The White House has been gradually preparing for an impeachment inquiry by the Republican Party against President Joe Biden and increasingly feels it will benefit more from the investigation than the Republicans.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t quiet resignation and frustration in the building.
While West Wing advisers believe independent and swing voters will eventually turn against Republican leaders for using impeachment as political revenge against the president, they are also preparing for a time-consuming, exhaustive investigation — one that could generate negative headlines and has the potential for unexpected outcomes.
And that’s not the only political hot spot they’re gearing up for.
Biden aides are also preparing for another looming battle with the Republicans over state funding. They believe the standoff will also work in their favor – especially if it results in a government shutdown. But here too there is consternation. Biden aides expressed concern about the damage a prolonged shutdown could do to the economy and the psyche of the public, especially as Biden struggles to convince voters that the country’s economic outlook is improving.
“The only problem with [Republicans’] The impeachment strategy is that they have absolutely no grounds to impeach the president,” said a White House adviser who, like many others interviewed for this piece, was given anonymity to speak freely about discussions. “The shutdown is a more serious matter. But I think the strategy will be there to emphasize that we have a deal, and that the chairman has to deliver on his goal.’
The dual fall dilemmas are already beginning to impact West Wing operations. The president and his aides are escalating the push for a near-term funding resolution to keep the government open while emphasizing the need for additional money for responses to various natural disasters across the country. They also plan to use September to focus on Biden’s work addressing critical economic issues at home and abroad, in an effort to portray Republicans as disinterested in resolving a deadlock or as outright embracers of it.
Over the past year, the White House has gradually built a war room to deal with the Republican investigations. About two dozen people — a mix of lawyers, lawmakers and communications officers — have been tasked with devising strategies to push back the Republican investigations. As the rhetoric flared up recently, the West Wing has been in regular contact with the Democratic Party leadership in the House of Representatives to prepare for the trial.
“Republicans tried many of these hits in 2020 and they failed,” said a Democrat close to the Biden campaign. “But in a bid on [Donald] Trump’s 2024 campaign and for political revenge, the same Republicans are peddling the same debunked conspiracy theories that have been talked about for five years. They have been examined time and time again. They have failed to uncover any evidence of the president’s misconduct and the Americans see right through it.”
Biden himself has spent little time on the likely impeachment inquiry, according to two people familiar with his mindset. But those around him believe that Chairman Kevin McCarthy’s approach to impeachment lacks an overall strategy — and that he may eventually launch an investigation solely to appease conservatives angry about the state of government spending.
That, according to West Wing thinking, could deepen the already strong divisions within the Republican Conference of the House of Representatives on the issue, potentially forcing McCarthy to either launch an investigation before receiving the full support of his most vulnerable members, or would jeopardize his speakership. a right response.
Biden allies are also betting that the Republican party’s growing focus on impeachment represents a tacit admission that years of ongoing investigations have yielded little. A new inquiry would therefore be perceived by voters as a wasteful fishing expedition.
Even some Republicans recognize that there are political risks associated with an impeachment inquiry.
In the midterm elections, after an impeachment inquiry was launched against then-President Bill Clinton, the Democrats swept a handful of seats in the House of Representatives, though the Republicans still retained the majority. Newt Gingrich, the speaker at the time, said Republicans in the House of Representatives still have work to do today to convince Americans that Biden’s impeachment is “inevitable.”
“My first piece of advice is to proceed slowly and carefully and reveal more and more examples of corruption,” he said. And I say that partly because I think when we did the impeachment of Clinton, where I think we were, we were absolutely right in that he clearly committed a crime, he committed perjury … because we didn’t get into it had succeeded in completely convincing the American people, we had not. capable of giving the Senate a serious trial.”
A McCarthy spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
But even as they prepare for an impeachment battle led by McCarthy, White House officials acknowledge they will have to work simultaneously with the Republican Party leader in the House of Representatives to reverse an economy-rattling government shutdown in less than a year. month to avoid.
Biden and McCarthy struck a deal on the debt ceiling earlier this spring precisely to avoid such a battle. But with Conservatives calling for renegotiations in pursuit of deeper cuts, senior Democrats have become increasingly concerned that McCarthy will feel the need to crack down on a short-term bill designed to keep the government open through December.
“They want one, and they’re going to get it,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said of a government shutdown. “This will be the closing of the Freedom Caucus.”
The White House does not intend to personally involve Biden in the day-to-day discussions of this spending battle, the aides stressed. Republicans in the House of Representatives have far less power to force policy concessions than they did during a debt-ceiling stalemate that jeopardized the global economy, a White House official said, meaning the only message Biden has for McCarthy as of now will have is to keep his word and do it. his work.
What will their argument be now? Won’t the president renegotiate with us?” said the White House adviser. “We had a discussion and made a deal. Whether your word is good or not.”
Biden officials are largely confident that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries will manage the fraught weeks ahead, with top White House budget official Shalanda Young taking the lead. to keep a close eye on the process behind the scenes.
Staff members also hope that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will take a more active role. But his recent health issue leaves it open to question whether he will. Having weathered the debt ceiling battle, McConnell has made a point of declaring his support for a quick fix in September, recently bluntly stating that the Republican Party’s push for austerity was “not in the Senate.” will be repeated.”
“Speaker McCarthy must join Senate Republicans, House and Senate Democrats and President Biden in fulfilling their pledge and funding the administration,” said Deputy White House Press Secretary Andrew Bates. “A shutdown would hurt our economy, force troops and law enforcement to work without guaranteed pay, and undermine our ability to respond to natural disasters and fight the fentanyl trade.”
The White House, meanwhile, plans to tighten reporting throughout the month, aiming to keep the president fixated on critical economic issues as Republicans flirt with a shutdown.
In addition to promoting his domestic efforts to cut costs and stimulate the economy, allies hope Biden’s travel schedule will bring him additional attention. The president will soon attend the economically focused G-20 summit in India before traveling to Vietnam as part of the government’s efforts to curb China’s influence in the region. He will also meet world leaders at the UN General Assembly by the end of the month.
Still, officials admitted that there are still an unnerving number of unknowns heading into the next crucial few weeks — chief among them is McCarthy, the Republican leader whose actions remain beyond the control of the West Wing. While Biden officials came to view McCarthy as something of a good partner during the debt ceiling talks, they also concluded that he was a weak speaker. Since then, his standing with the conservatives has only eroded, raising questions among many Democrats about the drastic measures he may need to take to protect his job.
“My hope is that we can work together to avoid a shutdown, but there are some members of their conference who would see the government shut down just as quickly,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the top Democratic appropriator. “The Freedom Caucus is making demands that would be untenable.”
Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this report.