Friday, March 15, 2024

No basis to impeach, refer for criminal prosecution

Facing the prospect that they may never be able to impeach President Biden, House Republicans are exploring a pivot to a different strategy: issuing criminal referrals against him and those close to him, reported The New York Times.

In recent weeks, a political and factual reality has set in on Capitol Hill. Despite their subpoenas and depositions, House Republicans have been unable to produce any solid evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden and lack the votes in their own party to charge him with high crimes and misdemeanors, the constitutional standard for impeachment.

Instead, top G.O.P. lawmakers have begun strategizing about making criminal referrals against Mr. Biden, members of his family and his associates, essentially sending letters to the Justice Department urging prosecutors to investigate specific crimes they believe may have been committed.

The move would be largely symbolic, but it would allow Republicans in Congress to try to save face while ending their so far struggling impeachment inquiry. It has the added appeal for the G.O.P. of aligning with former President Donald J. Trump’s vow to prosecute Mr. Biden if he wins the election.

And it would avoid a repeat of the humiliating process House Republicans, who have a tiny and dwindling majority, went through last month with the impeachment of Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. After initially falling short of the votes to impeach Mr. Mayorkas, Republicans barely succeeded on the second try, only to realize that the Democratic-controlled Senate was poised to quickly acquit him — or even dismiss the charges without a trial.

“There’s nothing that I’ve heard in the last couple of weeks that says that we are anywhere close to having the votes” for impeachment, said Representative Kelly Armstrong, Republican of North Dakota and the author of the resolution authorizing the impeachment investigation.

Mr. Armstrong said he believed criminal referrals were the much more likely outcome. Mr. Armstrong suggested House Republicans could make referrals regarding alleged violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act in connection with international business deals by Hunter Biden, the president’s son, and suggested that the Justice Department investigate accusations of obstruction.

“I’m still interested in why we haven’t gotten better answers on the whole-of-government approach to obstructing all of these investigations,” Mr. Armstrong said.

Republicans say they are not finished with their investigation, and could still change course and decide to hold an impeachment vote. They have scheduled a public hearing next week with former business partners of Hunter Biden, though Mr. Biden himself has refused to appear.


In an interview, Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and the Judiciary Committee chairman, said he was also demanding audio recordings of President Biden that were part of the special-counsel investigation by Robert K. Hur into his handling of classified documents.

Criminal referrals, Mr. Jordan said, were among the options “on the table” as the House G.O.P. moves forward.

Representative James R. Comer, Republican of Kentucky and chairman of the Oversight Committee, has repeatedly suggested in recent weeks that issuing criminal referrals could mark the end of the impeachment inquiry, rather than an impeachment vote.

“At the end of the day, what does accountability look like? It looks like criminal referrals. It looks like referring people to the Department of Justice,” Mr. Comer said in a recent interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity. “If Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice won’t take any potential criminal referrals seriously, then maybe the next president, with a new attorney general, will.”

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