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McCarthy says the House will initiate an impeachment inquiry into President Biden

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's catch up on some breaking news this morning. A little while ago at the United States Capitol, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the leader of Republicans in the House, stepped before some microphones and told the assembled media this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: I am directing our House committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public. That's exactly what we want to know.

INSKEEP: OK, let's figure out what this means with NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh. Good morning.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: I should start with the terms here. When he says a formal impeachment inquiry, what is that generally and in this particular case?

WALSH: Well, there's not really an official process for an impeachment inquiry. I mean, the Democrats did vote the first - in one of their impeachments of President Trump to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. It was essentially a resolution on the House floor supporting that step. You don't actually have to have that vote. And what the speaker was doing was directing three committees that are already investigating President Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, to essentially do what they're already doing. And I think a lot of this was a political move on the speaker's part. He's facing a lot of hurdles as House Republicans come back to Washington to deal with, you know, a must-pass spending bill and questions swirling around whether or not they're moving forward with an impeachment inquiry. And this was his way to throw something to the Republican base and to those conservatives who want to see some movement on it. But it's unclear we're going to actually have a House vote on the floor.

INSKEEP: OK.

WALSH: And the committees could just go ahead and essentially keep investigating.

INSKEEP: Keep doing what they're doing, but he makes this gesture. But let's assume or pretend or, for purposes of this question, act as if there's some substance here. Hunter Biden really is in trouble, really has been investigated for his business dealings overseas, has faced some not really related criminal charges that are unresolved. Those are the questions on the table for Hunter Biden. But McCarthy kept referring to the Biden family. Is there some way that this investigation gets to Joe Biden, the person who would actually be the target of an impeachment?

WALSH: I mean, that's what Republican committee chairmen have been alleging for months. For example, Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer constantly calls this the Biden family corruption probe. And he says he's not investigating Hunter. He's investigating President Biden. They have had whistleblowers in dealing with various investigations of Hunter Biden trying to make the link that there is some link to President Biden, that he somehow was enriched by Hunter Biden's business dealings during the time that Joe Biden was vice president. But there has been no direct link. The House Republican committee chairs have not produced any direct evidence that the president himself benefited. Certainly, Hunter Biden benefited from a lot of business dealings during that time. And they had one whistleblower, Devon Archer, a former business associate of Hunter Biden's, say that the president stopped by a meeting, but even Devon Archer couldn't come up with any evidence or point to anything that directly went to the president, Joe Biden.

INSKEEP: OK, so that's the substance here, at least as we know it now. But McCarthy says this impeachment inquiry is going ahead. You were talking a little bit about the overall political situation. We are weeks ahead from a possible government shutdown if the House and Senate don't agree on spending bills, appropriations bills. Does one thing have anything to do with the other?

WALSH: They definitely have something to do with another. I mean, there are various conservatives in the House Republican Conference, people like Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are insisting that any funding bill be linked to an impeachment probe, be linked to launching an impeachment probe. And I think this was an effort for the speaker to show that there's movement there in the hopes that they vote to continue funding the government.

INSKEEP: OK. So - OK, so House Speaker Kevin McCarthy again has said this morning that there will be an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, or rather into the Biden family, as he repeatedly phrased it. But it's not entirely clear what the House is doing that's any different than it was before. Deirdre, thanks so much.

WALSH: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.