On Thursday, just before 8 p.m., Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene posted a video of herself at a town hall in her Georgia district, saying she “will not vote to fund the government” unless the House votes to open an impeachment inquiry against President Biden.
It took just 68 minutes for the White House to hit back with a scathing statement that such a vote would mean House Republicans had “bowed to their party’s hard core by prioritizing impeachment without foundation rather than the high-stakes needs that Americans care about”. deeply” topics like drug enforcement and disaster relief.
It turns out the White House isn’t waiting for a formal investigation to wage a war on impeachment. With a team of two dozen lawyers, parliamentary liaisons, communications specialists and others, the president began to act to counter any attempt to accuse him of serious crimes and misdemeanors with a campaign “the best defense is a good offense” aimed at dividing. Republicans and take his case to the public.
The President’s team has developed messages, legal and parliamentary strategies for different scenarios. Officials read books about past indictments, studied legal journal articles and consulted old court decisions. They even scoured correspondence between former presidential advisers and congressional investigators to determine what standards and precedents had been set.
At the same time, recognizing that any impeachment fight would be a political showdown in the run-up to an election season, outside allies have gone after Republicans like Ms. Greene and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. A group called the Congressional Integrity Project collected polling data, released statements, fact sheets and memos, and produced ads targeting 18 House Republicans representing districts that voted for Mr. Biden in 2020.
“As Republicans step up their impeachment efforts, they are certainly making it a political exercise and we are responding the same way,” said Kyle Herrig, executive director of the Congressional Integrity Project. “This is a moment of offense for Democrats. They have no reason to impeach them. They have no proof. They have nothing.
White House preparations do not indicate that Mr. Biden’s advisers believe an impeachment inquiry is inevitable. But advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the internal thinking said it was important to approach the prospect aggressively and expressed hope that the situation could turn to their advantage.
Republican Congressional investigations found Hunter Biden swapped his last name to generate multi-million dollar deals and a former partner, Devon Archer, said Mr Biden would put his father in touch with potential business clients to impress them.
But Mr Archer said the elder Biden was just engaging in idle chatter on those calls, not business, and no evidence has emerged that the president directly profited from his son’s deals or has misused his power while serving as vice president to further his son’s financial interests.
Republicans haven’t identified any specific indictable offenses and some have made it clear privately that they don’t see any at this time. The momentum for an impeachment inquiry appears to be driven largely by opposition to Mr. Biden’s policies and is fueled by former President Donald J. Trump, who is keen to tarnish his potential rival during the next year’s elections and openly presents the issue as a matter of revenge. “Either IMPEACH the BUM or fade into oblivion,” he instructed Republicans on his social media site last week. “THEY DID IT TO US!” »
This contrasts sharply with other modern impeachment efforts. When impeachment inquiries were opened against Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Bill Clinton and Mr. Trump, clear allegations of specific wrongdoing were made, whether or not they necessarily warranted their removal. In Mr. Biden’s case, it is unclear what actions he took that would be defined as a felony or misdemeanor.
Mr. McCarthy, the California Republican, cited “a culture of corruption” within the Biden family when explaining on Fox News last weekend why he might pursue an impeachment inquiry. “If you look at all the information we’ve been able to gather so far, it’s only natural that you should open an impeachment investigation,” he said.
Even if Republican investigators find evidence Mr Biden did something as vice president to help his son’s business, it would be the first time a president has faced impeachment for actions taken. before becoming president, raising new constitutional questions.
But for now, it’s uncertain whether Republicans would authorize an investigation. Mr. McCarthy told Breitbart News on Friday that if they pursue such an investigation, “it would be done through an indoor vote,” not an executive order from him, and the seasoned strategists of both parties doubt that he can muster the 218 votes needed to proceed.
The speaker’s flirtation with holding such a vote could simply be a way to satisfy Ms Greene and others on her right flank. He used his thirst to investigate Mr Biden as an argument against a government shutdown, suggesting a budget stalemate would stall House investigations.
But some Republicans have warned that a formal impeachment campaign could be a mistake. Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, said that “theatre of impeachment” was a distraction from spending issues and that he was not “responsible for us to talk about impeachment”. Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, said impeachment could “ignite an internal Republican civil war” and, if it fails, lead to “the worst and the greatest.” blowback for the Republicans”.
The White House has been building its team to defend against Republican congressional investigations for more than a year, with a team now preparing for a possible impeachment inquiry. Richard Sauber, a former federal prosecutor, was named special adviser in the spring of last year, and Ian Sams, a longtime Democratic communications expert, was named spokesman for the White House legal counsel office. Russell Anello, the top Democratic staffer on the House Oversight Committee, also joined him last year.
After Republicans took control of the House in November’s midterm elections, more people were recruited to handle the slew of congressional investigations. Stuart Delery, the White House attorney who is stepping down this month, will be replaced by Ed Siskel, who led Republican investigations into issues such as the Benghazi terror attack for President Barack Obama’s White House.
A key adviser to Mr. Biden will be his personal attorney, Bob Bauer, one of the most veteran figures in Washington’s legal-political wars. As a private lawyer, he advised the House Democratic leader during Mr. Clinton’s impeachment and then the Senate Democratic leader during the ensuing trial, helping to develop strategies that enabled the Democrats to remain largely united behind their president. And Biden aides like Steve Ricchetti and Bruce Reed were in the Clinton White House at the time.
Mr. Biden himself has witnessed nearly four impeachment attempts during his long career in Washington. He was a first-term senator when Mr. Nixon resigned rather than face a seemingly certain trial in the Senate in 1974 and a fifth-term senator when he voted to acquit Mr. Clinton in 1999. C It was Mr. Biden whom Mr. Trump tried to convince. pushed Ukraine to investigate, leading to the former president’s first impeachment in 2019. And it was Mr. Biden’s victory in 2020 that Mr. Trump tried to reverse with the help of a mob that attacked Congress on January 6, 2021, leading to a second impeachment.
Clinton’s impeachment battle has provided some lessons for the Biden team, even though the circumstances are very different and the political environment has changed dramatically in the 25 years since. Much like the Clinton White House, the Biden White House has tried to separate its defense against Republican investigators from the building’s day-to-day operations, tasking Mr. Sams with responding primarily off-camera to issues arising from the investigations rather than Karine Jean. -Pierre, the White House press secretary, during his televised press briefings.
As in the late 1990s, the strategy now is to portray Republicans as rabid partisans only interested in attacking the other party’s president for political or ideological motives, as opposed to a commander-in-chief focused on issues important to ordinary voters like health. care and the economy.
The approach worked for Mr. Clinton, whose approval ratings reached their highest level in his two terms, surpassing 70 percent, when he was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. Mr Biden’s approval ratings remain mired in his quarantine, but advisers believe a serious impeachment threat would rally disgruntled supporters.
Mr. Herrig’s Congressional Integrity Project, founded after last year’s midterm elections, hopes to turn the Republican impeachment campaign against them. His group’s board chairman, Jeff Peck, is a longtime Biden ally, and he recently hired Kate Berner, the former White House deputy communications director.
The group has teams in New York and California and plans to expand to other battlefield districts. “He’s a political loser for vulnerable Republicans,” Mr. Herrig said. “McCarthy is doing what Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene want and putting his majority at risk.”