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White House steps up attacks on impeachment with GOP moderates in mind

The White House is stepping up its criticism of the impeachment inquiry into President Biden, placing more moderate Republican members worried about their seat in next year’s crucial election in a political dilemma.

House Republicans are planning a vote for next week to formalize the inquiry after months of congressional investigations attempting to paint Biden as corrupt. The White House, meanwhile, has spent the last few days on a concerted effort to tie the conference to its more far-right members, including casting Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) as the sole lawmaker calling the shots. It’s also painted Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) as caving to certain lawmakers by calling for a vote on the matter.

The effort also highlights the conundrum moderate Republicans face in choosing whether or not to formalize an impeachment inquiry into the president as they attempt to strike a balancing act between themselves and the chamber’s more disruptive lawmakers in order to keep seats in districts Biden won in 2020.

“This is probably a smart approach by the White House given that most House Republicans in competitive districts are now trying to build their own brands and to distinguish themselves from the more radical elements in the GOP conference that pushed the chamber into chaos this fall,” former Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) told The Hill.

The latest White House memo, which dinged Johnson for moving forward with a vote despite the fact that some House Republicans have said there isn’t enough evidence to support formal impeachment — and others who have dubbed it merely theater — served as a preview to how the White House and Democrats are likely to use the impeachment inquiry vote to their political advantage.

“Let’s face it, the House GOP impeachment effort is moribund. There is absolutely no stomach for it among Senate Republicans so the House vote is just off-Broadway performance theater. It puts House Republicans in Democratic districts in an uncomfortable spot, which means it threatens Mike Johnson’s hold on the Speaker’s gavel,” said Jim Kessler, a co-founder of the centrist thinktank Third Way. “And the broad public has paid no attention to it other than to shrug it off as MAGA extremism.”

Johnson on Tuesday said that the House has no choice but to formally adopt an impeachment inquiry after previous Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opted against holding a floor vote to formally open one. The White House blasted McCarthy’s move at the time to kick off the process without a House vote, arguing it gives the inquiry no constitutional legitimacy.

The White House has spent months warning Republicans that investigations into Biden, which they portray as meritless, could end up backfiring.

John LaBombard, former communications director to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), maintained that moderate Republicans will pay the price in 2024 if the House goes through with its plans.

“One surefire example of political malpractice is kowtowing to hardliners and showing voters you’re not focused on the issues they want you focused on — a mistake both parties make,” said LaBombard, a senior vice president at ROKK Solutions.

“A politically motivated impeachment proceeding will tell voters that House Republicans are more interested in scoring political points than solving the challenges facing our country, with endangered moderate Republicans most likely to pay the electoral price,” he said.

Throughout the impeachment investigations, led by Oversight Committee Chair Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), House Republicans have alleged that Biden and his family accepted money from foreign interests in what they deemed as suspicious financial deals.

The inquiry has been multipronged, probing the foreign business activities of Biden’s son Hunter Biden and other family members; disputed and shaky allegations that Biden as vice president used policy pressure to benefit Ukrainian energy company Burisma; and whether the Department of Justice improperly slow-walked a tax crimes investigation into Hunter Biden.

While the White House has recently stepped up attacks over the inquiry, Johnson has also fought back, keeping up the drumbeat that the investigation has been stonewalled by the administration.

The Speaker’s office on Tuesday accused the White House again of “stonewalling on numerous witnesses, tens of thousands of responsive documents and has been repeatedly caught lying about the President’s involvement in the nearly $20 million from America’s adversaries and approximately 80,000 pages of pseudonym emails.”

But, the White House has consistently pushed back against claims they have failed to turn over evidence sought by the House panels.

White House spokesperson Ian Sams, in a memo last week, noted the White House has sent letters to Comer and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), offering to meet or talk further and that Hunter Biden has offered to provide testimony. Last week, the younger Biden offered to testify publicly.

Sams outlined that throughout the investigation into Biden, House Republicans had access to more than 35,000 pages of private financial records and more than 2,000 pages of Treasury Department financial reports.

And, he noted that at least 36 hours of testimony has included interviews with special counsel David Weiss, who is overseeing the Hunter Biden prosecution, three FBI agents, two U.S. attorneys, the head of the Department of Justice Tax Division, two IRS supervisory officials and the general counsel at the National Archives.

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