Kevin McCarthy’s Plan to Benghazi the Bidens
Seven years ago, when House Speaker John Boehner resigned after years of frustration over trying to corral the far-right part of his caucus, Kevin McCarthy was favored to succeed him. That is, until one night on Sean Hannity’s show, McCarthy said the quiet part out loud in discussing why House Republicans had poured so much time and energy into investigating the Benghazi attack: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.” McCarthy’s fellow Republicans decried the comments and called on him to apologize. He tried to backtrack; it didn’t work. Ultimately, he had to give up on his bid for the speakership.
Ironically, the brainwormed partisan mindset that cost McCarthy the gavel in 2015 is probably why he’ll get it in 2023.
He faces a challenge similar to Boehner’s: He needs to contain the members of the MAGA caucus, or at least distract them with some shiny object. His solution harks back to his 2015 Kinsley gaffe about the Benghazi investigation. McCarthy recently unveiled a “Commitment to America”—a knockoff of Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America”—that promises, as one of its four planks, to hold “government accountable.” By that, McCarthy means investigations. And the Biden family is at the top of the list.
McCarthy’s plan to Benghazi the Bidens isn’t subtle. In July, he cowrote a New York Post op-ed with Reps. Jim Jordan and James Comer, the top Republicans on the Judiciary and Oversight committees, titled “We’ll investigate Bidens’ shady business dealings when Republicans take the House in November.” The placement of the op-ed was deliberate. The New York Post is where the story about Hunter Biden’s laptop controversially originated.
Comer, who stands in line to take over the chairmanship of the Oversight Committee, has for many months made “Biden Family Investigation” a key focus of the minority staff of the committee. It is, he says, “a matter of national security to know if President Biden is compromised because of his son’s shady business dealings with foreign adversaries.” If Comer becomes chairman, he says, “We’re ready to go in January.”
“The Democrat Party, the Biden Administration, Big Tech, the Swamp, even Hollywood and others have done everything in their power to run cover for the Biden family,” he said in a press release last month. Russian sanctions on the Biden family are, Comer claims, “evidence” of Hunter’s “business schemes with our adversaries,” who “see the President’s son as a pressure point to exploit.”
An example of the kind of investigative trails Comer intends to go down: He recently told Hannity he has “proof” that President Biden was involved in a 2017 deal to sell American natural gas to China. Prompted by Hannity about whether the president needs to be “investigated for, basically, selling out his office,” Comer replied: “I think it’s safe to say now that the oversight investigation of Hunter Biden is now shifting to an investigation of Joe Biden.”
McCarthy, Comer, and Jordan are by no means the only high-ranking Republicans with Hunter Biden on the brain.
The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, is taking a more muted approach, but he has clearly signaled his support for making investigations of the Biden family a centerpiece of Republican politics for the remainder of the Biden administration.
McConnell’s focus, for now, is a federal probe into Hunter Biden’s finances that began in 2018, before Joe Biden announced his 2020 presidential candidacy, even before Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on Biden. It is bizarre that, four years later, this investigation remains unresolved—a situation McConnell is taking advantage of.
Given the lag, Republican senators are trying to raise questions about political interference in the Department of Justice and asking that the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney handling the case be given special counsel authorities and protections. Last month, McConnell and 32 other Republican senators—one-third of the Senate—sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting these expanded investigative powers.
In their letter, the GOP senators list examples of supposed “politicization” by the Justice Department—ranging from COVID measures, the search of Mar-a-Lago, and “neglect” in protecting Supreme Court justices and pro-life activists from violence—and said that turning the department’s extant Biden inquiry into a special counsel investigation would “go a long way in restoring faith in our governmental institutions.”
Although the GOP senators concede that they have “no way of knowing the entire scope” of the investigation, they claim that “evidence seems to be mounting that Hunter Biden committed numerous federal crimes, including, but not limited to, tax fraud, money laundering, and foreign-lobbying violations.”
Based on what exactly? The Senate Republicans pointed to previous investigations by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson. Those investigations’ final reports were released in the fall of 2020 (here and here) and largely echoed accusations then-President Trump made about the Bidens related to Burisma—the accusations that led to Trump’s first impeachment.
Like McCarthy’s accidental admission about the political purpose of the Benghazi investigations, Johnson wasn’t coy about the timing of his investigation of Hunter Biden, saying in an August 2020 radio interview, “I would think it would certainly help Donald Trump win re-election and certainly be pretty good, I would say, evidence about not voting for Vice President Biden.”
If the 2023 investigations into the Bidens bomb as the 2020 investigations did, McCarthy has plenty of backup options for keeping his caucus marching in step: Investigations into the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, the immigration crisis, the Afghanistan withdrawal, and the origins of the coronavirus are also on tap.
Theoretically, any of those issues could serve as the basis for an impeachment vote in a future Republican House. This might explain why Republicans like Rep. Nancy Mace say it’s likely Republicans would impeach Biden if they win in November, without articulating why. For many Republicans, impeaching Biden is more about payback for the Trump impeachments than policy. As Sen. Ted Cruz put it: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
McCarthy’s biggest problem, however, isn’t creating a basis for impeachment; it’s giving his members something to do besides impeaching Biden. One could see a scenario in which Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene calls fruitlessly for impeachment votes as often as the Tea Party called for Obamacare-repeal votes in the Boehner-Ryan House era. In fact, House Republicans have already introduced 14 resolutions to impeach Biden and members of his administration.
So, investigations it is. For McCarthy, they are both a 2022 campaign promise and what he hopes will serve as a partisan glue to keep his raucous caucus united for the 2024 elections. If impeachment follows, so be it.
One final point: The Benghazi investigation wasn’t originally about Hillary Clinton’s emails, just as Ken Starr’s Whitewater investigation wasn’t originally about Monica Lewinsky. But that’s what was uncovered, and that’s what the public remembers. Who wants to make predictions where an open-ended Biden investigation that already involves a crack pipe and sexts could end up?