The top Republican in the US House of Representatives this week announced he was launching an impeachment investigation into President Joe Biden, despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing by the president.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced the probe on Tuesday, caving to pressure from far-right Republicans who’ve threatened to remove him from his position if he fails to impeach Biden and cut government spending on key programs—a move that could force a government shutdown at the end of the month.
Former President Donald Trump—who faces 91 criminal charges, and is the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination—has also privately pressured Republicans to impeach Biden, leading some critics on both sides of the aisle to argue that the impeachment is an effort to distract from Trump’s own legal issues, or create a false parallel between him and Biden.
McCarthy’s decision to appease the most extreme members of his caucus comes less than three years after many of the same lawmakers tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election to help Trump stay in office.
McCarthy—who also voted to overturn the 2020 election and continues to remain loyal to Trump—decided to announce an impeachment investigation without holding a House vote, suggesting he would not have had enough votes from fellow Republicans to actually get formal approval for an inquiry.
McCarthy said three committees—Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means—would be tasked with carrying out the investigation into Biden, which is based on unproven claims and conspiracy theories, mostly surrounding the business dealings of Biden’s son, Hunter.
The impeachment inquiry announcement comes after Republicans in the House have already spent more than eight months researching the president and his family, seeking any evidence of wrongdoing or corruption. Hunter Biden has also been under federal investigation for five years and was indicted on federal gun charges on Thursday.
Despite their party’s best efforts, several GOP lawmakers have themselves admitted to finding no evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden.
“I have not seen any evidence that links President Biden to Hunter Biden’s activities,” Republican Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado said this week.
Republican Reps. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, Dave Joyce of Ohio, and Don Bacon of Nebraska also criticized the effort.
“As of now I don’t support [an impeachment inquiry],” Bacon said. “I think an inquiry should be based on evidence of a crime that points directly to President Biden… impeachment needs to be about the dad, not the son.”
On the Senate side, Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia expressed frustration with McCarthy’s decision.
“I don’t know what it’s based on. I have no idea what they’re talking about,” Capito said. “I don’t want to see impeachment being used as an everyday instrument. I don’t think that’s what it’s intended for.”
“I haven’t heard any allegation that would rise to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor,” added Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.
In a statement posted on X (formerly known as Twitter), White House spokesman Ian Sams criticized McCarthy for embracing “extreme politics at its worst.”
Biden himself addressed the inquiry on Wednesday.
“I don’t know quite why, but they just knew they wanted to impeach me. And now, the best I can tell, they want to impeach me because they want to shut down the government,” Biden said at a campaign reception in McLean, Virginia.
“So look, look, I got a job to do. Everybody always asked about impeachment. I get up every day, not a joke, not focused on impeachment. I’ve got a job to do. I’ve got to deal with the issues that affect the American people every single solitary day,” he added.
Impeachment experts also blasted the probe this week, pointing out a complete lack of justification for investigating Biden.
“This is very disturbing for people who study past impeachments, because impeachment is really a very extreme measure,” constitutional scholar Philip Bobbitt, a professor at Columbia Law School and expert on the history of impeachment, told Time Magazine. “I honestly don’t know that there is any evidence tying the president to corrupt activities when he was vice president or now.”
“Biden’s Republican pursuers have got exactly zero, zip, bupkis, on any matter that might be impeachable,” added Frank Bowman, professor emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Law.
“What they’re doing here is absolutely shocking…[they] have no interest at all in preserving the basic integrity of the process, or indeed their own power as legislators in legitimate opposition and tension with the executive branch.”
The nature of the inquiry is perhaps best underscored by the fact that Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene have pushed for impeachment since Biden was inaugurated more than two and a half years ago.
That failure comes as the faction of far-right members pushing for impeachment are seeking an extreme series of demands as part of any budget agreement—including defunding the Department of Justice and the FBI, stopping America’s aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia, and anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ measures.
Those hardline demands make a shutdown increasingly likely—a move that would cause hundreds of thousands of federal workers to be furloughed without pay and disrupt non-essential government services.
Ultimately, even if McCarthy and far-right Republicans manage to vote to impeach Biden in the House—which is unlikely given their narrow five-seat majority—there is no chance the Senate would follow suit.
As House Republicans clearly know this, an impeachment trial doesn’t appear to be their goal.
In fact, Greene personally told Trump that she wants the impeachment investigation to be “long and excruciatingly painful for Joe Biden,” according to her own recounting of a private dinner with the former president.
To one anonymous Senate Republican, McCarthy’s announcement is a “waste of time” and a “fool’s errand.”
“Maybe this is just Kevin giving people their binkie to get through the shutdown,” the Senate Republican told The Hill. “They’re all acting like children.”