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House Republicans divided on Biden impeachment: Investigation uncertainty rrevails

House Republicans are moving forward with their investigation into the business activities of President Joe Biden’s family. Some Republicans think there might be an impeachment vote against Biden early in 2024. However, others believe the investigation could extend into the election year because of legal issues involving the request for documents and testimonies.

A third group, including both Republicans and Democrats, think that Speaker Mike Johnson might not even attempt an impeachment vote. This could be due to not finding any solid evidence or not having enough support within the GOP.

“If I had $100 and a chance to bet to turn it into a million dollars, I don’t know that I’d risk losing that $100 on this process,” said one GOP member who previously served in leadership. “Bottom line: I don’t know how it’s gonna turn out.”

“One of the possibilities is that they don’t force a vote on articles of impeachment because they don’t have articles of impeachment,” added a senior House Democratic aide who is closely tracking the GOP’s impeachment efforts.

The leading Republican investigators — Jim Jordan, James Comer, and Jason Smith — have raised questions about the ethics of the Biden family’s actions but haven’t found any direct proof of illegal actions or unethical influence by President Biden himself.

Even members of the Republican party acknowledge they haven’t found evidence to support claims of serious wrongdoing by Biden.

“I haven’t seen any yet, to date, that shows me that the president did anything wrong,” Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio, a former longtime county prosecutor and the leader of the centrist Republican Governance Group, said in an interview. “We’ve gone through the process of indicting President Biden and the members of the Biden family, but we’ve not seen any of the evidence yet that gives weight to the indictment.”

Another GOP skeptic, Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, warned that an overtly politicized impeachment could backfire on his own party.

“If this is perceived as being a revenge impeachment or a politicized impeachment … it will hurt the Republicans,” Bacon said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press NOW” Wednesday. “If we don’t handle this right and if it looks like we’re using it as a political weapon, it will come back to bite us all.”

Still, both Bacon and Joyce said they voted, along with every other Republican, to launch the impeachment inquiry earlier this month to empower investigators to get more information from the Biden family and the administration

Echoes of Benghazi

Delaying or completely avoiding an impeachment vote might upset the conservative supporters of the party, but it could also be a smart move for the Republicans politically.

This situation is somewhat similar to the investigation into Hillary Clinton about Benghazi, which continued to trouble her during the 2016 election, even after Trump won. The ongoing impeachment inquiry into Biden could distract from the various legal cases against Donald Trump in New York, Washington, D.C., Florida, and Georgia, including a trial about classified documents set for May and another case about election interference in Georgia planned for August.

A recent survey by NPR/PBS/Marist shows that Americans are divided on the Biden impeachment investigation, with 49% in favor and 48% against, a shift from a previous poll in October showing less support. Also, an AP-NORC poll from October found that nearly 70% of voters think Biden might have done something illegal or unethical in relation to his son’s business activities.

Not pushing for a vote could benefit Republicans in tough election battles who are hesitant to support a forceful impeachment campaign. Since a unanimous GOP vote to start the inquiry on December 13, the Democrats have criticized the 17 Republicans from competitive districts that Biden won in 2020 for yielding to extreme pressures from their party and Trump.

Speaker Johnson, in a recent press meeting, chose not to talk about the possibility that Republicans might decide against filing impeachment charges against Biden.

“We’re not going to prejudge the outcome of this,” the speaker replied. “We can’t because, again, it’s not a political calculation.”

Representative Ted Lieu from California, a key figure in the Democratic party who played a significant role during Trump’s second impeachment trial in the Senate, disagrees with comparing the GOP’s Benghazi investigation to their current impeachment inquiry into Biden. He believes a more apt comparison would be to Bill Clinton’s impeachment, which actually improved Clinton’s public approval and led to the GOP losing seats in the 1998 midterm elections, ultimately causing Speaker Newt Gingrich to resign.

Lieu predicts that this impeachment attempt against Biden will only increase the President’s popularity by highlighting that the Republicans are concentrating on issues that don’t align with the majority of Americans’ concerns. He mentioned, “While Democrats are working on reducing costs and creating jobs, Republicans are wasting time on unfounded impeachment efforts. This focus on impeachment only benefits the Democrats and Joe Biden.”

The challenge for Speaker Johnson is becoming even more complex due to skepticism within his own party about the solidity of their evidence against Biden. The situation is made more difficult with the recent expulsion of Rep. George Santos and Kevin McCarthy’s resignation, reducing Johnson’s majority. With these changes, Johnson can only afford to lose a few GOP votes on any decision, including one to impeach Biden, which would likely lead to a Senate trial ending in acquittal due to the Democratic majority.

This slim majority could shrink further with the resignation of Rep. Bill Johnson and a potential victory for Tom Suozzi in a special election. This puts even more pressure on the need for solid evidence before proceeding with an impeachment vote.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk from Georgia, a critic of the Trump impeachments, emphasized the importance of having substantial evidence before considering an impeachment vote against Biden, suggesting it should happen early in the year if at all.

Democrats are expected to uniformly oppose an impeachment vote, and Loudermilk believes that without enough GOP support, Johnson might decide against bringing it to the floor. There’s a risk that failing to pass an impeachment vote could be seen as the GOP clearing Biden after a long investigation.

“I think if the evidence is not there, then probably the speaker wouldn’t bring it forward,” the Georgia congressman said. “We’re trying to do it by the books. The Democrats lowered the constitutional bar on impeachment; we’ve got to raise it back.”

No timeline for a vote

Leading Republicans are taking their time with the decision on when to hold an impeachment vote.

Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, who will soon lead the conservative Freedom Caucus, hesitated to set a date for such a vote. Similarly, Ways and Means Committee Chairman, who has been investigating Hunter Biden’s alleged tax violations and potential obstruction by the Biden Justice Department, didn’t commit to a specific timeline either.

“There’s a lot of information we need to get,” Smith told NBC News. “It’s hard to put a timeline on it. It depends on how cooperative the administration and the witnesses will be with us because they have not been.”

“It needs to take as long as it needs to take in order to get it right,” added Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla. “So I don’t have any preconceived notion of whether that’s next week or next year.”

The decision to officially start the impeachment inquiry is aimed at strengthening the ability of investigators to enforce subpoenas and collect further evidence. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, a staunch supporter of Trump and a former member of the Benghazi committee, has already identified his primary subjects for deposition. He is focused on Jack Morgan and Mark Daly, two DOJ tax division attorneys mentioned by IRS whistleblowers as having initially supported felony tax charges against Hunter Biden. Despite a plea agreement proposing probation for Hunter Biden in exchange for a guilty plea on tax violations, this deal collapsed in August.

Recently, special counsel David Weiss charged Hunter Biden with nine tax-related offenses, including three felonies.

“DOJ has refused to let us talk to those guys,” Jordan said of Morgan and Daly. “So, we think with this official inquiry, we got a better chance of talking to those two individuals who were the only two people in the investigation that we haven’t deposed yet.”

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