He appears more focused on getting dual blots on his presidency annulled
BY ISAAC ARNSDORF AND JOSH DAWSEY Marianne LeVine and Paul Kane contributed to this report. · 17 Set 2023
Former president Donald Trump often shows more interest in expunging his impeachments than impeaching President Biden. Advisers say he isn’t the driving force behind the Biden impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill. And he has at times been muted about the actions of House GOP leaders.
The Republican polling leader in the 2024 presidential campaign has been relentless in leveling exaggerated or unsubstantiated accusations against Biden — raising suspicions about his family’s finances that House Republicans are now pursuing with their impeachment inquiry. But Trump has so far been markedly less forceful in advocating for impeachment — a position that reflects the tenuous standing of the House GOP strategy, even within the party.
“That’s up to them if they want to do impeachment or impeachment inquiry,” Trump said of House Republicans impeaching Biden in an interview with Megyn Kelly that aired Thursday. “I have no idea whether they will or not, we do have a lot of other things. But it’s quite important, and they did it to me.”
The last part — Trump’s own impeachments, first for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden, and then for inciting the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — has occupied Trump more. He has told Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that he wants his own impeachments formally annulled, according to two people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. McCarthy has signaled openness to the idea but made no commitments, one of the people said.
Seeking a return to the White House as a twice-impeached former president facing criminal charges in four cases, Trump has often focused more heavily on what he would do to exact retribution on his political opponents if he is returned to power. On the campaign trail, he has vowed to appoint a special prosecutor to “go after” Biden.
Trump has also privately complained more about the lack of criminal charges against Biden and his son, Hunter, than about House Republicans’ not impeaching the president, the person said. On Thursday, special counsel David Weiss indicted Hunter Biden for allegedly making false statements and illegally possessing a handgun after a plea deal to two misdemeanor tax violations fell apart in July.
Trump responded to the Hunter Biden charges by accusing prosecutors of going easy on him. “This, the gun charge, is the only crime that Hunter Biden committed that does not implicate Crooked Joe Biden,” he said in a social media post. The president has denied any involvement in his son’s affairs, and no evidence has emerged proving otherwise.
As House Republicans hoping to uncover more evidence move toward impeachment, a senior GOP aide agreed that the effort has been driven more by members of Congress than by Trump. On Trump’s team, there is a similar perspective. “It’s not something he is on the phone with these guys about,” a Trump adviser said of the impeachment inquiry. “He is not driving it.”
McCarthy’s calculation to use his power to trigger House committees to open an impeachment inquiry reflects the pressure from his right to act — but also the recognition that there would not be enough votes to open an inquiry on the House floor.
Trump’s relative quietude on the issue contrasts with the White House’s efforts to portray House Republicans as doing Trump’s bidding.
“Speaker-in-name-only Kevin McCarthy opened this baseless impeachment inquiry, at the behest of Donald Trump, centered on the same, debunked lies from four years ago in a bid to help Trump’s political campaign,” Biden campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa said in a statement.
Even without a full-throated demand for Biden’s impeachment, Trump has described it as getting even with Democrats for impeaching him. He has gone further to suggest that Republicans would be justified in responding to his 91 criminal charges by concocting indictments against Democrats.
“Had they not done it to me … perhaps you wouldn’t have it being done to them,” Trump said in the Kelly interview. “And this is going to happen with indictments, to fake indictments. And I think you’re going to see that as time goes by, you’re going to see Republicans when they’re in power doing it.”
Trump has in recent months dialed up accusations about Biden, drawing on right-wing media reports and House Republicans’ investigations into Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings. Trump goes further than the available evidence to falsely claim there is proof that Joe Biden has taken foreign bribes and that the payments are influencing his actions as president.
Despite the lack of proof, surveys suggest many Americans suspect Biden’s entanglement. In a CNN poll conducted by SSRS released earlier this month, 61 percent of Americans said they believe Joe Biden was involved in Hunter Biden’s business dealings with Ukraine and China while the elder Biden was vice president. The survey also showed a majority (55 percent) said Joe Biden has acted inappropriately when it comes to the investigation into his son. Views diverged along party lines.
Stopping short of demanding an impeachment inquiry, Trump in July called on House Republicans to withhold military aid for Ukraine to pressure the administration to cooperate with investigations into the Bidens. In an August social media post, he suggested an impeachment inquiry would be “well meaning” but too slow. “You don’t need a long INQUIRY to prove it,” Trump wrote at the time, along with unproven allegations about Biden, calling on Republicans to either impeach him or “fade into OBLIVION.”
“He’s a candidate running for president, he’s not running the House of Representatives with an impeachment inquiry,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has been agitating for impeachment for months, told reporters at the Capitol on Thursday. “One of the things I love about President Trump is he always tells us what he thinks. … I’m sure he’ll give his opinion.”
Trump has been in touch with House Republicans such as Greene and Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York. But he has not been actively lobbying lawmakers about impeachment. He spent Thursday playing golf at his club in New Jersey.
Trump has continued to needle McCarthy for saying immediately after Jan. 6 that Trump deserved to be censured — “the c word,” as Trump calls it privately, according to another adviser. The adviser said Trump runs “hot and cold” and became apoplectic earlier this year when McCarthy suggested in a television interview that Trump might not be the strongest Republican nominee for 2024. McCarthy quickly backtracked from his comments.