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Biden impeachment inquiry risks backfiring on House GOP

The House GOP’s impeachment inquiry into President Biden risks backfiring on Republicans by inadvertently aiding Democrats and the president or peeving the conservative base if it does not move fast enough.

Swing-district Republicans will have to justify the impeachment probe — which GOP lawmakers approved unanimously — to voters and are already being targeted for their votes. Biden’s reelection campaign, meanwhile, is finding success with fundraising off the impeachment efforts.

There is also a major question of whether the House GOP will have the votes in a razor-thin majority to approve any eventual impeachment articles. Not impeaching Biden risks Republicans appearing to clear him of wrongdoing during an election year, boosting Democratic arguments that the probe is political and infuriating both hard-line conservative House members and voters eager to see the president impeached.  

Republican leaders have beat down suggestions that the impeachment inquiry is political. 

But that is at the core of arguments coming from those defending the president, fueling attacks on vulnerable Republicans and winning fundraising pitches for Biden.

A Biden reelection campaign email this week signed by Vice President Harris that slammed the impeachment inquiry as “nothing but political theater” became the campaign’s top-performing email signed by her this cycle, and the campaign’s best fundraising email in the month of December so far, according to a source familiar with the campaign’s metrics and first reported by CNBC

A previous Harris email on impeachment from earlier in the year, when then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) first announced an impeachment inquiry, became her top-performing fundraising email at the time as well.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the campaign arm for House Democrats, sent out statements targeting specific Republicans for their impeachment inquiry votes.

In those, DCCC spokesperson Viet Shelton said the impeachment inquiry is “a cheap, cynical stunt by MAGA Republicans” and that they are “doing Donald Trump’s bidding.”

One of those targeted Republicans, Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), said he does not see political risk in the impeachment inquiry, despite those attacks. 

“When there is wrong, I’ll call it out if it’s my own side of the aisle, or the other side of the aisle,” Valadao said. “This inquiry allows questions to be asked.”

House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), who is leading a portion of the impeachment inquiry focused on bank records and Biden’s finances, also dismissed the idea that the inquiry is risky.

“I think the moderate Democrats are more at risk than the moderate Republicans,” Comer told The Hill. “Because you have a historically unpopular president, a president that not only do they think he’s too old, and his policies are awful, they think he’s a crook. And one thing that Republicans and Democrats alike agree on is they detest politicians that are involved in public corruption.”

The House GOP’s impeachment inquiry is examining hotly disputed allegations about whether Biden improperly benefited from or used policy to benefit the foreign business dealings of family members, as well as allegations that the Department of Justice improperly slow-walked a tax crimes investigation into his son, Hunter Biden. The White House and Biden have vigorously denied any wrongdoing or that he was involved in his son’s business activities. 

But even as they have authorized an impeachment inquiry and those leading the probe arguing that evidence is compelling, many Republicans said approving an inquiry investigation is distinct from accusing the president of wrongdoing — and left open the possibility that they will not find impeachable offenses.

“That doesn’t mean we have high crimes or misdemeanors. We may not ever,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said of the House approving the inquiry.

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) said it is not “a foregone conclusion” that the House moves to approve impeachment articles.

But declining to move forward to impeachment articles, or a vote on them, could serve not only to appear to clear Biden of wrongdoing, but infuriate the GOP’s right wing.

“We have to hold ourselves up to a standard. We can’t let this be a shiny toy. It has to be real,” former Trump adviser Steve Bannon said of the impeachment inquiry on his “War Room” podcast just after the House approved the inquiry resolution, adding that he expects a vote as soon as February or March.

With the expulsion of former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) and the coming resignation of McCarthy at the end of the year, plus other coming departures, it is in the realm of possibility that the House GOP majority could be so slim that just three defections could sink any party-line measure.

Internal GOP opposition has already forced GOP leadership to pull various bills from consideration this year.

Even the impeachment inquiry vote caused some heartburn for Republicans, Comer said, adding that moderate Republicans were “on edge” about it.

“The least little things can get our guys — some of our guys — sidetracked,” Comer said, referencing opposition on other bills this year. “Anything that could have created one or two from voting no on it. So, you always worry about the votes.”

Asked about the impeachment inquiry appearing to be a dud if the House does not hold a vote on impeachment in the next few months, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) stressed the importance of a methodical process.

“There shouldn’t be any such thing as a snap impeachment, a sham impeachment, what the Democrats did against President Trump. This is the opposite of that,” Johnson said. “And that’s why people are getting restless. They want things to happen quickly. If you follow the Constitution, and you do the right thing, you cannot rush it.”

Rebecca Beitsch contributed.

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