GOP debates impeaching Merrick Garland after McCarthy surprise

House Republicans are debating whether to focus impeachment efforts on Attorney General Merrick Garland after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested an inquiry against him, taking some members by surprise after much of the GOP impeachment furor had been directed at other Biden officials.

In a year where the GOP has been most steadily focused on possible impeachments of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas or President Biden, McCarthy often has been the voice urging the conference to move patiently and deliberately. 

But he has shown more vigor when eyeing Garland, an official leading an agency often derided by the GOP but a figure less frequently cited by the party’s members who are most keen on impeachment.

McCarthy first elevated the topic with a tweet late last month touting testimony of an IRS whistleblower who has alleged mismanagement of the investigation into Hunter Biden, saying it could serve as “a significant part of a larger impeachment inquiry.”

But the conference — though eager to investigate — hasn’t rushed to back the idea, with some questioning whether there is a legal basis for impeaching Garland and others saying different Cabinet secretaries should be reviewed first.

“I don’t know of a chargeable crime,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told The Hill. 

Issa said it’s up to the president to remove those who aren’t following orders or properly carrying out their jobs, with Congress only stepping in if a president fails to remove those who have committed crimes.

“It’s very, very popular with people in the hinterlands,” Issa said when asked about members of the Freedom Caucus and others who have backed the rarely used move of impeaching a Cabinet official.

“But the reality is that if someone is faithfully executing the desires and the orders of the president of the United States, then they’re within the bounds of what Cabinet officers do,” he added. “If they’re not faithfully executing the request of the president, then we don’t have to impeach him because they serve at the pleasure of the president.”

Some of the Republicans who have authored the more than a dozen impeachment resolutions filed this Congress were surprised the officials those documents had targeted haven’t taken center stage.

“I was one of the original co-sponsors of the Secretary Blinken impeachment,” Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) said. “We ought to take that up first for the incredibly, horribly done withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

McCarthy doubled down on action against Garland last week in a Fox News op-ed.

“When a prosecutor shields his boss’s son from investigators, it smells like a cover-up. Garland’s DOJ did not aggressively follow the money. Why? Are they afraid where that trail ends?” he said. 

“Clearly, someone is not telling the truth, and Congress has a duty to get answers,” McCarthy continued.

The Justice Department said Garland by design stayed out of the Biden investigation, leaving the inquiry in the hands of David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware who initiated it during the Trump administration.

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Among other things, the whistleblower contends Weiss was blocked from getting authority to bring charges outside of Delaware. Every Justice Department official involved in the matter — including Weiss and Garland — has said otherwise, noting the prosecutor was assured he would receive special attorney status if he wished to file charges elsewhere.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that serves as the clearinghouse for such inquiries, backed the idea, offering stronger support for impeaching Garland than some of the other secretaries floated as targets for his committee.

“I think he sees the facts now,” Jordan said of McCarthy. “So it’s quickly [becoming] who are you going to believe? … I’m with the speaker on we need to get to the facts. And if it warrants moving forward with an inquiry we got to do that.”

“That’ll be a decision that in the end will be made by the entire conference,” he added.

Until McCarthy’s comments, Mayorkas seemed like the likeliest target of any potential House GOP impeachment of a member of Biden’s Cabinet. Conservative members have been pushing to impeach him for nearly two years over policies at the U.S.-Mexico border, and McCarthy himself had said Mayorkas should resign or face an investigation that could lead to impeachment.

But asked on Fox Business last week about impeaching Mayorkas, McCarthy pointed to a border bill passed by the House GOP and noted the House Homeland Security Committee is investigating the issue, along with taking the lead on investigating Biden following a resolution from Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) seeking to boot the president over his handling of the border. 

The competing interests will be a struggle for McCarthy and Jordan. 

“I think the chairman of Judiciary has a cat-herding issue that he’s got to deal with, probably,” said Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), who serves on the panel and the House Homeland Security Committee, which plans to forward its oversight report on Mayorkas for use by Judiciary.

“I will say that I have a less fully formed case in my head in all its particulars about Merrick Garland than I do about the others,” Bishop added.

Some members told The Hill that McCarthy’s embrace of a potential impeachment inquiry against Garland, coming over a two-week Independence Day recess, caught them by surprise when they returned to Washington last week. 

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), the highest-ranking member of leadership to say Mayorkas should be impeached if he does not step down, said he has not carefully studied the issues with Garland — but he welcomed investigation of a Department of Justice that “appears to” have “a double standard for how it approaches cases.”

House Republicans held a conference meeting Thursday morning in which Jordan and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) gave updates on their investigatory efforts into the Biden family, the Justice Department and beyond. Lawmakers said McCarthy urged Republicans to follow the evidence.

Some lawmakers are welcoming the probe into Garland even as it threatens to put other potential impeachment probes on the back burner.

Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas), who sponsored the first resolution to be introduced this Congress to impeach Mayorkas, expressed support for a Garland impeachment. 

“I think you can do both,” he said, adding later, “We need to have a vote on the House floor with Mayorkas because the border in and of itself is just a — isn’t even a catastrophe. It’s cataclysmic.”

Other members likewise said they weren’t concerned about the GOP balancing its many budding impeachment investigations.

“I wouldn’t mind if we had a new one every day,” Boebert said.

Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), however, urged a cautious approach.

“It’s a pretty serious issue. We’re doing a lot now with different Biden investigations. So I think if the committee believes there is a case with any of the executives that rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors then we will do that, but I don’t think that is something that we should take lightly,” she said.

Democrats dismissed the idea that there is any case to be made against Garland.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said although Republicans have claimed Garland may have lied to Congress, they’ve yet to offer anything to prove it.

“The Republicans need to recall that the constitutional standard for impeachment is high crimes and misdemeanors not doing stuff that Donald Trump disagrees with,” he said.

“Donald Trump’s U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania and [Trump Attorney General] William Barr found that there were no grounds for pursuing an investigation into allegations of corruption against Joe Biden,” he added.

“That would be a very strange reason to impeach Merrick Garland.”

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Andy Harris Darrell Issa Hunter Biden Jim Jordan Kevin McCarthy Merrick Garland

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