GOP impeachment investigators subpoena DOJ for Biden classified docs records

Lead Republicans on the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden on Tuesday subpoenaed Attorney General Merrick Garland for records related to Special Counsel Robert Hur’s investigation.

"The Justice Department has closed its investigation into classified documents, but the Oversight Committee and Judiciary Committee’s investigation continues,” Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), who issued the subpoena alongside Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), said in a statement.

Hur, in a report released earlier this month, found that criminal charges related to Biden’s handling of classified documents wouldn’t be warranted even if DOJ lacked an internal policy against prosecuting sitting presidents. The report added that Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency,” but it didn’t “establish Mr. Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Hur is scheduled to testify about his investigation next month before the Judiciary Committee, and Republicans are eager to ask him about the report’s descriptions of Biden. That includes a line that says Biden would be perceived in any court proceedings as a “sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.”

The subpoena comes after House Republicans requested information earlier this month about Hur’s investigation. That includes any records, including recordings, related to Biden’s interview with Hur’s team. They also want classified documents identified in the report related to Ukraine, and any communication between the Justice Department, Biden’s personal counsel and the White House about the special counsel report.

House Republicans are investigating Biden’s handling of classified documents as part of a sweeping impeachment inquiry that has largely focused on the business deals of Biden’s family members.

Republicans, in Tuesday’s letter, said that the Justice Department hadn’t offered a timeframe for when it would turn over the requested records, or a commitment that it would give GOP investigators everything they are requesting.

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte told Republicans in a Feb. 16 letter obtained by POLITICO that the Justice Department was “working to gather and process materials responsive” to their requests. That process, according to Uriarte’s letter, would require a classification review and sharing material with the executive branch to determine if it would “assert any confidentiality interests.”

“We have already begun this process. The Department is committed to responding to the committees’ requests expeditiously, consistent with the law, longstanding Department policies and principles, and available resources,” Uriarte added.

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McConnell calls for full Mayorkas trial as Dems weigh quick dismissal

Top Senate Republicans are calling for a full impeachment trial for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, despite its doomed prospects.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday afternoon that a trial “would be the best way to go forward.” And Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said that the Senate needs to hold a trial and that “people need to be held accountable.”

But many Democrats aren’t looking to hold a thorough trial, with even centrists like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) saying they would support a quick dismissal. The Senate majority isn’t interested in furthering the GOP narrative about the Biden administration’s failures at the southern border.

Dismissing the trial only takes a simple majority and would effectively kill the House’s long-coming impeachment effort in mere minutes. If a trial proceeds, the outcome is a foregone conclusion: Democrats will vote to acquit Mayorkas.

The Senate is still waiting for the House impeachment managers to deliver the formal articles against Mayorkas, which narrowly passed the lower chamber. Those are not expected this week, as government funding negotiations dominate Congress’ schedule.

Ursula Perano contributed to this report. 

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Senate Democrats may cut Mayorkas impeachment trial short

A growing number of Senate Democrats said they support dismissing the upcoming impeachment trial for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — a move that would effectively end the trial within minutes.

A motion to dismiss the Mayorkas impeachment articles would only take a simple majority to pass in the Senate, where Democrats hold 51 seats. Even some Democratic centrists are already for dismissing the trial altogether, voiding months of work over in the Republican-controlled House.

“Absolutely,” retiring Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on whether he’d support a motion to dismiss. “Immediately that should be done. It’s ridiculous.”

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who is one of Republicans' top targets in November, also said he’d support a motion to dismiss, arguing there are better ways for the Senate to use its time.

“I think it's much more important to keep the government open,” Tester said. “Much more important to secure the southern border.”

The results of the trial — if it goes forward — are considered a foregone conclusion. Senate Democrats have dubbed the Mayorkas impeachment as a sham and are eager to get it off their plates as quickly as possible. The House narrowly passed the impeachment articles, which accused Mayorkas of breach of public trust in his handling of the border and refusing to comply with the law.

"I'd be glad to see a motion to dismiss," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). "The Mayorkas impeachment is nothing but political theater from a Republican Party that can't do any real legislative work."

Several Senate Republicans have also cast doubt on the merits of impeaching Mayorkas, though conservatives have pushed for a full trial and have made it clear they'll blast Democrats for skipping through it.

Despite Democrats' confidence that they have the votes to dismiss the trial, they're still warily watching the House. Republican impeachment managers have not yet sent over their impeachment articles, which would kick-start the trial in the Senate. It’s unlikely the articles are sent over this week amid a mess of government funding negotiations, according to a source familiar.

Once the House sends over its impeachment articles, a trial could bog down Senate proceedings until leaders move to dismiss it or shunt it to a committee.

It’s not yet clear whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would support a motion to dismiss or other measures that could stump the length of the Senate trial. If a trial does occur, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is slated to preside.

“I certainly would support a motion to dismiss because it's just very, very political,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the No. 3 Senate Democrat. “And we've got so many important things coming up.”

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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Impeachment skeptic calls on Harris to remove Biden via 25th Amendment

Rep. Ken Buck introduced a measure Monday that called on Vice President Kamala Harris to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove President Joe Biden from office, a surprising move from a Republican who has been publicly skeptical about impeachment.

Buck's (R-Colo.) resolution urges Harris to convene the Cabinet to “declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”

The retiring conservative has questioned both of House Republicans' impeachment efforts. He was one of three GOP lawmakers to vote against a recommendation to boot Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that passed the House earlier this month and has faulted his colleagues for failing to provide a credible link to date that would support impeaching the president.

“I want to make sure we don’t ruin this institution over a tit-for-tat impeachment,” he told CNN in September. “If the evidence is there … I will absolutely vote for impeachment. I don’t see the evidence at this point."

The 25th Amendment allows the vice president, along with a majority of the Cabinet, to declare that the president is no longer capable of fulfilling the duties of the office. No vice president has invoked those powers.

Buck's office did not immediately return a request for comment.

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James Biden in impeachment testimony denies his brother was involved in his business deals

James Biden told House GOP investigators on Wednesday that his brother, President Joe Biden, wasn’t involved in any of his financial deals.

In a 10-page opening statement obtained by POLITICO, James Biden kicked off what is expected to be an hours-long closed-door interview with lawmakers by trying to draw a hard line between his brother and his decades-long business arrangements. House Republicans had asked the president’s brother to testify as part of their sweeping impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, which has largely focused on deals cut by his brother and son Hunter Biden.

“I have had a 50-year career in a variety of business ventures. Joe Biden has never had any involvement or any direct or indirect financial interest in those activities. None. I never asked my brother to take any official action on behalf of me, my business associates, or anyone else,” James Biden told lawmakers and staff from the Oversight and Judiciary Committees.

However, James Biden didn’t directly rebut a growing blitz of public reporting in recent years that have increased scrutiny over his business ventures. That included a recent POLITICO report that James Biden emphasized his ties to his brother as part of his pitch to work at Americore, with one former Americore executive saying James Biden spoke about giving his brother equity in the company.

Instead, James Biden tried to distance himself from those claims broadly, telling investigators in his opening statement that in every business venture “I have relied on my own talent, judgment, skill, and personal relationships — and never my status as Joe Biden’s brother.”

“Those who have said or thought otherwise were either mistaken, ill informed, or flat-out lying,” he said.

He added about his work at Americore specifically: Joe Biden “played no role, was not involved with, and received no benefits from my work with Americore.”

Republicans are now expected to spend hours trying to poke holes in his claims, as they hunt for clear evidence that would link official actions taken by Joe Biden as president or vice president to his family’s business deals.

“I think there’s an enormous amount of circumstantial evidence that shows that Hunter and Joe were selling the brand and Joe Biden was profiting from it, financially. So we’re going to find out if that's true. That’s why we’re here,” Rep. William Timmons (R-S.C.) told reporters on Wednesday during a break in the interview.

So far, Republicans haven’t been able to establish irrefutable evidence Biden committed a crime — a criticism lobbed at the investigation even from some GOP lawmakers. A faction of Republicans believe the investigation has uncovered damaging information, particularly about Biden family members, but not an impeachable offense.

Asked if they were concerned about reports that James Biden name dropped his brother as part of his business deals, Democrats on the committee argued that was a separate issue than the center of Republicans’ impeachment inquiry — which centers on a theory that Joe Biden was involved in and benefited from his family’s financial arrangements.

"I think it's time for Chairman Comer and the Republicans to fold up the circus tent,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, told reporters.

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House GOP wants evidence from trial of Hunter Biden associate

House Republicans are pushing for evidence collected as part of the Justice Department's prosecution of a former Hunter Biden associate.

Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) sent a Tuesday letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting records related to DOJ’s case against Patrick Ho, an official with a Chinese oil and gas company. Ho, whom the duo calls a “close business associate of Hunter Biden,” was later sentenced to prison in the United States on international bribery and money laundering charges.

The House Republicans wrote in their letter, a copy of which was first obtained by POLITICO, that as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden “the Committees have determined that there is a particular need to obtain certain materials the Department of Justice (DOJ) obtained during its investigation of” Ho.

The request is a fresh sign that Republicans are probing Hunter Biden’s Chinese business deals as they try to find a still-elusive smoking gun linking actions taken by Joe Biden as vice president or president to his family’s business arrangements.

Republicans want an unreacted copy of an email between Ho and Serbian politician Vuk Jeremić about “an individual that Mr. Jeremic was willing to bring to a dinner” with Ye Jianming, the chair of the Chinese company, after DOJ successfully got the name of the individual redacted during the trial. DOJ requested the step over concerns that the name could “introduce a political dimension to this case.”

The lawmakers also want a copy of Ho’s iPad that DOJ has seized. A spokesperson for the Justice Department confirmed receipt of the letter, but declined to comment further.

It’s hardly the first time either Ho or Jeremic has cropped up in the House Republican investigation. Republicans requested testimony from Jeremic last year, hoping that he could provide details on the redaction.

The Washington Post reported in 2022 on Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China, including an email Jeremic had written to the president’s son about a dinner he was hosting in Washington with Ye Jianming, chair of the Chinese company. While Jeremic invited Hunter Biden to attend, he ultimately was unable to.

Jeremic told The Washington Post at the time that while he knew Hunter Biden and Ye that he was “not involved in their mutual introduction” and found out that they had met through media reports.

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Mayorkas impeachment trial forecast: Expect a snooze

The Senate is preparing to quickly dispense with the House GOP's much-touted impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Republicans across the Capitol crowed about their recommendation that the Senate boot Mayorkas from office in protest of his handling to the southern border — a vote that took them two attempts to pull off. Now that the House is done impeaching, however, some Senate Democrats are predicting that a snoozer will result from all the hype.

“We view it as a stunt,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said of Senate Democrats’ outlook on the Mayorkas impeachment. “I bet the preference is going to be to spend as little time on it as possible so we can focus on [spending], the [national security aid debate] ... and then I think we also want to take up the House's bipartisan tax reform bill.”

Kaine added that, while the structure of any Mayorkas trial is up to leadership, Democrats have tools they can use to shortcut the proceedings right from the start.

“There's different options. Do you do a motion to dismiss? Do you recommit to committee? I don't know what the leadership is going to decide," he said.

A motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Mayorkas would not be without precedent. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) attempted to use a motion to dismiss at former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, but the vote failed.

Senate Democratic leadership has already laid out some plans for the trial. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office said House impeachment managers will present the articles of impeachment to the Senate after this week's recess. Senators will be sworn in as jurors the next day and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will preside over the proceedings.

Schumer himself has called the Mayorkas impeachment a "sham" and insisted "House Republicans failed to present any evidence of anything resembling an impeachable offense."

Senate conservatives are still pushing for more action, though. A group of them sent a letter Tuesday morning urging Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to "ensure that the Senate conducts a proper trial." The letter was signed by 13 Senate Republicans in total.

But that saber-rattling can only go so far. McConnell does not have control over Senate floor proceedings — and plenty of his Republican members have cast their own doubts about the House's rationale for impeaching Mayorkas in the first place.

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Manchin declining to endorse Biden, explained

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) declined to endorse President Joe Biden for reelection during a Monday evening interview on CNN.

"I'm not endorsing anybody right now. We're gonna see what happens. We still got plenty of time," the centrist West Virginian said. Here's three reasons the apparent snub shouldn't really be a shock to anyone.

1. This is quintessential Manchin. The centrist likes leaving himself lots of options and not being boxed in.

In 2020 — months after voting to convict former President Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial — Manchin refused to rule out endorsing him for reelection. That was, of course, before the insurrection of Jan. 6. Manchin now says "I love my country too much to vote for Donald Trump."

But bucking conventional wisdom has been a long-time trend for the lawmaker. He endorsed GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R-Alaska) reelection bid in 2022. He cut an ad for a West Virginia Republican locked in a bitter primary battle (who ultimately lost).

2. There's still the possible third-party path: Manchin only took his name out of contention for a possible third-party bid last week, but is still holding open the possibility that someone else takes the plunge. "You just might have still a third-party run from No Labels," he said of the centrist group. "We'll just see what opportunities and what type of options you have."

3. His policy disagreements with the Biden administration are real — and deep. Manchin, who chairs the Energy Committee, has gone to battle over the Biden administration's implementation of its signature tax, climate and health care law, which he played an outsized role in shaping. “They’re going to try to screw me,” Manchin said at one point in 2023 of the White House.

He's often voted with Republicans to (ultimately unsuccessfully) ax Biden administration environmental regulations. He's vowed to oppose all Biden administration EPA nominees over a sweeping plan aimed at curbing power plant emissions. And he declined to hold a confirmation hearing for a key energy regulator over disagreements over climate, effectively ending his tenure.

None of these are terribly surprising for the lawmaker stemming from ruby-red and fossil fuel-heavy West Virginia. But these are not trivial disagreements with the Biden administration.

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House GOP schedules public hearing with Hur on classified docs report

Special counsel Robert Hur will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on March 12 about his investigation into President Joe Biden’s mishandling of classified documents, a person familiar told POLITICO.

The public hearing comes after the Justice Department released Hur's report earlier this month that concluded that criminal charges against Biden wouldn’t be warranted — even if the Justice Department lacked an internal policy against prosecuting sitting presidents. Hur’s investigation found evidence that Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency” but that it didn’t “establish Mr. Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The charging decision might be less interesting to House Republicans, however, than another part of the report. Hur described that Biden would be perceived in any court proceedings as a “sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.”

Republicans have made Biden’s mishandling of classified documents part of their sweeping impeachment inquiry into the president, which has largely focused on the business dealings of his family members.

In addition to public testimony from Hur, Republicans sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting the transcript of Hur’s interview with Biden, as well as classified documents referenced in the report.

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House Homeland Security Chair Green set to retire

House Homeland Security Chair Mark Green is expected to announce plans to retire as early as Thursday, marking a surprise exit for a prominent committee chief.

Green is expected to announce he will not seek reelection just days after he spearheaded the GOP push to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, according to two Republicans familiar with his plans. His exit is already coming as a shock to his colleagues given the win he'd notched with the Mayorkas vote.

Green demurred during a brief Wednesday interview when asked if he planned to retire.

“Today, I am running for election,” Green told POLITICO, while declining to discuss the matter further. He later confirmed his resignation to Axios.

Green, a former Green Beret, showed an eagerness to rise in the ranks after being elected in 2018. He made a bid for the top spot of the House Oversight Committee before later securing the gavel leading the Homeland Security panel. While at the helm this Congress, he made it a clear mission to hammer the Biden administration on the U.S.-Mexico border as the rate of illegal border crossings soared.

He ultimately proved successful in steering the Mayorkas impeachment this week, but only after the party faced an embarrassing vote miscalculation the week before where they failed to properly count the votes.

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