Media Matters / Molly Butler

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Some right-wing media, political figures admit the weakness of McCarthy’s impeachment inquiry

Several say there’s no evidence to impeach Biden or admit the inquiry, which McCarthy broke his word to launch, is a political stunt

On September 12, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced that he would launch an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden without a vote in the House of Representatives, contradicting his previous position that there could and would be no impeachment inquiry without a full vote.

Multiple Republican investigations into President Joe Biden and his adult son Hunter have turned up no evidence of the president having done anything wrong, much less worthy of impeachment by the House — which some right-wing media personalities and even several Republican lawmakers are acknowledging, as they criticize McCarthy's handling of the impeachment process.

  • Speaker McCarthy opened an impeachment inquiry without a House vote, contradicting his previous position and earlier promises and flouting DOJ rules

    • On September 12, Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that he is directing the House to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. He launched this inquiry without a vote in the House. [The Associated Press, 9/12/23]
    • McCarthy has been facing “a brewing rebellion” from his far-right caucus members. The New York Times reported of the impeachment inquiry: “It appeared to be a bid to quell a brewing rebellion among ultraconservative critics who have accused the speaker of not taking a hard enough line on spending, by complying with their demands to more aggressively pursue the president.” [The New York Times, 9/12/23]
    • Multiple Republican investigations have failed to produce evidence linking Joe Biden to corruption. Politico noted in May 2023 of GOP “promises to show Biden’s connection to family business dealings … “ that “no link has publicly emerged, and that didn’t change at Wednesday’s press conference” about the Oversight Committee’s investigation into the Bidens. An investigative report issued in August 2023 again failed to offer evidence. [Politico, 5/10/23; USA Today, 8/9/23]
    • After criticism that their investigations have failed to produce any direct evidence of corruption, House Republicans declared they don't have to produce direct evidence. Republicans on the House Oversight Committee wrote in a memo in August, “President Biden’s defenders purport a weak defense by asserting the Committee must show payments directly to the President to show corruption.” [, 8/9/23]
    • When then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced in September 2019 an impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump for his extortion of military aid to Ukraine, McCarthy stated that a House speaker “can't decide on impeachment unilaterally. It requires a full vote of the House of Representatives.” [, 9/24/19; Twitter/X, 9/24/19]
    • McCarthy called on Pelosi to suspend the impeachment process and demanded that she seek full House approval and a formal set of rules/procedures. McCarthy wrote in a letter to the speaker: “Unfortunately, you have given no clear indication as to how your impeachment inquiry will proceed — including whether key historical precedents or basic standards of due process will be observed.” [, 10/3/19]
    • The House ultimately did formally vote, 232-196, to authorize an impeachment inquiry. On October 31, 2019, the full House of Representatives voted to authorize an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s abuses of power and obstruction of Congress. [, 10/31/19]
    • On September 1, 2023, McCarthy declared that “if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People’s House and not through a declaration by one person.” McCarthy told the far-right website Breitbart, “To open an impeachment inquiry is a serious matter, and House Republicans would not take it lightly or use it for political purposes.” According to McCarthy, “The American people deserve to be heard on this matter through their elected representatives.” [, 9/1/23]
    • On September 13, McCarthy lied about his previous position, saying, “I never changed my position” when challenged by a reporter about his contradiction on having a vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry. Instead, he insisted that “Nancy Pelosi changed the precedent of this House.” [Twitter/X, 9/13/23]
    • Politico reported that in January 2020, the Trump Department of Justice issued a binding opinion that impeachment inquiries are invalid without a House vote to authorize them. According to the legal opinion, “the House must expressly authorize a committee to conduct an impeachment investigation and to use compulsory process in that investigation before the committee may compel the production of documents or testimony.” [Politico, 9/12/23]
  • Some conservative media and political figures have acknowledged that there is “zero evidence” for impeaching Biden

    • Fox News host Greg Gutfeld said that “zero evidence doesn’t matter because the first Trump impeachment, there was more evidence for Bigfoot.” He added: “And the media gobbled it up like a bowl of Xanax and spaghetti. So it's your turn in the barrel, you better get used to it.” [Fox News, The Five, 9/12/23]
    • The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote: “This is worth investigating, though so far it doesn’t add up to the Constitution’s impeachment standard of bribery or ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’” The editorial board repeatedly warned of the political hazards for swing-seat Republicans and concluded: “Congress is in danger of turning the serious sanction of impeachment into the new censure—a statement of rebuke rather than a threat of removal. Republicans will need evidence of genuine corruption by Mr. Biden if they want to convince a majority of Americans that he should be removed from office with an election coming in 2024.” [The Wall Street Journal, 9/12/23]
    • Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO): “Right now, I’m not convinced that that evidence [of corruption] exists, and I'm not supporting an impeachment inquiry.” [CNN, The Lead, 9/6/23, via Twitter/X, 9/6/23]
    • Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH): “You hear a lot of rumor and innuendo … but that’s not fact to me.” Joyce continued: “As a former prosecutor, I think there has to be facts, and I think there has to be due process that we follow, and I’ve not seen any of that today.” [NBC News, 8/9/23]
    • Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE): “We should have more confidence that actual high crimes and misdemeanors occurred before starting a formal impeachment inquiry." [NBC News, 8/9/23]
    • Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV): “I don't see the glaring evidence that says we need to move forward.” [Axios, 9/6/23]
    • Capito to The Hill: “I don’t know what the evidence is.” A separate article from The Hill reported that Capito responded to a question of whether she believes there’s enough evidence to impeach Biden by saying, “I do not.” [The Hill, 9/12/23, 9/12/23]
    • Anonymous GOP lawmaker to CNN: “I don’t think the evidence exists.” As the Republican push for impeachment gained steam last month, an anonymous Republican lawmaker was quoted by CNN as saying “There’s no evidence that Joe Biden got money, or that Joe Biden, you know, agreed to do something so that Hunter could get money. There’s just no evidence of that. And they can’t impeach without that evidence. And I don’t I don’t think the evidence exists.” [CNN, 8/28/23]
  • Others have admitted that the impeachment inquiry is just a political stunt or revenge

    • Fox host Howard Kurtz: “It's a meaningless exercise. ... What he is trying to do is throw some red meat to the right wing of his base.” On Fox’s Special Report, Kurtz disparaged McCarthy’s announcement: “I’ll just go a step further and say Kevin McCarthy doesn't have the votes. Because 12 days ago he said the House, the full House, should have to authorize this. And even some Republicans are wary about this, feeling it could backfire on them.” [Fox News, Special Report, 9/12/23]
    • Turning Point USA CEO Charlie Kirk: “The only reason to impeach Biden is just for the symbolism of it.” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 9/12/23]
    • Fox contributor Ari Fleischer admitted he has “reservations … about impeachment” and said the inquiry is revenge on Pelosi for the impeachment of Trump. On The Faulkner Focus, Fleischer said: “I have reservations, though, Harris, about impeachment. I think impeachment is now turning into a vote of confidence in the president, not a high crime or misdemeanor, until we find further evidence on Joe Biden.” He continued: “Nancy Pelosi is the one who has created this situation. She is now reaping what she sowed by impeaching Donald Trump twice and violating the rules of the House in so doing on one occasion. This is the revenge that Nancy Pelosi has set in motion, and Democrats should look to themselves for why we have reached this point.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 9/12/23]
    • The Washington Examiner explained that McCarthy will get support from far-right members by launching the impeachment inquiry. The article stated: “On the one hand, McCarthy supporting an impeachment inquiry of Biden will earn him points with the House Freedom Caucus, whose members have been vocal in demanding overall spending cuts, border security funding, and other policy changes in exchange for their votes.” [Washington Examiner, 9/12/23]
    • Fox contributor Marc Thiessen also framed the impeachment inquiry as revenge for Pelosi impeaching Trump. On The Story, Thiessen said: “Look, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats set the precedent here. I mean, let's put aside the merits of this impeachment inquiry for a second. What did Democrats think was going to happen? They have so abused our political institutions, our judicial institutions for years.” [Fox News, The Story, 9/12/23]
    • The WSJ editorial board also framed the impeachment inquiry as “returning the favor” for Trump’s impeachment and an effort by McCarthy to “get Freedom Caucus support in a budget fight.” The editorial began: “After Democrats impeached President Trump over his phone call with Ukraine’s President in 2019, we wrote that ‘the House has defined impeachment down to a standard that will now make more impeachments likely.’ Well, here we are.” It continued: “Mrs. Pelosi impeached Mr. Trump the first time on flimsy evidence to appease progressives. Now Republicans are returning the favor.” [The Wall Street Journal, 9/12/23]
    • Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): “The purpose of that impeachment, from my standpoint, is not to force a vote that loses. It’s to put on a trial in the Senate, and by the way, not for the sake of conviction.” Gaetz said it won’t result in conviction: “But the true verdict can still be rendered by the American people.” [The New Republic, 8/16/23]
    • GOP strategist Susan Del Percio: “It’s stupid. It’s completely made up. They don’t have anything. This is not about impeachment for cause. This is a political stunt.” [The Messenger, 9/7/23]
    • Anonymous GOP senator: “Maybe this is just Kevin giving people their binkie to get through the shutdown.” The senator added: “It’s a waste of time. It’s a fool’s errand.” [The Hill, 9/12/23]