Why Biden world isn't overly worried about House GOP investigations




  • In Politics
  • 2022-10-03 08:30:00Z
  • By Politico

Congressional Republicans are talking more openly about their desire to investigate every aspect of the Biden administration - and family - should they regain control of one or both houses of Congress.

Inside Biden world, aides and allies aren't entirely displeased with the chatter.

There is a growing confidence in the White House that the House Republicans clamoring for a hodgepodge of investigations will overreach - and that their attempts will backfire politically, with key voters recoiling at blatant partisan rancor. Officials believe they can use GOP efforts to their political advantage heading into the 2024 cycle, betting a pro-Trump Republican conference fixated on Biden will elevate "ultra-MAGA Republicans" and provide a useful foil for Biden, allowing him to draw sharp contrasts between his governing and their obfuscating.

"Their sense for what will resonate with middle-of-the-road folks [is wrong]. It's not going to be the kind of extremist performance that these hearings will likely end up being," one White House ally said. "It might make the base feel good, and it's going to give [Republican Reps.] Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene something awesome to say on their live stream, but it's not going to be what convinces suburban women in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania."

The GOP's investigative wish list is long, and it runs the gamut. But members have made it clear they believe digging into the business dealings of the president's son, Hunter Biden, is at the top of the agenda - hoping it may yield a smoking gun on President Joe Biden. Also ranking high, a coronavirus "origins" probe that would put Anthony Fauci in the hot seat and a multi-committee dive into the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year that sparked bipartisan criticism.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is also expected to lead a sweeping dig that threatens to touch on every corner of the Justice Department and the FBI, reviving a long-running feud from the Trump era when federal law enforcement agencies were frequently viewed as villains by the former president and his allies.

"We've got a lot of opportunities. We've got a lot of work to do. Obviously, we're going to have some high-profile committee hearings on the investigations dealing with Hunter Biden, dealing with [Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas, dealing with the origination of Covid," said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who is expected to lead the Oversight Committee and beef up its staff if Republicans win back the majority.

Publicly, the White House has projected optimism about Democrats hanging onto the House this fall. But privately, aides have been preparing for the investigative onslaught that will come with a GOP takeover.

That work actively began in the aftermath of the 2020 election, when Georgia's unsettled Senate races left open the possibility of a GOP majority in that chamber. But the efforts have accelerated since this past spring, when the White House brought on a small team to begin laying out legal and messaging strategies for possible Republican investigations next year - which has taken on an aura of near-certainty in Washington.

That team is likely to grow once a clearer picture of the political landscape emerges after the midterms. The White House has been thinking through key aides in federal agencies it could bring in or shift to other supporting roles.

Seeking to paint House Republicans as controversy-magnet conservatives won't be easy. And two factors that could prove decisive for the Biden team remain unresolved: which Democratic congressional allies will do the blocking and tackling for them, and whether the GOP pursues the quixotic goal of a presidential impeachment.

"If we were forced to be in the minority, then we would be the spokespeople for the truth and for the rule of law against those who would trample both," said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who cut his teeth as a Trump impeachment manager and wants to lead his party on the Oversight panel next year.

Raskin is widely viewed in Democratic circles as a critical ally for the White House in a potential GOP-controlled House, owing to his experience on various Trump-investigative committees. But other Democrats are also likely to be on the frontlines: Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who is running against Raskin for the party's top Oversight spot, is viewed as a bulldog with a history of tangling with Jordan.

Progressive firebrands like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also have perches that would allow them to play defense. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), widely seen as the frontrunner to be the next Democratic leader if Speaker Nancy Pelosi leaves, is considered one of the caucus's most potent messengers against Republicans.

Republicans have been plotting out their targets for months, with key chairs-in-waiting already speaking with party leadership - including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy - about how to coordinate investigations that could stretch across the conference's jurisdictional lines.

House Republicans view investigations as the heart of their agenda next year, particularly since, unlike legislation, they can do it without buy-in from Democrats, Biden included. Committee control would give them a spotlight to tangle with administration officials they've spent two years lambasting and the subpoena power to cause headaches, obtain records and drown agencies in document and interview requests.

Looming over the GOP's pledge to conduct rigorous oversight of the Biden administration is the possibility that the party's base will demand a quick impeachment. It would almost certainly be a fruitless endeavor since two-thirds of the Senate would need to support it in order to actually boot Biden from office. But some party members are talking about it nonetheless. Several Republicans from the conference's pro-Trump flank, including Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), have already filed impeachment articles against Biden, Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Democrats, meanwhile, point to the House Republican investigations of former President Bill Clinton as proof of how overzealous and partisan probes can backfire. Clinton, they argue, emerged stronger from the investigations, and the resulting impeachment from which he was acquitted. Democrats actually gained House seats in the 1998 midterms, the first time in decades that either party had done so while also controlling the White House.

While no one in Biden world wants any sort of congressional investigation in a GOP-led House, an increasing number see the potential for Republicans to alienate swing voters in the run-up to the 2024 general election.

And then there's the Trump factor. Democrats are already poised to bring up the former president's decisions to place his family members in prominent White House spots as a defense for attacks on Hunter Biden.

But investigations into Biden's son could also play a role in the next presidential election, people close to the president believe.

If a GOP-led House turns up the heat on Hunter Biden, it could weigh heavily in the president's decision to run for a second term. White House officials said Biden is preparing to seek reelection, but a final decision likely won't be made for several months, with the first lady having an outsized influence. Some aides believe that Biden could forgo another campaign if it would shield his family from hostile congressional investigations.

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