McCarthy dodges Hannity’s questions on Biden ‘bribery scandal’

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday declined to label the GOP-led investigation into President Biden a “bribery scandal.”

Republican investigators for months have cited an FBI form that contains an unverified tip alleging that Biden, as vice president, was involved in a bribery scheme to benefit Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that his son, Hunter Biden, sat on the board of. The White House has denied any wrongdoing, and Republicans have been unable to corroborate the claims.

Republicans released a copy of the FBI form, known as an FD-1023 form, last month.

Asked by Fox News’s Sean Hannity if the allegations constitute a bribery scheme, McCarthy deflected.

“The bribery statute, Mr. Speaker, does not demand that somebody benefit themselves financially. In this case, the vice president, as the 1023 form pointed out, took a specific action and his family, you know, was involved in personal enrichment. That being Hunter. Based on his actions, is that bribery to you?” Hannity asked.

“Well Sean, everything that you just talked about, nobody in America knew until you had a change in Congress,” McCarthy responded, before running through various allegations Republicans have mounted.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gives a press conference in Statuary Hall at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

Pressed again by Hannity on whether the claims amount to a bribery scandal, McCarthy dodged.

“Do you believe we are looking at a bribery scandal with Joe Biden, who’s now president, actions he took as vice president in exchange for family enrichment?” Hannity asked.

McCarthy responded by running through other points Republicans have cited throughout their investigations, including testimony from Devon Archer, a former business associate of Hunter Biden who spoke to the House Oversight and Accountability Committee last week. Archer said he was “not aware” of any wrongdoing by then-Vice President Biden but did say Hunter Biden put his father on speakerphone during some meetings with associates.

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Archer also testified that he was not made aware of bribe payments made to two different Bidens, which are the crux of the allegations in the FD-1023 form.

“I think there’s enough proof out there that this Biden family needs to come forward and show there wasn’t a pay-to-play,” McCarthy told Hannity. “America deserves more and Americans want to know. And the one thing I will tell you is, as this Congress, the People’s Congress, we will follow the facts and provide it to the American public, just like the Constitution tells us to do.”

The White House on Tuesday, for its part, came out against McCarthy's comments on Fox News, saying the Speaker was "lying" in order to appease the far-right lawmakers in his conference.

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, was pressed on the bribery allegations last month and said he was not sure if they were accurate.

“I don’t know if the allegations are true or not,” Comer told reporters before Congress broke for August recess.

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Asked if he would agree that the bribery claim is just an unverified allegation, Comer said, “I’ll not answer that right now, because we’ve got people coming in that hopefully can answer that question better than I can.”

The conversation about the bribery allegations comes as McCarthy floats a potential impeachment inquiry into President Biden. For months, Republicans have tried to link the president to his son's business dealings.

Last month, the Speaker said that if actions rise to the level of an impeachment inquiry, he would open such a probe.

McCarthy re-upped that position Monday.

“I raised it on this show not long ago, that because the actions of the Biden administration, withholding information, that that would rise to the level where we need impeachment inquiry, to get the strength of the Congress, to get the information that we need to give to the American public and follow through on our Constitutional authority,” McCarthy told Hannity. “That is exactly what we’re doing and that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do.”

GOP statements on Trump indictment clash with initial Jan. 6 remarks

House Republicans flocked to former President Trump’s side following his indictment on charges stemming from his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, criticizing it as politically motivated and accusing the Department of Justice (DOJ) of malpractice.

But some of their responses were notably different from what they were saying privately and publicly around the time of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot — which marked the culmination of Trump’s attempts to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s win and keep himself in power.

The contrast between the reactions underscores the evolution of how GOP lawmakers talk about Jan. 6, which has been fueled in large part by Trump and the firm grip he continues to have on the Republican Party.

The epitome of that shift has been Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who said Trump bore responsibility for the riot shortly after the rampage before careening back to the former president’s corner in the weeks that followed. He cemented that position Tuesday, when he accused the DOJ using the indictment of trying to “distract” from investigations into President Biden and his family.

“[J]ust yesterday a new poll showed President Trump is without a doubt Biden’s leading political opponent. Everyone in America could see what was going to come next: DOJ’s attempt to distract from the news and attack the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, President Trump,” McCarthy wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

McCarthy also referenced a series of points Republicans have been citing in their investigations into the Biden family’s business dealings — which the White House has denied — but did not comment on the charges at hand, a strategy that has become the Speaker’s norm when discussing allegations against Trump.

Days after the Capitol riot, however, McCarthy did not mince words.

“The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” declared McCarthy, then the minority leader, on the House floor as lawmakers debated Trump’s impeachment. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”

“These facts require immediate action by President Trump, accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term,” he added.

Within a month of his floor speech, as it started becoming clear that the GOP would remain squarely behind Trump, McCarthy began softening his criticism of the former president, telling reporters he did not think Trump “provoked” the Capitol riot. Later that week, he said Trump “had some responsibility when it came to the response,” before adding “I also think everybody across this country has some responsibility.”

And days after, McCarthy visited Trump at his Mar-a-Lago residence for a meeting largely focused on the upcoming midterm elections. But the gathering — and a photo of the two men standing side-by-side that circulated after — was perceived by many as an effort to mend the relationship between the two top Republicans as the party was fracturing amid fallout from Jan. 6.

Since then, McCarthy has remained a close ally of Trump on Capitol Hill, defending him amid his various legal troubles and going as far as to endorse an effort to expunge his impeachments — including the one that followed the Jan. 6 riot.

The dynamics reflect the strong influence Trump continues to wield with Republicans on the national stage and within the House GOP conference. Trump threw his support behind McCarthy’s bid to be Speaker, which helped him secure the gavel, and the former president has far more congressional endorsements in his 2024 bid than any other GOP candidate.

Poll after poll has shown Trump remains the unequivocal front-runner in the 2024 GOP primary for president. A New York Times/Siena College survey released this week found Trump more than 30 points ahead of his closest opponent.

Even Republicans who have endorsed one of Trump’s 2024 opponents and were critical of the former president following the Capitol riot are slamming this week’s indictment as an example of the “weaponization” of the federal government.  

In remarks on the House floor on Jan. 13, 2021, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) — who has endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for president over Trump — said Trump “deserves universal condemnation for what was clearly impeachable conduct, pressuring the vice president to violate his oath to the Constitution to count the electors.”

“His open and public pressure — courageously rejected by the vice president — purposefully seeded the false belief among the president's supporters, including those assembled on Jan. 6, that there was a legal path for the president to stay in power. It was foreseeable and reckless to sow such a false belief that could lead to violence and rioting by loyal supporters whipped into a frenzy,” he continued, before going on to criticize the impeachment articles as “flawed.”

But this week, Roy criticized the very indictment that penalized Trump for the actions he condemned in 2021 as “flimsy.” 

“If you profess to care about preserving the ‘Republic,’ you must firmly reject a flimsy political indictment of a former President & political challenger of a current President immersed in a bribery & corruption scandal,” Roy wrote on X.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), another DeSantis supporter, told The Dispatch days after the riot, “I think Trump is at fault here,” adding “people did mislead the folks that came here, and Trump was among them.”

“He insinuated that states wanted their electors thrown out, which was not true. I kept a spreadsheet of every document every state produced, and in no case did a majority of any legislature even put their name on the letter,” he added.

This week, however, Massie said it was shameful for Trump to be charged.

“As Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly pointed out, the AG and DOJ work for the President as a fixture of the executive branch. They are not, nor have they ever been, an independent branch of govt. Biden has now shamefully criminally charged & indicted a political opponent twice,” he wrote on X.

There are also some Republicans who texted Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows amid the chaos of Jan. 6 asking to have the president quell the violence who spoke out about Trump’s indictment this week.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), texted Meadows “POTUS needs to calm this shit down,” according to messages obtained by CNN, but on Tuesday he said Trump  was “a victim of Biden’s weaponized government.” Similarly, Rep. Will Timmons (R-S.C.), who told Meadows, “The president needs to stop this ASAP” on Jan. 6, called the charges against Trump a “politically motivated indictment.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), an ardent Trump supporter, texted Meadows amid the riots, “Please tell the President to calm people,” and, “This isn’t the way to solve anything.” 

This week, she railed against the indictment, re-upped her calls to defund special counsel Jack Smith’s office and expunge Trump’s impeachments, and vowed to vote for Trump in the 2024 election even if he is behind bars by the time Election Day rolls around.

“I will still vote for Trump even if he’s in jail,” Greene wrote on X. “This is a communist attack on America’s first amendment to vote for who THE PEOPLE want for President by an attempt to take Trump off the ballots through a politically weaponized DOJ. People know exactly what this is.”

GOP releases Devon Archer transcript after lawmakers give conflicting accounts

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) on Thursday released the transcript of a closed-door interview the panel conducted with Devon Archer, the former business associate of Hunter Biden whom Republicans view as a key witness in their investigation into the Biden family’s business dealings.

In the days between the interview and the release of the transcript, House members have offered conflicting interpretations of the testimony, with Republicans arguing it proved that President Biden “lied” when he said he had never spoken to his son about his foreign business dealings, and Democrats claiming the opposite and saying the testimony showed the president was not involved in his son’s business dealings.

Archer sat for a transcribed interview with the Oversight Committee for more than five hours on Monday. The transcript spans 141 pages, and is accompanied by 24 pages of documents discussed during the interview.

“Today, we are releasing the transcript from Devon Archer's interview with our committee,” the House Oversight Committee wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

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Following Archer’s closed-door interview, lawmakers said the witness testified that Hunter Biden sometimes put President Biden, then the vice president, on speakerphone with foreign business partners. Lawmakers also said Archer discussed Hunter Biden selling the “illusion of access” to his father.

Comer on Thursday pointed out several “key exchanges” from Archer’s testimony, including a claim from the Archer that Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company he and Hunter Biden sat on the board of, “would have gone out of business if it didn't have the brand attached to it.”

He also highlighted exchanges about two dinners Joe Biden attended with Hunter Biden’s foreign business associates in 2014 and 2015 at Cafe Milano in Washington, D.C.

But in another part of his testimony, when asked if he was aware of any wrongdoing by President Biden, Archer responded “no, I’m not aware of any.”

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In a statement on Thursday, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Oversight panel, fired back at Comer and reiterated that Archer’s testimony shoots down the idea that President Biden was involved in his son’s business dealings.

“Once again, Committee Republicans’ priority investigation into President Biden has failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden,” Raskin wrote. “On Monday, Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s former business associate, confirmed in a transcribed interview that President Biden was never involved in Hunter’s business dealings, never profited from such dealings, and never took official action in relation to these business dealings.”

“Mr. Archer repeatedly explained that across a decade-long relationship with Hunter Biden, he was not aware of President Biden ever discussing Hunter Biden’s business.  Instead, Devon Archer described how Hunter Biden sold the ‘illusion’ of access to his father—access he never actually provided,” he added.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) speaks to reporters as he leaves the Capitol following the last vote before a five-week district work period on Thursday, July 27, 2023.

House Republicans for months have been trying to link President Biden to his son’s business dealings. Last month, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) floated launching an impeachment inquiry into Biden, pointing to testimony from IRS whistleblowers that accuse prosecutors of slow-walking the investigation into Hunter Biden’s tax crimes.

Comer released the transcript of Archer’s testimony hours before former President Trump is scheduled to be arraigned in Washington, D.C., after he was indicted on four counts stemming from his efforts to remain in power following the 2020 elections. When news broke of the charges on Tuesday, several Republicans — including McCarthy — said the indictment was an effort to distract from Archer’s testimony and other GOP-led investigations.

“Everyone in America could see what was going to come next: DOJ’s attempt to distract from the news and attack the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, President Trump,” McCarthy wrote in a tweet, pointing to claims Republicans have made throughout their investigations and a poll that has Trump well ahead of his GOP primary opponents.

FILE - Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., holds a news conference as the House prepared to leave for its August recess, at the Capitol in Washington, July 27, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Raskin, meanwhile, argued that Comer released the transcript on Thursday in an effort to distract from Trump’s indictment and upcoming arraignment.

“The transcript released today shows the extent to which Congressional Republicans are willing to distort, twist, and manipulate the facts presented by their own witness just to keep fueling the far-right media’s obsession with fabricating wrongdoing by President Biden in a desperate effort to distract from Donald Trump’s third indictment and the overwhelming evidence of his persistent efforts to undermine American democracy,” he said.

The White House slammed Republicans following Archer’s highly-anticipated transcribed interview earlier this week, claiming that the testimony showed that the president did nothing wrong.

“It appears that the House Republicans’ own much-hyped witness today testified that he never heard of President Biden discussing business with his son or his son’s associates, or doing anything wrong,” Ian Sams, White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations, said in a statement. “House Republicans keep promising bombshell evidence to support their ridiculous attacks against the President, but time after time, they keep failing to produce any. In fact, even their own witnesses appear to be debunking their allegations.”

Updated at 12:42 p.m.

McCarthy accuses DOJ of using Trump indictment to ‘distract’ from Biden probes

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) accused the Department of Justice (DOJ) of using the latest indictment against former President Trump — which stems from his efforts to remain in power following the 2020 election — to “distract” from recent information GOP-led committees have gathered about President Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

In a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, McCarthy listed several points Republicans have been hammering in their investigations into the Biden family’s business dealings.

“And just yesterday a new poll showed President Trump is without a doubt Biden’s leading political opponent,” McCarthy continued. “Everyone in America could see what was going to come next: DOJ’s attempt to distract from the news and attack the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, President Trump.”

While pointing the finger at the DOJ and Biden, McCarthy did not engage with any specific allegations in the Trump indictment, a tactic that has become typical for the Speaker in recent weeks when speaking to the press about charges against Trump.

The office of special counsel Jack Smith indicted Trump on four charges Tuesday: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights.

The charges drew immediate criticism and accusations against the DOJ from Trump allies that echoed McCarthy's.

The Speaker, and other Republicans, pointed to former Hunter Biden business associate Devon Archer saying in closed-door testimony to the House Oversight Committee on Monday that Hunter Biden had put his dad on the phone with people he was meeting with, which at times included business partners, at least 20 times over a decade, according to lawmakers in both parties.

A Democratic lawmaker said that the conversations did not involve business discussions and were limited to pleasantries, but Republicans said the testimony conflicted with Biden claiming during the 2020 presidential campaign that he had never spoken to his son about his business dealings. 

McCarthy also pointed to President Biden previously saying that his son Hunter Biden did not make money from China, even though GOP investigations — along with Hunter Biden himself in court — said he did make money from Chinese sources.

And finally, McCarthy pointed to a plea deal that Hunter Biden struck with federal prosecutors on tax charges that would have granted him broad immunity from prosecution, which fell apart in court after a judge questioned its constitutionality and lack of legal precedent.

The indictment against the former president cites a phone call between Trump and McCarthy — then the minority leader — during which Trump “told the Minority Leader that the crowd at the Capitol was more upset about the election than the Minority Leader was.” Left unmentioned in the document is that McCarthy had reportedly yelled expletives back at Trump, saying that the rioters were trying to kill him.

But the indictment does not identify the call as an act “to effect the object of conspiracy,” as it does other statements from Trump on the day of Jan. 6 and leading up to it.

McCarthy’s reaction following Tuesday’s indictment is a stark contrast from remarks he made days after the attack, when he said the president bore responsibility for the actions that day.

“The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said on the House floor on Jan. 13, 2021, as the chamber debated impeaching Trump. He added that Trump “should have immediately denounced the mob.”

Shortly after, however, McCarthy changed his tune, saying that he did not think the former president “provoked” the riot and making a trip to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.

McCarthy further underscored his support for Trump in June, backing an effort on Capitol Hill to expunge the former president’s impeachments — including one that was a result of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Greene, Gaetz renew calls to defund Jack Smith over latest Trump indictment

Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) are renewing their calls to defund the office of special counsel Jack Smith, who on Tuesday indicted former President Trump on charges stemming from his efforts to remain in power following the 2020 election.

Trump was charged with four counts Tuesday, capping off days of anticipation that began after the former president disclosed that he received a letter informing him he was a target of the investigation.

Gaetz, a staunch Trump supporter, introduced a bill to prohibit federal funding for Smith’s office shortly after Trump’s announcement, an effort he renewed calls for on Tuesday as news broke of Trump’s indictment.

“DEFUND JACK SMITH'S WITCH HUNT AGAINST PRESIDENT TRUMP!” Gaetz wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Greene echoed that call Tuesday, writing on X just before the indictment was handed down, “I will not fund Jack Smith’s special counsel.” She also said she would utilize the Holman rule “to defund his office.”

The Holman rule allows lawmakers to propose amendments to appropriations bills that cut the salaries of specific federal workers down to $1, effectively defunding them.

“Jack Smith is a terrible attorney with a lot of failures in his career. Now, he’s abusing his power, the power of the special counsel, and the power of the Department of Injustice,” Greene said in her tweet.

“President Trump is innocent and we must end the witch hunts!” she added.

Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), a co-sponsor of Gaetz’s bill, also called attention to the legislation amid news of Trump’s indictment, urging his congressional colleagues to back the measure.

“Another sham indictment from Biden’s Department of Injustice! This is a blatant attempt by the Left to tamper with our elections. I urge my House and Senate colleagues to immediately support @RepMattGaetz’s bill, as I have, to defund this witch hunt,” he wrote on X.

Tuesday’s indictment charged Trump with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights. He will make his first court appearance in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

It is his third indictment this year: He was charged in Manhattan earlier this year in relation to an alleged hush money scheme, and in another probe led by Smith that focused on his handling of classified documents. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

Raskin calls on Comer to ‘publicly reprimand’ Greene over explicit Hunter Biden photos

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) is calling on House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) to "publicly reprimand" Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) after the congresswoman during a hearing showed explicit photos of Hunter Biden engaged in sex acts — a display that was sharply rebuked by Democrats.

In a letter to Comer on Wednesday, Raskin — the top Democrat on the Oversight panel — said Greene's display at last week's hearing "clearly violated House rules,” pointing to congressional decorum.

"I therefore urge you to publicly reprimand Rep. Greene by issuing a statement condemning her actions as an affront to the dignity, propriety, and decorum of the Committee," he added. 

Raskin also asked Comer to announce that "explicit pornographic images of people engaging in sex acts" like the ones Greene displayed will not be allowed to be shown during congressional proceedings without "clear legislative relevance, prior approval from both the Majority and Minority, and written consent from any individual featured in the exhibit."

Greene displayed the images during an Oversight Committee hearing last week that featured testimony from two IRS whistleblowers who allege prosecutors slow-walked the investigation into Hunter Biden, President Biden's son.

During her allotted time for questions, the congresswoman held up posters that showed graphic sexual photos from the laptop hard drive that allegedly belonged to Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden’s face was visible in the photos, but others in the images involved in the sex acts had their faces censored with black boxes.

Greene alleged Hunter Biden improperly utilized his company to write off payments made to prostitutes. IRS special agent Joseph Ziegler, one of the whistleblowers testifying, would not confirm the claim. But he said deductions were made that were believed to be for escorts, and a payment that was made out to be for a golf membership was actually for a “sex club.”

Comer has not publicly condemned or criticized Greene for the photos. And on Tuesday, he and Greene sent a letter to Justice Department (DOJ) officials expressing concern that “DOJ disregarded the victims who were sexually exploited by Hunter Biden,” pointing to testimony from last week’s hearing.

“Congressional testimony indicates that Hunter Biden paid prostitutes — victims — and used such payments as tax expenses for one of his companies,” the letter reads.

The pair went on to ask to “analyze legislation that penalizes federal prosecutors who do not uphold victims’ rights — regardless of the defendant’s last name or political affiliation — and ensures that funds designed for victim related programs are used appropriately by DOJ.”

In a statement responding to Raskin’s letter, Comer cited “the young women” Hunter Biden “involved in his illegal activities.”

“It speaks to Ranking Member Raskin’s priorities that he is more concerned about Hunter Biden’s embarrassment than the young women he involved in his illegal activities. I hope Ranking Member Raskin will join me in asking the Justice Department about Hunter Biden’s Mann Act violations and why the victims’ rights have been ignored,” Comer said in a statement.

Raskin on Wednesday criticized Comer for failing to condemn Greene for her display.

“Your failure to halt Rep. Greene’s display of pornographic photography during Committee proceedings undermines the integrity of this Committee and the House of Representatives,” he wrote.

“During an interview, you had an opportunity to disavow her lewd display, but instead you further undermined the integrity of this Committee by dismissing its significance and expressing only support for her actions,” he later added. “Just today, when asked about a picture of Rep. Greene’s graphic posters that showed you in the background, you glibly told a Politico journalist you ‘wished that it had been taken from the opposite angle and gotten Glen[n] Grothman in the background instead of me.’”

The Maryland Democrat warned that if Comer does not condemn Greene for her actions, he would be setting a poor precedent.

“It is incumbent upon you to make clear that Rep. Greene’s use of pornographic images at a public hearing clearly violated House rules and to ensure that we are not subject to repeated incidents or similarly unacceptable actions in future hearings,” Raskin wrote. “If this was acceptable for Rep. Greene, you are establishing it as acceptable for all Members.”

Adding to the criticism, Hunter Biden’s lawyer last week filed an ethics complaint against Greene, requesting that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) “immediately” initiate a review of the Georgia Republican’s conduct.

The OCE is a nonpartisan, independent entity that was established by the House. It reviews allegations of misconduct involving lawmakers, officers and House staffers and, if warranted, refers matters to the Ethics Committee.

Democratic Caucus chair dismisses Biden impeachment push as ‘complete distraction’

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) on Wednesday dismissed Republican discussions about opening an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, calling the conversations a “complete distraction.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) during an interview Monday night said GOP-led investigations into Biden’s family are “rising to the level of impeachment inquiry,” then told reporters Tuesday that actions he sees “could rise to an impeachment inquiry.” He did not, however, launch such a probe.

The comments, nonetheless, have sparked a conversation about whether lawmakers should begin an impeachment inquiry into Biden, which is prompting pushback from Democrats.

“This is just a complete distraction, and Speaker McCarthy knows it,” Aguilar told reporters in the Capitol when asked for his reaction to Republicans now targeting Biden, after previously floating impeaching other administration officials.

“In the absence of talking about important policies that reduce cost for everyday Americans, this is what we’re left with,” he continued. “There’s no there there, but that’s not going to stop House Republicans from advocating things that they feel are harmful politically for the president.”

Republican-led committees in the House for months have been investigating Biden and his family’s business activities, with a particular focus on Hunter Biden, the president’s son. Last week, a House panel heard testimony from two IRS whistleblowers who allege that prosecutors slow-walked an investigation into Hunter Biden’s tax crimes.

Also last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) released an FBI document of unverified claims of corruption connected to Hunter Biden’s work with Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

McCarthy on Tuesday said committees of jurisdiction will continue to investigate, but if the government denies lawmakers information they are requesting, “That would rise to an impeachment inquiry.”

The conversation about an impeachment inquiry involving Biden comes after Republicans have been at odds over who their first target for impeachment should be.

Lawmakers previously floated impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for the situation at the southern border and Attorney General Merrick Garland, citing testimony from the IRS whistleblowers.

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), the chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, on Wednesday called attention to the wide net Republicans have cast when it comes to possible impeachments.

“The American people understand that this is a political sideshow, these are political games,” he said. “I mean look, House Republicans three months ago, four months ago, were talking about impeaching the Homeland secretary, then they talked about impeaching the attorney general, now apparently talk of an impeachment inquiry with respect to the president.”

“Apparently, the extreme MAGA Republican wing of the House Republican caucus would like to impeach every single federal official if they could, and I think the American people would far prefer that the Congress focus on real priorities and real issues that are impacting their daily lives. And certainly we will continue to do that. It would be the prudent course of House Republicans to do the same,” he added.

McCarthy walks balancing act one more time before long summer

House Republicans are set to meet as a group one final time ahead of the August recess on Wednesday amid tensions over the annual appropriations process, a push to expunge former President Trump’s impeachments and questions over who they might impeach in the Biden administration. 

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has shaken up the final question by suggesting in an interview on Fox News on Monday night that the impeachment targets could include the president himself.

He told Fox’s Sean Hannity that Republican-led investigations into Biden are “rising to the level of impeachment inquiry” and didn’t back away from the suggestion in remarks to reporters Tuesday.

The statements by McCarthy offer red meat to the GOP base and hard-line conservatives in the conference who are jumping at the chance to go after Biden amid anger over what many Republicans see as favorable treatment by the Department of Justice.

They also come as McCarthy is trying to soothe conservatives angered by the direction of federal spending.

It’s the latest balancing act for the Speaker, who is managing a razor-thin majority and must navigate differences between conservatives and more moderate members of his conference, some of whom do not support as steep of spending cuts and do not want to expunge Trump’s impeachment or impeach Biden.

“We’ve got a narrow majority and we’re trying to work our way to a consensus and hopefully we will,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Rules Committee, said of the appropriations process.

McCarthy must also contend with Trump, the leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, whom he risks angering should he fail to schedule a vote to expunge his impeachments. That dynamic could grow if Trump is hit with his third indictment of 2023 this week.

Wednesday’s Republican conference meeting — its regular weekly gathering — provides McCarthy with one final opportunity to alleviate tensions and rally his GOP troops ahead of a critical week, and a long summer break.  

Top of the legislative to-do list is appropriations, as Congress stares down a Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown. The House is scheduled to vote on the first two of 12 appropriations bills this week, even as conservatives remain skeptical of leadership's efforts to cut spending.

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus put GOP leadership on notice Tuesday, announcing they want to review all 12 appropriations bills — and assess the overall price tag — before voting on any individual measures. All appropriations bills have been released by the Appropriations Committee, but two are still being marked up.

“We are united in the belief that we have to see what the entire cost is before we can start working on individual pieces of it. Because again, you will be left with a very small piece of that pie that we might have to take a lot of the spending out of,” Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), one of the Freedom Caucus members, said Tuesday.

That posture could make it tougher for McCarthy to pass the first two appropriations bills, which Democrats are expected to oppose because they were marked up at levels below the debt limit deal. If liberals are united in opposition, the Speaker will only be able to lose a handful of his members.

McCarthy brushed aside any concerns Tuesday.

“It’s your same question every week, and I haven't changed my opinion yet,” he told reporters.

The appropriations fight is at risk of being drowned out by Trump, with the former president on indictment watch and House conservatives pushing for a vote on expunging his impeachments.

Trump last week said the Justice Department informed him that he is a target in their investigation into his efforts to remain in office following the 2020 presidential election — which includes the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot — a notification that often precedes charges being filed.

That news came within days of a Politico report that said McCarthy — in an effort to ease tensions with Trump after the Speaker questioned his strength as a candidate — promised to stage a vote on resolutions to expunge the former president's impeachments by the end of September, the constitutionality of which has been questioned by some.

McCarthy, who is in favor of expungement, denied ever vowing to hold a vote on the measures. But the report nonetheless resurfaced conservative calls to wipe away the impeachments, much to the chagrin of moderate Republicans.

“President Trump was wrongfully impeached twice — twice — and both of these impeachments must be expunged by the House of Representatives,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a lead sponsor of one of the expungement resolutions, said on the House floor Tuesday.

Those demands will likely grow louder if Trumps is indicted.

McCarthy risks angering Trump and his allies if he does not schedule a vote on the resolutions; but if he does, they would almost certainly fail amid opposition from moderates.

The risk of angering Trump and hard-line conservatives is especially acute as appropriations season heats up — a time when McCarthy is trying to unite his conference behind spending bills to avoid a shutdown.

Some conservatives, however, were pleased with McCarthy opening up the possibility of an impeachment inquiry, a move that could help simmer tensions between the Speaker and his right flank in the sprint to Sept. 30.

“I don’t think there’s any question that him speaking to that has caused a paradigm shift,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) said Tuesday.

Emily Brooks contributed.

This story was updated at 8:12 a.m.

UFO whistleblower to go before House panel

The House this week will be flooded with talk about UFOs and unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs), as a House panel gets set to hold a hearing on the increased sightings of such objects.

Frustrated lawmakers are demanding more information on UFOs and UAPs, which grew as a topic of discussion after an Air Force veteran and former member of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency claimed that the government is holding back information about UFOs. That individual, David Grusch, is among the witnesses slated to testify.

Also this week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will face some of his staunchest Republican critics when he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, a hearing that could further fuel calls for his ouster.

The House is also scheduled to vote on the first two of 12 appropriations bills, as lawmakers race to approve government funding ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline. And the chamber this week could also vote on a resolution to censure Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), after Democrats threatened to force a vote on penalizing the indicted congressman.

On the Senate side, lawmakers will continue consideration of the annual defense bill as the end-of-September deadline inches closer; the House already passed its own version of the measure and is expected to conference its legislation with the eventual Senate measure to come to a compromise bill.

In the background of legislative and investigative work this week, Congress will be bracing for another potential indictment of former President Trump — this time pertaining to his efforts to remain in power following the 2020 election, including the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Trump revealed last week that he was informed he is a target in the probe, which is often a sign of an incoming indictment.

House panel to hold hearing on UAPs

The House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs is scheduled to hold a hearing on UAPs this week, as more and more lawmakers seek information on sightings of the phenomena.

The hearing — titled “Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena: Implications on National Security, Public Safety, and Government Transparency” — is set for Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Lawmakers will hear from three witnesses: Grusch, the whistleblower who has accused the government of withholding information related to UFOs, Ryan Graves, the executive director of Americans for Safe Aerospace, and Rt. Commander David Fravor, the former commanding officer of the Navy’s Black Aces Squadron.

In an interview with NewsNation last month, Grusch — the former national reconnaissance officer representative for the Pentagon’s Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Task Force — claimed that the U.S. government has for decades recovered nonhuman craft with nonhuman species inside. NewsNation confirmed Frusch’s credentials but did not view or verify evidence that he said he gave to Congress and the Pentagon’s inspector general.

NewsNation and The Hill are both owned by Nexstar Media Group.

The panel said Wednesday’s hearing “will explore firsthand accounts of unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) and assess the federal government’s transparency and accountability regarding UAPs’ possible threats to U.S. national security.”

“This hearing will also highlight legislative efforts to bring transparency to UAPs and require the federal government to provide the American people with information about potential risks to public safety and national security,” the panel added in a statement.

Mayorkas to testify before House Judiciary Committee

Mayorkas is likely to find himself in the hot seat Wednesday when he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee as part of a hearing that will offer some of his most ardent opponents an opportunity to question — and criticize — the secretary regarding his handling of the situation at the southern border.

The hearing — set for 10 a.m. — is being billed as an oversight hearing that “will examine the agency's operational failures, the unprecedented border crisis, and the abandonment of immigration enforcement under Secretary Mayorkas.”

The presentation, however, comes as some House Republicans — including ones on the Judiciary Committee — are pushing to impeach the secretary.

The House Homeland Security Committee officially launched an investigation into Mayorkas last month, a probe that would serve as the basis for an impeachment inquiry. But the push to impeach Mayorkas has the House GOP conference divided, with some conservatives behind the effort while other moderates are opposed.

This week’s hearing, however, will put the spotlight on Mayorkas, and could ramp up calls for his impeachment — even as border crossings continue to decrease.

Asked about the threat of impeachment last week, Mayorkas told Politico in an interview, “I am incredibly proud of my record in federal service, and I love serving our country.”

“I have a very good understanding of who I am and what I am trying to do for our country in leading 260,000 people in the Department of Homeland Security,” he later added. “False accusations do not dent that one bit.”

House kicks off appropriations process on floor

The House is scheduled to kick off the appropriations process on the floor this week, bringing two of 12 bills before the entire chamber for a vote.

Lawmakers are set to vote on a bill pertaining to funding for military construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and another for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Food and Drug Administration.

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The votes come as Congress stares down a Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown; this week is the last opportunity to chip away at the appropriations process before lawmakers leave for the long August recess.

But a number of battles are on the horizon as lawmakers look to pass all 12 appropriations bills ahead of the looming September deadline.

House conservatives, for starters, have voiced concerns about leadership using rescissions to hit target levels. Rescissions, which some conservatives have labeled a “budgetary gimmick,” essentially claw back spending that Congress has already appropriated for future programs, which allows lawmakers to claim they are funding the government at one level when it is actually at another.

Then, there is the House-Senate clash that is poised to play out. The House is marking up appropriations bill at fiscal 2022 levels — an effort to appease conservatives — while the Senate is moving forward at levels agreed to in President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) debt limit deal, putting the two chambers on a collision course.

The Senate is also planning to add $13.7 billion in additional emergency funding, which has already sparked opposition from Republicans in the House. 

House could vote on resolution to censure Santos

The House this week could vote on a resolution to censure Santos, which a handful of Republicans have already said they would support.

Three House Democrats — Reps. Ritchie Torres (N.Y.), Robert Garcia (Calif.) and Dan Goldman (N.Y.) — introduced a privileged resolution last week that would censure Santos, citing a number of lies he has told pertaining to his educational background and employment history.

Because the resolution is privileged, the trio of Democrats can force a vote on the measure — once they call it up for a vote, leadership has to take action within two legislative days.

Torres, who is spearheading the effort, said last week that there was “no final decision yet on a vote” when asked when he would call up the resolution but said, “The likely timeline is before the August recess,” which begins Friday.

In the meantime, however, some House Republicans have said they would support the censure resolution if it comes to the floor, which appears to be enough for the measure to be adopted, assuming all Democrats vote “yes.” The resolution only requires a majority vote for approval.

“I called for his resignation, I don’t think he should be a member of Congress and I would vote to censure him,” Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) said last week. Other Republicans in the New York delegation have echoed that stance.

Santos, for his part, is brushing aside the censure effort, writing in a statement last week, “Democrats on the other side of the aisle have completely lost focus on the work they should be doing.”

Senate continues NDAA consideration

The Senate this week will continue consideration of the annual defense bill, formally called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The chamber is scheduled to vote on two amendments Tuesday — one led by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and the other spearheaded by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). Both are set at 60-vote thresholds.

The Senate is working to approve its version of the NDAA after the House passed its own legislation earlier in the month. The House measure was loaded up with a handful of GOP-sponsored amendments on hot-button issues such as abortion and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, which tanked Democratic support.

The Senate version of the bill is expected to be far less partisan, given the fact that it will need 60 votes to pass. The two chambers, however, are then expected to hash out their differences ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline.

Capitol Hill braces for third Trump indictment

Capitol Hill is bracing for a third indictment targeting Trump — but this time around, it will hit close to home for lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Trump revealed last week that he was informed he is a target of the Justice Department’s investigation into his efforts to stay in power following the 2020 presidential election, which includes the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

The receipt of a so-called “target letter” is often a sign that a formal indictment is coming. Trump last week declined to meet with the grand jury looking into the situation.

Trump’s announcement last week fueled GOP claims that federal law enforcement is “weaponized” against Republicans, while Democrats, particularly ones who sat on the Jan. 6 select committee, said they were not surprised at the news.

Those dynamics will likely continue this week if Trump is formally charged by the Justice Department.

Also this week, Hunter Biden is scheduled to make his initial court appearance after entering a plea agreement with federal prosecutors last month. He agreed to plead guilty to two counts of willful failure to pay income tax, and to enter into a pretrial diversion agreement on a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm — an agreement that has sparked howls among Republicans, who have called it a sweetheart deal.

Hunter Biden is due at the federal courthouse in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday at 10 a.m.

McCarthy denies he promised Trump vote on expunging impeachments

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday denied making a promise to former President Trump that the House would vote to expunge his impeachments, shooting down a report that said the GOP leader pledged the vote as a way to temper tensions with the former president.

“There’s no deal,” McCarthy told reporters Thursday, “but I’ve been very clear from long before when I voted against impeachments, that they did it for purely political purposes.”

“I support expungement, but there’s no deal out there,” he added.

His comments contradict a Thursday morning report from Politico Playbook that McCarthy assured Trump that the House would vote to erase his impeachments, citing a source close to Trump and familiar with the conversation.

In the report, the vow was characterized as part of the Speaker's effort to reconcile with Trump in the wake of an interview late last month that landed him in hot water with the former president; McCarthy had said he was unsure if Trump was the “strongest” person to beat President Biden in 2024.

McCarthy launched a cleanup effort within the same day as the initial comment, telling the conservative Breitbart News in a subsequent interview that Trump is “Biden’s strongest political opponent,” sending out a fundraising blast with the same message and, according to The New York Times, calling the former president for a conversation that two sources characterized as an apology.

According to Politico, though, Trump wanted an endorsement from McCarthy following the squabble, which the Speaker was not willing to offer, as he seeks to stay neutral in the primary. Instead, a source told the outlet, McCarthy promised that the House would vote to expunge his impeachments.

McCarthy later communicated, through aides, that he would hold the vote before August recess — which is set to begin next Friday — according to Politico, but he recently told the former president's team that the vote will happen by the end of September, the outlet noted.

Either of those deadlines, however, would be difficult for McCarthy to meet. The House from now through September is working on spending bills for the annual appropriations process, with a Sept. 30 deadline looming. The process is already the source of disagreements within the GOP conference.

Even if McCarthy were to bring the expungement resolutions to the floor for a vote, it is unlikely that they would garner enough support to pass. The vote would push purple-district Republicans into a tough spot politically, and likely turn off others who are unsure if expungement is constitutionally possible.

A number of GOP lawmakers Thursday signaled hesitance to expunge the impeachments, with one House Republican — who said their views “represent a fair number of principled conservatives” — saying they would likely oppose any effort to erase the punishments.

“I have every expectation I’ll vote against expungement, and I have every expectation that I will work to bring others with me,” the lawmaker said, noting that they communicated that position with leadership.

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McCarthy voiced support for expunging both of Trump’s impeachments last month, telling reporters that one of the rebukes “was not based on true facts” and the other was “on the basis of no due process.” He said it was “appropriate” to expunge them “because it never should have gone through.”

The House — led by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in late 2019, in response to his threat to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless leaders in Kyiv launched an investigation into Joe Biden, his political opponent. No Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the punishment.

Then, in early 2021, the House impeached Trump for a second time following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, penalizing him for “incitement of insurrection.” That time around, 10 Republicans voted to impeach. Just two — Reps. Dan Newhouse (Wash.) and David Valadao (Calif.) — are still in Congress.

In both cases, Republicans in the Senate acquitted Trump.

Immediately after the Capitol riot, McCarthy took to the House floor and declared that Trump bore “responsibility” for the violence.

But when it became apparent that the Republican Party was remaining loyal to Trump, he reversed his stance, meeting with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida a few weeks later. He later claimed that Trump did not “provoke” the attack.

The renewed discourse over the expulsion resolutions came the same week that Trump disclosed that he was informed that he is a target in the Justice Department’s investigation into his efforts to stay in power after the 2020 election, including the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He said he received a “target letter” Sunday night, which is often a sign that someone could soon be charged.

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) are leading the effort to expunge Trump’s impeachments; Greene sponsored the resolution relating to the first impeachment, relating to Ukraine, and Stefanik is taking the lead on the second, pertaining to Jan. 6.

This story was updated at 6:18 p.m.