The Biden administration is rebuffing House Republicans’ request to speak with current and former White House officials as part of their impeachment inquiry — and using a Trump-era justification for doing so.
White House counsel Richard Sauber on Friday sent a four-page letter — a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO — to Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), accusing them of issuing an “irresponsible set of subpoenas and requests for interviews” and flip-flopping on whether or not an impeachment inquiry needed a formal vote.
“You also claim the mantle of an ‘impeachment inquiry’ knowing full well that the Constitution requires that the full House authorize an impeachment inquiry before a committee may utilize compulsory process pursuant to the impeachment power — a step the Republican House Majority has so far refused to take,” Sauber wrote in the letter.
Sauber was referring to a Justice Department opinion under former President Donald Trump that declared that impeachment inquiries in the House are invalid unless the chamber formally votes to authorize them.
“For all these reasons, you should reconsider your current course of action and withdraw these subpoenas and demands for interviews,” Sauber added.
At the time, the Trump Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel was pushing back on then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) decision to launch an impeachment inquiry against Trump without initially holding a vote for it. Republicans were also deeply critical of Pelosi’s strategy at the time.
While Pelosi did eventually hold a vote weeks later on the inquiry, the opinion gained new attention earlier this year after then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) similarly opened an impeachment inquiry without a vote on the House floor.
“If President Biden has nothing to hide, then he should make his current and former staff available to testify before Congress about his mishandling of classified documents,” Comer said in a statement responding to the White House Friday. “We are not deterred by this obstruction and will continue to follow the facts and hold President Biden accountable to the American people.”
Meanwhile, House Republicans have ramped up their subpoenas as part of their multi-pronged investigation into Biden and his family.
Comer subpoenaed former White House counsel Dana Remus and requested interviews with four White House officials earlier this week. Republicans are seeking the testimony as part of a probe into Biden’s handling of classified documents, which is also being investigated by a special counsel.
But in a letter to Remus’ attorney, Comer and Jordan tied that probe to their larger impeachment inquiry, which has been largely focused on the business deals of Biden’s family members. Comer has also subpoenaed Hunter Biden and the president’s brother James Biden, as well as requested voluntary interviews with other family members.
Republicans are months into that probe. And while they have uncovered examples of Hunter Biden trying to use his last name to further his business deals — and poked holes in some of Biden’s and the White House’s previous statements — they’ve struggled to find a smoking gun that would link Joe Biden’s official decisions to his family’s business deals.
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