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Investigations and Impeachments
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Investigations and Impeachments

Republicans prepare to take back the House—and make life difficult for President Joe Biden.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol after a news conference. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images)

Hello and happy Election Day. If you haven’t already, get out and vote!

The outcome of today’s midterm elections isn’t certain, but Republicans look poised to win the House of Representatives. 

In Friday’s Uphill, we looked at the dynamics that could define a Republican House: policy priorities, messaging bills, personalities, and more. Today, we’re looking at which investigations—and impeachments—to expect.

The Specter of Impeachment

For months some House Republicans have clamored to impeach President Joe Biden. Sensing political danger, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is wary of beginning such proceedings, but he might not be able to stave it off.

“The country doesn’t like impeachment used for political purposes at all,” McCarthy told Punchbowl News in an interview last month. “If anyone ever rises to that occasion, you have to, but I think the country wants to heal.”

Asked if any Biden administration officials should be considered for impeachment proceedings, he said he doesn’t “see it before me right now.”

Far-right members, led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, disagree. The Georgia freshman has introduced five articles of impeachment against Biden and is pledging that a Republican House will follow through. “Any GOP Member growing weak on this will sorely disappoint our country,” she wrote last week.

Other Republicans, mostly from the House Freedom Caucus, have sought to impeach Biden, too—along with Vice President Kamala Harris, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The various articles of impeachment primarily stem from the administration’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan and an influx of migrants through the Southern border.

Most of these impeachment attempts have struggled to win cosponsors, so it may appear there’s no momentum for impeachment. But lawmakers outside Freedom Caucus circles are acknowledging the urge to impeach coming from the GOP’s base.

“I believe there’s a lot of pressure on Republicans to have that vote,” Rep. Nancy Mace, a South Carolina Republican who has repeatedly criticized Greene, said on NBC last month. “I think that is something that some folks are considering.”

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has also suggested impeachment may happen “whether it’s justified or not.”

And the twice-impeached, most powerful man in Republican politics might just be personally calling GOP lawmakers and asking them how many times they’ll be impeaching Biden, according to this story from Rolling Stone.

Brendan Buck, a former House Republican leadership aide, said last week that the dynamics could depend on who controls the Senate. If Democrats hold the chamber, he said, impeachment becomes more likely.

“If Republicans control the Senate, Mitch McConnell is not going to appreciate having to deal with random impeachment resolutions every couple months,” Buck said. “Time on the floor is very valuable in the Senate, and I think he will not appreciate that. Now, if it’s Chuck Schumer’s Senate still, I don’t think Mitch McConnell will care quite as much. He might actually be encouraging the House to be sending over impeachment resolutions to gum things up so they can’t pass more judges and things like that.”

In an interview with The Dispatch, Buck worried Republicans could throw the House “into a bit of chaos.” He also thinks impeachment could be bad politics and “a way to make Joe Biden popular again.”

McCarthy, he said, will have to make sure committee chairs feel they have autonomy and authority. “But he’s also going to need to make sure they’re managing an overall oversight plan that doesn’t go down a bunch of rabbit holes that are ultimately really unpopular.”

On that note, here’s a look at some of the investigations Republicans are set to launch if they take the House:

Afghanistan Withdrawal

The Biden administration’s chaotic, deadly, and ill-prepared withdrawal from Afghanistan—a disaster by all accounts—will receive more scrutiny if Republicans control the chamber.

An interim report released over the summer by the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Mike McCaul, highlights where his team will focus in demanding answers from officials. Among other grievous errors, Republicans will examine how hundreds of Americans were left behind; the possibility of U.S.-trained former Afghan military personnel who had to flee sharing sensitive knowledge with American adversaries; and the State Department’s failure to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans who had helped coalition forces and earned residency in the United States.

“Following the evacuation debacle, the Committee Minority believes America’s standing in the world has been degraded, the U.S. is less safe than it was before, and those Afghans most at-risk of Taliban reprisals remain trapped in Afghanistan,” McCaul’s report read. 

It also provided a roadmap to the witness testimony Republicans will seek: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, State Department spokesman Ned Price, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, former White House press secretary Jen Psaki, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, several other national security advisers, USAID Administrator Samantha Powers, and more than two dozen other government officials involved in the withdrawal.

The report also calls for a robust schedule of open hearings with senior Biden administration officials who played a role in the planning and execution of the withdrawal.

Justice Department

House Judiciary Committee Republicans are signaling their own plans: investigations into alleged political interference at the Justice Department.

Some of this will be familiar: A GOP report published last week points to FBI overreach in spying on Trump campaign associate Carter Page and argues for internal changes, beyond inspector general reports and a review that found two of four warrants against Page were invalid.

But the report also has its fair share of new concerns Republicans will investigate. Citing whistleblowers, the document alleges the FBI has suspended or fired employees for holding “conservative” views. It later elaborates that some of these whistleblowers had security clearances revoked after participating in rallies on January 6, 2021, presumably questioning the presidential election results.

GOP lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee will also push on the FBI’s confiscation of classified documents from former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida, and its approach to threats and violence against crisis pregnancy centers since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision sent abortion policy to the states over the summer. 

And of course, there’s Hunter Biden.

Hunter Biden 

Republicans have been digging into the business dealings of President Biden’s son, Hunter, for years. Armed with subpoena power, House GOP committees would immediately renew efforts to obtain information about his transactions with foreign companies.

Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, who may become chairman of the Oversight Committee, told CNN last week that on November 9—tomorrow—he’ll send a letter to the Treasury Department requesting suspicious bank activity reports tied to Hunter Biden, hoping the department will take it more seriously if Republicans have the House majority. 

“We’re not investigating Hunter Biden for political reasons,” Comer told Time last month. “We’re investigating Hunter Biden because we believe he’s a national security threat, who we fear has compromised Joe Biden.”

House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik has pledged Republicans will subpoena Hunter Biden directly to ask about the contents of his laptop. The material includes evidence of drug use and pornography, making it particularly seedy, but GOP lawmakers have suggested they will focus on his business dealings and whether the president was personally involved in any shady behavior.

The timing and focus of Republican investigations could also be affected by an ongoing Justice Department investigation into Hunter. Federal agents believe they have enough evidence to charge him with tax crimes and a gun purchase violation, according to the Washington Post.

COVID Origins

Perhaps the most far-reaching House investigation will focus on the origins of The deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s still not clear where it originated: Scientists have theorized it made the animal-to-human leap (with the most popular theory that it started in a bat), but many have suggested it escaped from a lab at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have been probing the virus’s origins since March 2021. That investigation will ramp up if GOP members win the gavel, likely with public hearings and potentially by compelling testimony from officials. They are particularly focused on “gain-of-function” research that can make pathogens more dangerous for humans.

A National Institutes of Health grant to a nonprofit in 2018 and 2019 helped fund experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology studying bat coronaviruses—the NIH has said reviews of the viruses that were studied under this grant showed they “were so far distant from an evolutionary standpoint” than the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic that “they could not have possibly been the source” of the pandemic.

Still, it appears the nonprofit and the Wuhan lab did not follow all protocols: The NIH told congressional Republicans last year that experiments it funded had the unexpected result of making a coronavirus more infectious in mice. If reported to the NIH, that could have prompted a safety review. But the nonprofit, EcoHealth Alliance, did not report it as required.

Republicans will continue to dig into questions about the grants and whether the American government is funding research that may be too risky. 

Resolutions of Inquiry

Those won’t be House Republicans’ only investigations: They’ve filed many resolutions of inquiry, a tool to request information from the Biden administration, on a wide range of issues. The party is also set to investigate the Biden administration’s handling of the Southern border, a leak of taxpayer information last year, and the high-profile leak of a draft of the Dobbs decision to Politico earlier this year.

While you wait for election returns to roll in, you may want to read many of these resolutions here, or a helpful Roll Call story reporting on some notable ones is available here

Of Note

Haley Wilt is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.