What to expect if Republicans take the House in the midterms: Investigations, possible impeachments

0
6

Republicans are laying the groundwork for dozens of investigations into the Biden administration — and the president’s family — should they retake the House in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Already, GOP lawmakers have floated January hearings on Hunter Biden’s business dealings as well as a major congressional probe of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and a new committee to investigate China’s political and economic influence on the United States.

“There is a burning desire by Republicans to provide some type of oversight to the Biden administration,” Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., his party’s ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, told TBEN News. “We’re going to be under a lot of pressure to perform, but I think we will be up to the task.”

That pressure could include calls from rank-and-file GOP lawmakers and conservative activists to impeach President Joe Biden and some Cabinet secretaries, rebut the findings of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection and revisit former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the results of the 2020 election — all ahead of another consequential presidential election season.

“Republicans have not made a secret of what they intend to do,” Kurt Bardella, a former GOP operative-turned-Democratic strategist, told TBEN News. “They see congressional oversight as the tip of the spear for the 2024 presidential election.”

Here’s a look at some of Republicans’ potential moves and lines of investigation should they retake the House this week.

Hunter Biden and the president’s family

Beginning when President Biden announced his third bid for the White House in 2019, Republicans have spent years raising questions about his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings and accused the younger Biden of trading off his father’s positions in the Senate and Obama White House for personal financial gain.

Hunter Biden has long insisted he did nothing wrong, ethically or criminally, but has acknowledged his family ties likely did boost his own career.

Comer, the ranking Republican on oversight, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who is poised to lead the House Judiciary Committee, are planning to dig deeper into Hunter Biden in the majority by pursuing sensitive banking records and investigating the Justice Department’s handling of investigations of Hunter Biden over potential tax and gun crimes.

Federal investigators have examined whether Hunter Biden paid adequate taxes on millions of dollars of personal income, including money he made during business pursuits in China and Ukraine. The Justice Department has also reviewed whether he lied on a gun-buying application about his drug use, TBEN News previously reported. He has not been charged with any crimes.

Comer told TBEN News that in a GOP majority — which would bestow subpoena power — the oversight committee may hold its first hearing next year on Hunter Biden and the Biden family’s finances, which Senate Republicans have already spent years investigating.

Republican Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia talks to reporters, Oct. 1, 2022, before former president Donald Trump speaks at a “Save America” rally in Warren, Mich.

Jeff Kowalsky/TBEN via Getty Images

“I think you’re gonna see some action on holding a hearing about the Biden family,” Comer said. When asked if that would be the first GOP-led oversight hearing, he simply replied, “Potentially.”

He told TBEN News that the Treasury Department has refused to turn over to his committee financial reports related to the Biden family without Democrats joining the request.

“That’s bull crap,” he said. “We won’t be in the minority in January. So the Treasury Department is gonna have to give me those one way or the other. If they don’t give them to us, we’re gonna get them from the bank.”

ALSO READ  Body in underwater cave possible diver who disappeared in 2020

COVID-19 pandemic

Republicans who have criticized the Biden administration’s response to COVID-19 and federal guidance around masking, vaccine mandates and school closures could be in a position to revisit the decision-making inside key federal health agencies and the White House.

They have vowed to subpoena Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top medical adviser for Biden and Trump and the outgoing director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, for testimony before Congress despite his imminent retirement at the end of the year.

Fauci recently told TBEN Chief Washington Correspondent Jon Karl that he would have no problem appearing before Republican-led committees after spending 38 years speaking to lawmakers on Capitol Hill as a senior public health official.

Republicans have also been critical of federal spending on the pandemic response and the $1.9 trillion in a COVID-19 relief and stimulus spending package signed into law by Biden last year — a Democratic package that continued the federal response to the pandemic that began during the Trump administration.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is expected to become speaker if his party retakes the chamber, said in a recent TBEN News interview that a GOP majority would investigate the origins of the virus.

Senate Republicans recently released a report claiming the pandemic may have originated with a leak in a large viral laboratory in China — a claim that has been debated within the scientific community for years.

New actions on China

In that same TBEN News interview, McCarthy also said a GOP-led House would establish a select committee solely focused on China, to address concerns about Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property and how to best reinforce domestic supply chains and the economy’s reliance on trade with China.

Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., who has helped coordinate House Republicans’ policy on China, told TBEN News that a GOP majority would “continue to work to bring those [supply] chains home” and push to scrutinize both foreign investments in critical U.S. companies and American investments in key industries abroad.

Legislation on the IRS

McCarthy said in September, while touting Republicans’ campaign-season “Commitment to America” agenda, that the first piece of legislation they will put on the House floor if they are in the majority will be to block new funding for 87,000 agents at the IRS.

The agency has said those funds are to replace retiring agents, increase staff for customer service and technology support and enhance the enforcement on high-income earners rather than for those making less than $400,000 a year.

Removing Democrats from committees

McCarthy has for months been suggesting his party would remove some leading Democrats from their committee positions in response to what he argued was a “new standard” set when Democrats stripped committee assignments from two controversial GOP lawmakers, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona. (Gosar had posted an animated video depicting violence against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez while Greene has a long history of inflammatory and conspiratorial statements, some of which she has apologized for.)

“What they have started cannot be easily undone. Their actions today, and the past, have forever changed the way the House operates,” McCarthy said last year ahead of a vote against Gosar. He later told CNN, “The Democrats have created a new thing where they’re picking and choosing who could be on committee,” and he has identified Ilhan Omar, Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell as Democrats who would lose their committee spots.

McCarthy has said that Greene will be reinstated to committees after being removed last year — in a bipartisan vote by Democrats and 11 Republicans — for incendiary remarks she made before her election to Congress. Greene made an apologetic floor speech at the time attempting to disavow some prior comments.

ALSO READ  GOP Rep. Banks on Republican midterm losses: Trump 'wasn't on the ballot'

And though McCarthy has indicated Greene will be placed back on committees, he has demurred when pressed if the firebrand congresswoman would get a seat on the oversight panel, something for which she has pushed.

PHOTO: Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California speaks during a statue dedication ceremony honoring Amelia Earhart at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 27, 2022.

Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, running for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections, speaks during a statue dedication ceremony honoring Amelia Earhart at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 27, 2022.

Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

US exit from Afghanistan

Republicans could also wield a House majority to probe the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year — a military exit, ending a decades-long war, that was marred by a deadly suicide attack on Americans and allies, the stranding of numerous Afghans who had supported the U.S. and a Taliban takeover in the capital of Kabul.

Already, Republicans led by McCarthy and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have forecasted investigations of the retreat’s aftermath, including billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. equipment falling into Taliban hands, the resulting rule of the hardline group, emerging violent threats and people left behind by the frantic evacuations.

“These strategic failures are too grave to ignore. That is why House Republicans are committed to pursuing answers to Biden’s disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal,” McCarthy, McCaul and other Republicans wrote in an op-ed in August before the release of a GOP report on the withdrawal.

The resulting 115-page report included a number of recommendations, but Republicans hinted at more oversight to come, echoing warnings from others that inquiries into the retreat would not cease until there were repercussions within the administration. Republicans in the Senate have pushed for blockades on certain nominees from the Biden White House over what they said was a lack of transparency over the withdrawal’s execution.

“President Biden’s own officials have described the end of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan as a ‘strategic failure’ and ‘an ugly final phase.’ Yet, to date, no senior administration officials have been held accountable,” read the House GOP report, spearheaded by McCaul. “The Committee Minority believes a much more thorough examination is needed to find complete answers as to how this happened and how to ensure something like this does not happen again.”

Biden and his aides have defended the choice to leave Afghanistan, saying the war’s costs, in lives and dollars, outweighed the strategic value.

Justice Department ‘politicization’

Republicans have consistently railed against what they see as the “politicization” of the Department of Justice under Biden, with McCarthy himself boasting that investigations would be incoming under a Republican House.

The floodgates of Republican claims of DOJ wrongdoing burst open in August when Attorney General Merrick Garland signed off on the FBI’s execution of a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort over allegations he improperly stored government documents there after leaving the White House. (Trump contends he is being politically persecuted.)

“I’ve seen enough,” McCarthy said in a statement. “The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization. When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned. Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a member of the GOP’s far-right flank, also drafted articles of impeachment for Garland over the search, arguing he did not “preserve, protect and defend” the U.S. Constitution. And while it’s unlikely that an impeachment effort would go far, Greene has an outsized megaphone for a House backbencher and could keep the pressure on McCarthy to exercise stringent oversight of the DOJ if she chooses.

ALSO READ  Missile not likely to attack Poland, Twitter employee TBEN: 5 Things podcast

The Justice Department’s investigation into Trump’s handling of documents, both classified and unclassified, continues. Garland has defended his department’s law enforcement actions, arguing that “faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy. Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favor.”

Republicans are also furious over a Justice Department memo last year warning of a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools,” which Republicans alleged was a precursor to clamping down on conservative activists.

Jordan, the likely chair of the House Judiciary Committee if Republicans retake the chamber, asked the DOJ to preserve its documents surrounding the memo.

Impeachment(s)

Republicans in the House are eyeing impeachment efforts for Biden as well as several of his top administration officials — a potentially historic escalation of the conflict between the legislative and executive branches, which the GOP casts as a necessary correction to congressional Democrats who impeached Trump.

Greene and some of her hardline allies have said they intend to impeach Biden for a range of supposed wrongdoings, an effort that has become a punchline in Democratic stump speeches but could be a headache for both Biden and McCarthy in the next Congress.

Other targets for impeachment include Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

While Republican fury with Garland has focused over alleged politicization of his department, the GOP has lambasted Mayorkas over what they say are overly lax border policies leading to a surge in unauthorized migration at the southern border.

“Mayorkas deserves [impeachment] for sure, because we no longer have a border,” Jordan told CNN last month, while Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Greene ally, said impeaching Mayorkas should be a “priority.”

Republicans are unlikely to succeed in impeaching all of their top administration foes, but McCarthy could try to funnel frustration into impeachment proceedings against a Cabinet secretary as a way to relieve some pressure from his conference and avoid impeaching Biden over a slew of amorphous allegations.

“I think the country doesn’t like impeachment used for political purposes at all,” McCarthy told Punchbowl News in an interview published Oct. 19. “If anyone ever rises to that occasion, you have to, but I think the country wants to heal and … start to see the system that actually works.”

Immigration and the southern border

Republicans have wielded immigration and unauthorized border crossings as potent attack lines against Democrats in recent election cycles, and there’s no reason to suspect the rally cry will stop at a House GOP majority.

Biden has already been caught between competing political forces over Title 42, a pandemic-era health order that allowed officials to turn away migrants at the border, though border encounters surged above 2 million in fiscal year 2022.

And as border crossings increase, Republicans are anticipated to keep hammering the White House even beyond going after Mayorkas, setting up what is anticipated to be a legislative fight.

Immigration reform has been a white whale for both parties in recent years, with Democrats pushing for increased protections to so-called Dreamers and Republicans clamoring for more border security measures like increased agents. The two parties have not been able to come up with a compromise with enough support to pass Congress, but Republicans have indicated another try is ahead.

“The first thing you’ll see is a bill to control the border first,” McCarthy told CNN Monday. “You’ve got to get control over the border. You’ve had almost 2 million people just this year alone coming across.”

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to note Rep. Michael McCaul’s correct position as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

TBEN News’ Trish Turner contributed to this report.