Biden Impeachment Inquiry: Here’s How The Process Could Play Out—And How It Could End


House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden on Tuesday amid a wide-ranging, months-long probe into possible links between the president and his family’s business dealings, specifically concerning his now-federally indicted son Hunter Biden—a move that could result in Biden’s impeachment, but his acquittal in a trial before the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Key Facts

Requests for bank records: House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday the committee, one of three leading the inquiry, would start by pursuing bank records for Hunter Biden and his uncle, James Biden, expressing hope that the official inquiry will add a new layer of seriousness to their demands for documents and witness testimony.

It’s unclear if the impeachment inquiry will actually compel the president and his family members to provide more information to the committees, even under a subpoena—the Justice Department sided with former President Donald Trump when he resisted a House subpoena during his last impeachment inquiry, determining that he was not required to comply because the inquiry was opened without a formal floor vote, Politico noted.

A formal vote on an impeachment inquiry: McCarthy also opted to order an impeachment inquiry without a vote on the House floor, drawing criticism from Democrats who pointed out he opposed a similar move by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during Trump’s 2019 impeachment, but the House did vote to approve the inquiry five weeks after Pelosi opened it, giving committees time to gather more evidence, Politico noted, citing an unnamed senior GOP aide who said McCarthy is also planning to call for a vote to formalize the inquiry.

More witness testimony: Attorney General Merrick Garland is scheduled to give routine testimony before the Judiciary Committee next week, according to Punchbowl, and he’ll likely be asked about allegations of political interference in the agency’s investigation of Hunter Biden’s tax issues and foreign business dealings—an issue that is secondary, but intrinsically connected, to the impeachment inquiry.

The Judiciary and Oversight Committees have also subpoenaed multiple other Justice Department, Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, FBI and IRS officials for information or their appearances before the committees, and Comer last month threatened to subpoena members of the Biden family.

A vote to impeach Biden: The Judiciary Committee would likely draft the articles of impeachment against Biden, according to the Associated Press, and each would have to be approved by a majority vote in the House, which would formally impeach the president.

A Senate trial: Removal from office requires a vote of two-thirds of the upper chamber, an unlikely outcome in the Democratic-controlled Senate and one that has never happened in the previous four impeachment trials of three U.S. presidents (Trump in 2020 and 2021, Bill Clinton in 1999 and Andrew Johnson in 1868).

It’s unclear how quickly the process could unfold, and there are no rules dictating how long an impeachment inquiry could last (Comer declined to give an answer when asked by Punchbowl about a potential timeline) but in the case of Trump’s 2019 impeachment inquiry, the House voted on articles of impeachment within three months of launching an inquiry, and the Senate trial wrapped about two months later.

What To Watch For

Republicans, holding a 222-213 majority in the House, can afford to lose only five votes to pass any legislation. McCarthy is widely believed to have called for an inquiry without a formal vote because it’s unclear it would have passed as several Republican moderates, including Reps. Ken Buck (Colo.) and Don Bacon (Neb.), expressed skepticism about the impeachment push. Now that the process has begun, it’s unlikely articles of impeachment are not brought to the floor for a formal vote, and when they are, Republicans are expected to approve the measures as rejecting them would suggest innocence on Biden’s behalf.

Key Background

McCarthy announced Tuesday the House Ways and Means, Oversight and Judiciary Committees opened the impeachment inquiry—an announcement that came hours after reports that McCarthy was expected to endorse the effort this week. McCarthy initially opposed an impeachment resolution brought before the House in July as “premature,” but has expressed openness to the idea in recent weeks as the committees have unveiled more information their Republican leaders have used to bolster their sprawling narrative against the president and his family. McCarthy cited claims that the president had inappropriate “phone calls” and “dinners” with his son’s business partners (an unfounded accusation the president has denied) in explaining the merits for an inquiry. He also noted an unverified bribery accusation from an FBI source and alluded to the Justice Department’s handling of Hunter Biden’s case compared to its handling of criminal probes into Trump. Republicans have claimed the agency has been lenient on Hunter Biden in prosecuting him for tax and gun crimes, but has been unfairly harsh in its classified documents and January 6 cases against Trump.

Further Reading

White House Blasts GOP Impeachment Inquiry: ‘Extreme Politics At Its Worst’ (Forbes)

Biden Impeachment Inquiry: All The Allegations Against The President Leveled By House GOP, Explained (Forbes)

House GOP Launching Impeachment Inquiry Into Joe Biden, McCarthy Says (Forbes)

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