McCarthy orders impeachment inquiry into Biden amid pressure from hard-liners
Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday he was ordering House Republicans to move ahead with an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
"Today, I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden," McCarthy said at the U.S. Capitol in a short formal statement. He did not take questions from reporters.
McCarthy previously indicated there would be a full House vote for an impeachment inquiry, as has happened in the past, but as of Tuesday he didn't appear to have the votes to open one. A spokesperson for McCarthy tells ABC News that McCarthy is not expected to hold a vote to launch the impeachment inquiry.
He has signaled a Biden impeachment inquiry for weeks, in part to placate GOP hard-liners, and in order to obtain bank records and other documents from Biden and his son, Hunter.
"This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather the full facts and answers for the American public," he said on Tuesday. "That's exactly what we want to know -- the answers. I believe the president would want to answer these questions and allegations as well."
McCarthy said House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Jason Smith will lead the inquiry.
House Republicans have been investigating for months alleged ties implicating Biden in his son's business dealings, but have so far have not been able to prove any wrongdoing by the president. McCarthy said House Republicans, during the August recess, uncovered "serious and credible allegations into President Biden's conduct. Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption."
"I do not make this decision lightly," Speaker McCarthy added. "Regardless of your party, or who you voted for, these facts concern all Americans."
White House spokesperson Ian Sams responded to McCarthy's call for a formal impeachment inquiry into Biden.
"House Republicans have been investigating the President for 9 months, and they've turned up no evidence of wrongdoing His own GOP members have said so. He vowed to hold a vote to open impeachment, now he flip flopped because he doesn't have support. Extreme politics at its worst," Sams wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Hunter Biden's lawyer, Abbe Lowell said "McCarthy has shown he will do anything to hold on to his gavel" including launch an impeachment inquiry "based on repackaged, inaccurate conspiracies about Hunter Biden and his legitimate business activities."
McCarthy spoke to reporters when he left the House floor Tuesday, reiterating that opening an impeachment inquiry allows House committees to get more information.
ABC Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott asked McCarthy if he believes there's an impeachable offense that President Biden has committed.
"All I've said is an impeachment inquiry allows us to get answers to get questions that are out there. Don't you think the public wants answers?" McCarthy said.
Former President Donald Trump has privately discussed an impeachment inquiry into President Biden with House Republicans, sources told ABC's Scott.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is a member of Republican leadership spoke with Trump Tuesday afternoon and updated him on the impeachment inquiry, according to two sources.
Senate Republicans will be briefed by Reps. Jordan and Comer during their lunch Wednesday, a Republican aide confirmed to ABC News. The briefing will be the first direct taste of evidence Jordan and Comer say they've uncovered, and could be critical for senators who said they need more information on what the House has uncovered before they can decide whether or not to back the actions.
In a statement, Comer, Jordan and Smith said they support the impeachment inquiry.
"The House Committees on Oversight and Accountability, Judiciary, and Ways and Means, will continue to work to follow the facts to ensure President Biden is held accountable for abusing public office for his family's financial gain. The American people demand and deserve answers, transparency, and accountability for this blatant abuse of public office."
Sen. Mitt Romney, one of seven Senate Republicans who voted in 2021 to remove former President Donald Trump from office over his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection, endorsed the use of an impeachment inquiry to gain more access to information regarding Biden's business dealings.
"The fact that the White House has been singularly silent and has coddled Hunter Biden suggests an inquiry is not inappropriate," Romney said. "That's very different than an impeachment, an actual impeachment would require the evidence of a high crime or misdemeanor that has not been alleged. But inquiring is something the president and the White House could have avoided."
"An inquiry is an inquiry, it's not an impeachment," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has been investigating Hunter Biden's business dealings for years. "And it seems to me it will open up an avenue to get a lot of information that we feel we've been stonewalled."
"If they've got facts and evidence, and they want to run through a traditional process, we'll see what the result is," Sen. Thom Tillis said of the House effort. "I don't think that it's going to result in a removal on the Senate side. But if there's meaningful information that they think the American people need to know about, I'm OK with it."
The announcement of a formal impeachment inquiry comes as McCarthy looks to stave off a possible revolt from conservative hard-liners and avoid a government shutdown.
The House returned from recess on Tuesday with a fast-approaching Sept. 30 deadline to pass a spending measure to keep the government open. House Republican leaders are looking to pass a continuing resolution, or a short-term funding extension, to buy more time to hammer out the details of a broader appropriations package.
But members of the House Freedom Caucus -- the same group that held up McCarthy's ascension to the speakership and opposed his debt limit deal with President Biden -- have said they would not support a continuing resolution unless it includes certain language on border security and "weaponization of the DOJ." The group is also opposed to further aid to Ukraine, potentially putting the House at odds with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
Amid the tension, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz has publicly threatened to bring a motion to vacate against McCarthy. The motion would force a vote on whether McCarthy should continue on as speaker. McCarthy brushed off the threat while speaking to reporters on Monday evening, saying Gaetz "should go ahead and do it… Matt's, Matt."
Gaetz only doubled down on the warning during a floor speech Tuesday shortly after McCarthy's announcement regarding impeachment.
"Moments ago, McCarthy endorsed an impeachment inquiry. This is a baby step following weeks of pressure from House conservatives to do more," Gaetz said.
ABC News' John Parkinson and Arthur Jones II contributed to this report.