Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, bowing to pressure from his party’s hard right, authorized the launch on Tuesday of an impeachment investigation into US President Joe Biden.
“I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden,” McCarthy said, alleging that the Democratic leader had lied to the American people about his son Hunter’s foreign business dealings.
“House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations about President Biden’s conduct,” McCarthy told reporters. “Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption.”
The business dealings in Ukraine and China by Biden’s 53-year-old son Hunter while his father was vice president under Barack Obama have been a constant target of Republicans.
Hunter Biden, a recovering drug addict, is currently under investigation by a Justice Department special counsel for possible tax evasion and is expected to be charged by the end of this month on a firearms violation.
However, he has not been charged with crimes related to his foreign business dealings, and no credible evidence has emerged so far that the president was involved in anything illegal.
McCarthy has been under pressure from the right wing of the party, loyal to Donald Trump, for months to open an impeachment inquiry into the 80-year-old Biden. The White House immediately condemned the move, calling it “extreme politics at its worst.”
“House Republicans have been investigating the President for nine months, and they’ve turned up no evidence of wrongdoing,” Ian Sams, a White House spokesman, said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
‘Will go wherever the evidence takes us’
McCarthy, who was forced to compromise with the far right of the party to win his powerful speaker’s post, said the “allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption” against Biden “warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives.”
“We have found that President Biden did lie to the American people about his own knowledge of his family’s foreign business dealings,” McCarthy said.
“Bank records show that nearly $20 million in payments were directed to Biden family members and associates through various shell companies,” he alleged.
McCarthy said the Republican-held House Oversight, Judiciary and Ways and Means committees would carry out the impeachment inquiry.
“We will go wherever the evidence takes us,” he said.
McCarthy, whose hold on the speaker’s gavel is dependent on support from right-wing hardliners, had previously said he would first hold a vote in the House before launching an impeachment inquiry.
But he backed away from that pledge under far-right pressure and the possibility he could not muster enough votes on the House floor.
“He vowed to hold a vote to open impeachment, now he flip flopped because he doesn’t have support,” said Sams, the White House spokesman.
A number of moderate Republican members of the House have expressed skepticism about launching an impeachment probe into Biden.
Under the US Constitution, a president can be impeached for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Democratic lawmakers denounced the inquiry as a partisan exercise intended to exact revenge for the double impeachment by the then Democratic-controlled House of former Republican president Trump.
“No evidence, just Trump’s command to impeach,” said Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said there is “no basis whatsoever to launch this so-called inquiry.”
“President Biden has done nothing wrong,” Nadler said. “Speaker McCarthy may get to keep his job for another day, but he has once again caved to the most extreme elements of the Republican party.”
Ammar Moussa, a spokesman for Biden’s re-election campaign, called the impeachment inquiry a “political stunt.”
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is to go on trial in Washington in March on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the November 2020 election he lost to Biden.
Trump was impeached twice by the House while in office, once for seeking political dirt on Biden from Ukraine, and a second time for the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol by his supporters.
He was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate both times.