The announcement of an “impeachment inquiry” in the House to determine whether there are grounds to remove President Joe Biden is more of a political move than a legal one.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s announcement Tuesday doesn’t change what GOP investigators — led by Oversight Committee chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — are already doing.
It’s unclear whether McCarthy will call for a House vote officially declaring an “impeachment inquiry.”
Until then, he’s simply renaming the work Comer and Jordan already are doing.
McCarthy might want to try for a House vote to give the inquiry extra legitimacy — and a few investigative advantages.
In an impeachment inquiry, the House legitimately functions like a grand jury conducting a criminal investigation — in this instance, probing bribery as well as “high crimes and misdemeanors” (which don’t have to be penal offenses but usually are).
As a practical matter, though, congressional committees frequently act as if they were grand juries — see, for example, the House January 6 Committee, which was unabashed about trying to prove crimes against Trump and made a ballyhooed criminal referral to the Justice Department toward that end.
The real advantage of an impeachment inquiry is political: In the court of public opinion, it is more egregious for the executive branch to defy the information demands of an impeachment committee than those of an ordinary committee.
Moreover, obstructing an impeachment investigation can itself be an impeachable offense.
That’s not much of an advantage, though.
Obstructing any congressional investigation is already a crime — indeed, former Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro have been convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring subpoenas from the House January 6 Committee.
And let’s face it: call it an “impeachment” committee, call it an “oversight committee,” call it “Matilda” if you like; whatever it’s called, the Biden administration is going to stonewall, congressional Democrats are going to say it’s a witch-hunt by MAGA Republicans to distract from Trump’s criminal indictments, and the media-Democrat complex is going to circle the wagons around our senescent president.
My advice (which is worth what Kevin McCarthy is paying for it — nada) is: Don’t push for an impeachment inquiry unless you’re sure you have the votes of the full House.
Chairman Comer and the other GOP-led committees are doing a great job.
In just eight months, they have significantly advanced public awareness of Biden’s corruption. Let them continue their work.
It would only undermine them for McCarthy to lose an impeachment inquiry vote — or otherwise have to climb down from seeking one. It would be an unforced error and a coup for the undeserving Biden.
That might be worth the risk if there were some great benefit in an impeachment inquiry or some real chance of Biden’s being convicted and removed. There’s not.
Andrew C. McCarthy is a former federal prosecutor.