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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn throws support behind Biden impeachment inquiry

Texas’ senior senator said there’s “more than enough smoke” to warrant a deeper look at the president’s ties to his son, who was indicted Thursday.
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Posted at 1:15 PM, Sep 14, 2023

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Thursday he supports House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, though he expressed a less enthusiastic attitude earlier this summer.

“President Biden has committed the sorts of acts that warrant an impeachment inquiry, so I don’t have any trouble with an impeachment inquiry,” Cornyn said during a call with reporters. “I think there's been more than enough smoke to warrant a continued investigation into the president's activities, particularly with regard to his son's actions.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, launched an impeachment inquiry into Biden on Tuesday amid growing pressure from his party’s right flank. An inquiry does not necessarily mean that the House will eventually vote on whether to impeach the president, but is a major step in that process.

The inquiry focuses on Hunter Biden, the president’s son who has been the subject of House Republican probes for months. House investigators uncovered Hunter Biden repeatedly using his relationship with his father to benefit his business dealings. None of the numerous investigations, including under former President Donald Trump’s Justice Department, have yet proven that Joe Biden ever abused his office to benefit his son.

Separately from the congressional probes, Hunter Biden was indicted Thursday and is accused of making false statements and illegal gun possession. He’d previously planned to plead guilty to misdemeanor tax violations, but that plea deal fell apart.

Many Senate Republicans, meanwhile, had been tepid to an impeachment, questioning if there is sufficient evidence. If President Biden were impeached in the House, a trial on whether to convict him would take place in the Senate. Several Republicans in both chambers have also questioned if an impeachment effort would derail their most pressing priority — staving off a government shutdown when funding runs out at the end of the month.

Cornyn has previously questioned how effective an impeachment effort would be when Democrats control the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, has made it clear he has no interest in entertaining impeachment.

“It really comes to how do you prioritize your time?” Cornyn told The Hill before McCarthy launched his impeachment inquiry. “Rather than doing something they know is unlikely to end the way they would like, maybe they want to emphasize other things.”

Cornyn also suggested at the time that House Republicans can use their majority to continue investigating Biden without the need to launch a formal impeachment. Unlike the Texas Legislature, the majority party controls the chairmanships of all committees in the U.S. House, giving them subpoena power.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Cruz, has long been a vocal supporter of an impeachment inquiry into Biden.

Democrats denounced the impeachment inquiry as a political attack and retaliation for the two Trump impeachments.

“This stuff with Hunter Biden is not comparable,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said in a statement after McCarthy launched the inquiry. Castro was a manager of Trump’s second impeachment in 2021.

McCarthy faces pressure from both his centrist and far-right members. While some ultraconservative Republicans have threatened to derail McCarthy if he fails to move forward with an impeachment, centrists and battle ground members feared an impeachment could alienate them from their voters.

An impeachment inquiry strikes a middle ground between the two camps by moving the ball on impeachment while allowing centrist members to say they are simply trying to learn more before making a decision on impeachment. An overwhelming majority of Texas Republicans in the House supported the impeachment inquiry.

An “impeachment inquiry is justified and necessary to provide the House with the additional investigative tools to uncover all the facts to make a final decision,” U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Lubbock, said in a statement.

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee will lead the impeachment inquiry, working in tandem with the Judiciary and Ways and Means committees.

Cornyn has emphasized in the past that House Republicans don’t often welcome Senators weighing in on their business and telling them what to do. But he added Thursday that he hopes House Republicans “do their homework and do their due diligence as they prepare the case and follow the facts wherever they may lead.”

"U.S. Sen. John Cornyn throws support behind Biden impeachment inquiry" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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