Former President Trump’s presence is looming large over House Republicans’ decision to push ahead with an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.
Trump has publicly called for House Republicans to impeach his successor and has privately spoken with members of the conference on the topic. The former president also suggested in an interview this week that the push for Biden to be impeached may partly be a tit-for-tat effort in response to Trump’s impeachment.
“I think had they not done it to me, and I’m very popular, they like me and I like them, the Republican Party, perhaps you wouldn’t have it being done to them,” Trump told Megyn Kelly on her SiriusXM show.
“And this is going to happen with indictments, too. … And I think you’re going to see that as time goes by, you’re going to see Republicans when they’re in power, doing it,” he added. “And it’s a shame when that happens. I’m not in favor of that, but that’s what’s going to happen because that’s human nature.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) this week directed House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into Biden, a move that came as he faced growing pressure from conservative members of the House to move forward with the process.
In the months that the House Oversight Committee has been investigating the Biden family’s business dealings, it has not found that the president directly financially benefited from his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings or proven he made any policy decisions because of them.
Trump has made no secret of his desire to see House Republicans impeach his predecessor, even as several members of the conference have expressed reservations.
The former president wrote in a late August post on Truth Social that Republicans should impeach Biden, or they would “fade into OBLIVION.”
Last weekend, Trump dined with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) at his Bedminster, N.J., property. While a Trump adviser declined to comment on the contents of their conversation, Greene was among the earliest advocates for impeaching Biden, dating to when she joined the House in 2021 and Republicans were in the minority.
The former president on Tuesday spoke with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, shortly after McCarthy announced plans to move forward with an impeachment inquiry, underscoring the degree to which Trump remains in the loop with House GOP leadership.
Democrats have seized on Trump’s comments to make the case that House Republicans are only pursuing an impeachment inquiry into Biden for revenge.
“Donald Trump argued what we already know: Republicans’ baseless impeachment inquiry is motivated by politics and revenge,” the Democratic National Committee said in a statement. “Trump’s admission comes after he had been telling his allies in the House to use the same debunked conspiracy theories to pursue their political stunts in an effort to help Trump’s presidential campaign.”
Trump, who is the front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, was impeached twice during his four years in office.
The first time in 2019 was over his attempts to pressure Ukrainian leadership to investigate the Biden family as his administration withheld military aid.
The second time came in 2021 in the days after the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, when Trump supporters stormed the complex to try and halt the certification of the 2020 election results. Trump had for weeks claimed the election was stolen and had urged his supporters to protest at the Capitol.
In addition to Trump himself hovering in the background of the House proceedings, the former president’s first impeachment is already factoring into the discourse over how Republicans are handling their inquiry into Biden.
Republicans in 2019 jeered Democrats after they opened an impeachment inquiry without holding a full House vote on the matter.
The Trump Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion at the time concluding that the House “must expressly authorize a committee to conduct an impeachment investigation” for the inquiry and subsequent proceedings to be valid.
Now, the tables have turned. Democrats are ridiculing Republicans and accusing McCarthy of hypocrisy because he did not authorize the impeachment inquiry with a full House vote.
Biden, meanwhile, could lean on the Trump-era opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel to push back on the House GOP probe as illegitimate.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre this week called the probe into Biden a “baseless inquiry that the House Republicans can’t even really defend themselves.”
Experts said that with House Republicans finally moving forward with an impeachment inquiry against Biden, it reflects a new era of politics where impeachment is used as more of a cudgel and as a tool of retribution.
Dave Hopkins, a political science professor at Boston College, argued Republicans have faced pressure from their base voters all year to impeach Biden, just as Democratic lawmakers faced pressure from their voters to impeach Trump upon taking the majority in 2019.
“We’ve moved from a time where we went 200-plus years with one impeachment, and then we’ve had three in the last 25 years,” Hopkins said. “And I’m guessing in the next 25 years, there won’t be zero.”
This story was updated at 8:45 a.m.