Biden impeachment inquiry: What is Kevin McCarthy's goal?

The National looks at how the House Speaker faces pressure from several quarters

US Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. AFP
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US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has announced that he is starting an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, although he did not give any concrete evidence to justify the historic action.

So, why is Mr McCarthy going forward with this? The National takes a look at the reasons:

What’s this all about?

Republicans accuse Hunter Biden, the President’s son, of cashing in on his family’s name, and say Joe Biden directly engaged with his son’s international clients when he was vice president.

The White House says there is no evidence Mr Biden took any action to influence Hunter’s business or personally benefitted financially from his dealings.

Republicans also raise questions about why three Biden family members made millions from Chinese entities.

Democrats say there is no evidence the transactions, which were made public in 2020, involve any wrongdoing and do not involve the President.

Does McCarthy have full Republican support?

Mr McCarthy is bypassing a House vote to move to an impeachment inquiry, which protects moderate Republicans and insulates him against a failed vote before the investigation goes further.

Eighteen House Republicans are from districts Mr Biden won in 2020, including five he won by double digits. Many of those are leery of backing an impeachment inquiry unless there is clear evidence.

The inquiry gives Republicans ammunition against Mr Biden as former president Donald Trump, their front-runner for the 2024 nomination, faces four separate criminal trials.

But the conservatives have just a 10-seat House majority and alienating swing-district voters could cost them control of the chamber next year.

Senate Republicans say the party is better off focusing on the economy and jobs under Mr Biden, and not an impeachment effort that is unlikely to result in a conviction.

Why did McCarthy begin an inquiry?

He is under pressure from several quarters including House members of the far-right contingent of the Republican Party, and reportedly from Mr Trump.

The House Speaker, who was selected in January after 14 rejections by his own party, is trying to prove he has a firm hand on the gavel.

Far-right members, particularly in the heavily conservative House Freedom Caucus group, such as Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, are among those who have been calling for an impeachment inquiry.

What happens next?

If Republicans determine the inquiry has enough evidence to justify impeachment, the judiciary committee would hear witness testimony and further investigate.

That panel would need a simple majority to take impeachment articles to the floor, culminating in a vote of the full House.

If Mr Biden were impeached, the Democratic-led Senate would be required to hold a trial and vote on whether to convict him of high crimes and misdemeanours. It would almost certainly fail.

Only three US presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Donald Trump twice, in 2019 and 2021. None were convicted by the Senate.

Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 amid an impeachment investigation.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: September 14, 2023, 7:34 AM