Speaker Kevin McCarthy walked into an impeachment trap left by Trump’s DOJ
"If Kevin McCarthy believes Trump's 2019 impeachment was illegitimate, then there's no way he can believe otherwise about an impeachment inquiry of Biden.
Kevin McCarthy’s decision to unilaterally launch an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden this week is an incredible lesson in doing your homework.
According to Politico, in 2020, the Donald Trump-led Justice Department formally declared that impeachment inquiries are invalid unless the entire chamber takes formal votes to authorize them. As the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote at the time, “[W]e conclude that the House must expressly authorize a committee to conduct an impeachment investigation and to use compulsory process in that investigation before the committee may compel the production of documents or testimony.”
Importantly, the Politico article also notes that the House GOP’s impending inquiry into Biden “is expected to feature significant scrutiny of actions taken by the Justice Department, FBI and IRS in relation to its investigation of Biden’s son Hunter and his foreign business dealings. All three agencies would be bound by the OLC opinion.” In other words, McCarthy’s decision to barrel forward ignores the guidance put in place just a few years ago by Republicans. It’s the sort of self-defeating, chaotic revelation that has come to define McCarthy’s tenure as speaker.
McCarthy should be doubly embarrassed because even if he didn’t know about the Justice Department opinion, he was quoted in Breitbart little more than a week ago saying: “To open an impeachment inquiry is a serious matter, and House Republicans would not take it lightly or use it for political purposes. The American people deserve to be heard on this matter through their elected representatives. That’s why, if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person.”
Indeed, McCarthy has been surprisingly consistent on this point. In September 2019, he tweeted: “Speaker Pelosi can’t decide on impeachment unilaterally. It requires a full vote of the House of Representatives.” The same month, McCarthy tweeted again, “The Speaker of the House moved to have an impeachment inquiry *before* she read one word of evidence.” The next month, he tweeted: “It’s been 34 days since Nancy Pelosi unilaterally declared her impeachment inquiry. … We will not legitimize the Schiff/Pelosi sham impeachment.”
But if he viewed that impeachment inquiry as illegitimate, surely he should view this one as even more illegitimate, given that this effort goes further to contradict the OLC guidance put in place by the leader of his own party. Surely.
The White House can cooperate or push back against subpoenas, as is potentially its right in this case given the OLC opinion. But more important, the narrative that Republicans will seize on has no bearing in reality. Take, for example, Devon Archer, a former business partner of Hunter Biden whom the GOP spent weeks hyping as its star witness. Lawmakers swore up and down that Archer would provide damning evidence that Joe and Hunter were involved in an influence-peddling scheme.
The only problem? Archer had no such evidence. After he testified, Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y.., tweeted that it had become crystal clear that the GOP investigation had uncovered zero evidence tying Hunter Biden’s business dealings to his father. “The American people are tired of this wild goose chase and I urge @RepJamesComer to close it immediately,” he said.
Obviously, Republicans didn’t heed this advice. Instead of recognizing their blunder and conceding defeat, the GOP has opted to move forward with an impeachment inquiry. Its star witness absolved the guy it sought to crucify. But this was never about the facts and always about the narrative.
So when I say that it doesn’t matter what the White House does, that’s because very clearly, Republicans will operate within the confines of their own reality. And they will say whatever is most convenient, irrespective of its basis in truth.
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The Biden administration must recognize that the GOP hasn’t and most likely won’t operate in good faith. Perhaps that means the White House should defer to the Republicans’ own OLC guidance in resisting the demands of this impeachment inquiry until there’s a full House vote — forcing vulnerable House Republicans in 18 districts Biden won to cast their ballots.
The GOP is desperately trying to avoid this, given how baseless and unpopular the entire effort is. Democrats didn’t make the rules, but in this instance, they should at least be willing to play by them."