White House officials caution that their decisions on whether to cooperate will ultimately depend on the nature of the investigation, but their preparations, which have been ongoing for months, depend on such a distribution strategy. The White House is likely to respond to requests for documents and testimony related to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, for example, but is less likely to participate in the Republican investigation into Hunter Biden, the president’s son, the people said. from confidentiality to discuss private consultations.
Republicans, who won a majority in the House midterm elections, signaled an aggressive control campaign despite picking up fewer seats than both parties expected. They have made it clear that, in addition to Afghanistan, their main investigative targets will be the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic and other issues related to China, the embezzlement of pandemic aid funds, border security and Biden’s energy policy.
But their potential bright spot will be their determination to investigate Hunter Biden, who they accuse of financial and business wrongdoing in the name of the family. The president, who lost two other children, is very protective of his son, who has a long history of drug use and other problems.
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On Tuesday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the front-runner for House Speaker, called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign, saying that if he did not, Republicans would “investigate every executive order and every specific failure.” so we can start an impeachment inquiry.”
It’s unclear what kinds of impeachment charges GOP lawmakers might bring against Mayorkas, and the Democratic-led Senate is unlikely to pursue them anyway. But conservative activists have pushed for such a move, saying the administration has failed in its duty to protect America’s borders.
Last week, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who is in the running to chair the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who is expected to lead the Oversight Committee, held a news conference. announced plans to investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings. Perhaps eager to avoid White House arguments that Hunter Biden is a private citizen, Comer emphasized that the GOP is targeting any interference from President Biden himself.
“The president’s involvement in enriching his family is, in other words, an abuse of office,” Comer said. “I want to be clear: This is an investigation into Joe Biden, and our focus there will be the next Congress.” When reporters asked about another issue, Comer said, “If we can keep it about Hunter Biden… That’s a great thing, we think. If we can keep it about Hunter Biden, that would be great.” .”
Former President Donald Trump and other Republicans have long focused on the president’s son, particularly what appear to be his private laptop records, as symbols of the Biden family’s nefarious activities. There is no evidence that the president was involved in the activities of his son.
The prospect of the White House choosing which elements of congressional oversight it will respect is questionable to some experts. Stanley Brand, who served as general counsel in the House of Representatives to then-Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.), warned that such a strategy was legally questionable given Congress’ constitutional role in overseeing the executive branch. is
“It may be politically expedient; I don’t know that it’s legally appropriate,” Brand said. “They might find themselves in a corner on that. No matter how they divide them, the committees, if angry, will not accept the distinction. “
Biden’s allies counter that the Republican crackdown on Biden’s son is clearly political, and that GOP leaders have not shown disarray because Trump has routinely ignored congressional oversight. Recently, Democrats say, Republicans have attacked and refused to participate in the House committee investigating the January 6 attack.
Watch: Jordan-Comer press conference
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What is clear is that a central part of the House GOP agenda will be the investigation of Biden. And the White House has been preparing for a long time.
Biden aides created an internal team several months ago to respond to congressional oversight so other staffers could focus on day-to-day White House duties. Richard Sauber, a longtime attorney who previously served as a senior attorney at the Department of Veterans Affairs, has joined the White House as special counsel for oversight, and Ian Sams, a former spokesman for Vice President Harris’ campaign, will lead communications. effort Aides said they expect the team to grow in the coming weeks.
Since the summer, the White House has called on federal agencies to strengthen their surveillance response process and consider recruiting senior officials to conduct potential investigations. White House lawyers have met with high-level groups of Cabinet officials, such as Mayorkas, to help them prepare their defenses ahead of a possible impeachment inquiry.
A team of White House communications staff, lawmakers and lawyers worked over the summer to craft GOP investigative plans, closely monitoring Republicans’ public statements and letters to administration officials. Jordan recently sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona asking for “voluntary compliance” with the Judiciary Committee’s oversight.
Jordan’s plans to investigate the Justice Department and the FBI could be highly volatile, as allegations of politicization of the department are likely to collide with concerns about interfering with impartial law enforcement.
In August, after the FBI searched classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, McCarthy issued a statement warning that Garland would be called to testify, saying: “Attorney General Garland, keep your documents and clear your calendar.”
Overall, the White House is responding to an expected attack, saying Republicans are engaging in the very conspiratorial displays that voters rejected in the midterm elections.
“Instead of working with President Biden to address issues important to the American people, such as lower spending, congressional Republicans’ first priority is to go after President Biden with politically motivated attacks filled with long-debunked conspiracy theories Sams said in a newspaper. statement
Biden himself claims that voters want their leaders to focus on solving problems, not on making up stories. “As my mentor used to say, ‘good luck in your senior year,'” Biden told reporters the day after the midterm elections, when asked about Republican plans for the investigation. “Look, I think the American public wants us to go ahead and do things let’s do it for them.”
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Republicans counter that the administration has been protected by two years of Democratic control of Congress and that the probe is long overdue.
“All kinds of questions need to be answered, and we are determined to get there,” Jordan said, adding: “We are in favor of getting to the truth, to the facts. We believe that the American people have the right to this.”
Despite the beer standoff, the White House’s willingness to engage with Republicans on multiple surveillance requests, subpoenas and documents, marks a shift from a Trump White House that has stymied Democrats’ investigative efforts at nearly every turn.
Former congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who chaired the House Oversight Committee and led a series of aggressive investigations, said the White House should guide the nature of Republican requests and respond to reasonable requests.
“I hope the Republicans will limit their investigation to something legislatively appropriate and not political gerrymandering, but I doubt it based on my past record,” Waxman said. “But if there’s going to be any serious effort at legal oversight, I hope the White House will cooperate.”
Some lawyers say the conflict will escalate after investigators start issuing subpoenas.
Lawyers from both parties say Republicans are likely to make those legal demands early and often, especially given the regular use of subpoenas by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. The committee subpoenaed numerous Trump officials, including the former president himself, who is fighting the order in court.
Some Democratic allies said Biden should avoid following Trump’s strategy of fighting subpoenas, potentially framing the process and undermining congressional investigations.
“My advice, unsolicited and unpaid, would be to take a page out of Trump’s book and not rely on these subpoena requests and fight them every step of the way, including in court,” Brand said. .
Other lawyers said the committee’s Jan. 6 hearing and the Trump team’s response to the revelation of the subpoena’s limitations undermined Congress’s investigative powers.
“I think the most common view among congressional investigative practitioners is that the January 6th committee, while effective in some ways, probably undermined the power of congressional subpoenas by issuing so many and doing so little,” Robert said. Waiter. , who leads the congressional investigations practice at the Covington law firm.
He said when the committee issued subpoenas, some witnesses succeeded in dragging out the process through extensive litigation — and now the Republican-led committee is expected to be dissolved.
“I liken it to the wizard in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and he uses mystery and a loud voice from heaven to surprise Judy Garland, and then at the end the curtain is lifted and there he is, he’s just an average person,” Kellner said. “Congress has really relied on that ‘Wizard of Oz’ mystery as a means of getting what they need from witnesses. I just think that after the Select Committee’s use of subpoenas, the mystery isn’t what it used to be.”
The result could be two years of political and legal battles between the White House and Republican lawmakers, as each side tries to convince voters that the other side is consumed by ugly politics.
“The Biden administration has failed to provide the Oversight Committee with the information it has requested about these many crises, but with the power of the chain, we will finally get the answers the American people deserve,” Comer said in a statement. “Unlike the Democrats, we will not send out subpoenas like junk mail, but if the Biden administration refuses to fulfill our constitutional obligation to conduct oversight, we will use every tool at our disposal.”