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House Republicans will hold first impeachment hearing into President Biden next week

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Next week, House Republicans will hold their first impeachment hearing for President Biden. They're trying to make a case that he profited from the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden. This impeachment inquiry is very different in substance and process from others in the past. NPR's senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith has been looking into these differences. Tamara, all right, let's start with the substance here. How does the evidence House Republicans have now compare with past impeachment cases?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: In past impeachments, there was a lot more evidence at this stage. So far, House Republicans haven't been able to back up most of their claims against Biden. So let us go back in time to President Nixon. At that point, by the time the House voted to launch his impeachment inquiry, there was so much evidence the vote was overwhelming and bipartisan, and he did ultimately resign. With former President Bill Clinton, there was independent counsel Ken Starr's report and lots of physical and other evidence that the president had lied under oath about his relationship with a White House intern. With former President Trump's first impeachment, there was the transcript of his call with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, trying to pressure him to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden. And also funding for Ukraine had been held up. And finally, with Trump's second impeachment, he was accused of inciting an insurrection on January 6 at a rally that was carried live on TV.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, but House Republicans have been investigating Hunter Biden since they took power in January. So do they have something that makes this rise to the level of impeachment?

KEITH: Well, they have a dense cloud of accusations, some of which have been undermined by the evidence and depositions that they've already gathered in their investigations. I talked about this with Michael Gerhardt, a professor of constitutional law at the University of North Carolina, and he says that this is unlike any other presidential impeachment in U.S. history.

MICHAEL GERHARDT: But in this situation, we don't have any credible evidence. And instead, this process seems to be what is sometimes called a fishing expedition.

KEITH: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said that the whole point of the inquiry is to find evidence of impeachable behavior, which is to say they haven't found it yet. And another difference here - there are Republicans in swing districts that have expressed real concern about the lack of evidence. So if they were to get to the point of putting up articles of impeachment, there's no guarantee, based on what people are saying now, that they would pass.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Thing is, though, with Nixon, Clinton or Trump, they were being investigated for things they did while they were president. But with Biden, this all happened - what? - a long time ago.

KEITH: Yeah, they're talking about a time nearly a decade ago, when Hunter Biden was doing foreign consulting work and the elder Biden was vice president. Keith Whittington, an impeachment expert at Princeton, says that does make this case unique.

KEITH WHITTINGTON: I think it's a much harder challenge to convince members of Congress that it's appropriate and useful to impeach an officer based on prior conduct that occurred prior to their holding office.

KEITH: So that's another way that this is unlike other past presidential impeachments.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. What's President Biden saying about this?

KEITH: So far, he's been dismissive and said he's focused on doing his job for the American people. The White House has called this investigation a stunt meant to damage the president. And they point out the first hearing comes just two days before a potential government shutdown.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. You can find more of Tamara Keith's reporting on npr.org. Tamara, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.