time-indicted former president … and President Biden, against whom there is zero evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.
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 vowed to hold a vote to open impeachment, now he flip flopped because he doesn't have support
Extreme politics at its worst
— Ian Sams (@IanSams46) September 12, 2023
Impeachment unlikely to succeed
Trump has pressed Republicans to try to remove Biden from office and several hard-right Republican allies of the ex-president have said they will not vote for must-pass spending bills unless McCarthy greenlights an impeachment inquiry.
McCarthy has signalled that he will proceed with the inquiry without a full vote in the House, where Republicans have a razor-thin majority.
The US Constitution does not require the chamber’s authorisation for an impeachment inquiry, but speakers have sought the approval of lawmakers in previous instances.
Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro, reporting from Washington, DC on Tuesday, said McCarthy is under “intense pressure” from right-wing Republicans who threatened to oust him if he does not pursue the inquiry against Biden.
The Constitution empowers Congress to impeach federal officials including the president for treason, bribery and “other high crimes and misdemeanors”.
A president can be removed from office if the House approves articles of impeachment by a simple majority and the Senate votes by a two-thirds majority to convict after holding a trial.
Any Biden impeachment effort would be unlikely to succeed, however. Even if the Republican-controlled House votes to impeach Biden – an uncertain prospect, given the party’s narrow 222-212 vote margin – it would almost certainly fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Trump is the only US president to have been impeached twice. He was acquitted both times after trials in the Senate due to votes by his fellow Republicans that prevented the chamber from achieving the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.