“Smells like Benghazi”: Republicans reveal fury over Kevin McCarthy’s “impeachment theater”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., drew fire from inside his own party after floating the idea of launching an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

Former President Donald Trump and his right-wing allies have pushed an investigation into Hunter Biden and the president’s family that has thus far yielded little evidence but a lot of hype from the right. But after the Hunter Biden case nearly imploded this week — with the younger Biden pleading not guilty on Wednesday to tax and gun charges as his initial plea deal fell apart — some Republicans contemplated whether it was effective to continue going after the president’s son on the matter at all.

According to Politico, McCarthy himself dialed back his Tuesday comments that suggested an impeachment inquiry was on the horizon, clarifying instead that Republicans merely “could” move forward with the proceedings. 

Republican presidential candidates setting their sights on the party nomination are also avoiding Hunter Biden’s legal and personal issues on the trail, only commenting on them in passing and choosing to challenge the president on the economy and foreign policy.

“I think when we get home, the focus is the economy, the border, crime,” Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Politico. “These are the issues that matter and these are the issues we’re talking about.”

Hunter Biden, he added, is only a “focus in D.C.,” not elsewhere.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., took a stronger stance on the matter, telling CNN’s Dana Bush on Wednesday that the GOP furor over the Bidens is “impeachment theater.” 

“This is impeachment theater. We right now are starting the appropriations process. And there is not consensus on the Republican side about what the numbers should be,” the Freedom Caucus member said.

“What [McCarthy is] doing is he’s saying there’s a shiny object over here and we’re really going to focus on that,” he added. “We just need to get all these things done so we can focus on the shiny object. Most of us are concerned about spending.”

Buck also accused the California Republican of breaking promises he made to other members of the GOP in order to win the speakership in January.

“Kevin McCarthy promised when he was running for speaker one set of numbers. Then he made an agreement with President Biden for the debt ceiling increase on another set of numbers. So right now, he has got to convince the public that he’s credible,” Buck told Bash.

He did not, however, dismiss the possibility of an impeachment inquiry entirely, saying that he believes “it’s absolutely Congress’ role to look at possible impeachment.” 

The recent headlines surrounding Hunter Biden have plowed a division through the GOP about how to handle his controversy ahead of the 2024 elections. Former President Donald Trump decried what he called the “traffic ticket instead of a death sentence” given to Hunter Biden, and several other pundits have joined him in calling for the president’s impeachment over allegations that the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney who investigated him gave him a light deal. Another portion of the party, however, appears to be approaching the matter with caution due to worries about focusing too much on political scandal and not pocketbook issues.

“If anybody deserves to be impeached, I believe it’s Biden for what he has done. At the same time, we’ve got to look to 2024,” Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, told Politico. “We’ve got to get this White House back. We’ve got to get the Senate back.”

“If I was running for president I would focus on what I can do for 2024 and get this economy going again,” he added.

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The Republican Party has debated over how intensely to take President Biden to task over his son’s legal battles. During a briefing with reporters Monday night, the president of the conservative Club for Growth, David McIntosh, reviewed polling the group had done this month that included a question about whether the president should acknowledge having a seventh grandchild. Hunter Biden had initially denied fathering the 4-year-old girl, who lives with her mother in Arkansas, before recently settling a child support case. The president has refused to acknowledge the child publicly.

McIntosh called the matter a “family issue,” explaining that the Club decided to “throw it in and see what people say.” The poll found that 69 percent of respondents believed President Biden should acknowledge the child, McIntosh said, and 63 percent indicated it was a problem that illegal drugs had turned up in the White House.

“I was a little surprised it was that high,” he told Politico.

McIntosh did not take a position on whether Republicans should be investing resources into messaging about Hunter Biden or the so-called “Biden Crime Family,” a term far-right influences and congressmen have adopted. 

But conservatives aren’t currently putting much money behind attacks of the younger Biden, a sign that strategists see other talking points as more important to voters.

A Politico review of on-air and digital political ads from the last three months found that only one 2024 presidential candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy, has spent money on jabs at Hunter Biden. His campaign spent just $907 for a digital ad in late June that criticized the plea deal, according to media tracking firm AdImpact. A separate Politico review of television and digital ads found that the only national conservative group paying for Hunter Biden messaging is Judicial Watch, which has spent less than $3,000 on a digital advertisement. 

GOP candidates and their aligned super PACs are instead taking aim at President Biden and Democrats’ handling of energy, the economy and education policies in their political messaging. They’ve spent a collective $57 million to date on television ads, none of which referenced the corruption alleged against the Biden family.

A June Ipsos/Reuters poll indicated that Republicans may have good reason to be cautious about harping on Hunter Biden. Though the poll found that half of Americans believed the younger Biden was receiving favorable treatment from federal prosecutors because of his father, 60 percent — including 59 percent who self-identified as independents — believe that the president is being a “good father” by supporting his son through his legal woes.

The current focus on Hunter Biden “just smells like Benghazi,” Republican strategist Mike Madrid told Politico, referencing the House GOP’s two-year, multi-million dollar investigation into the Benghazi attack and allegations of Hillary Clinton’s wrongdoing ahead of her 2016 bid for the presidency. The final report released several months before the November election found no evidence of Clinton’s misconduct.

“Republicans trying desperately to make a story. It’s always, ‘We’ve got a witness coming, we’ve got more coming.’ It’s always next week,” Madrid added. “It’s like a soap opera, ‘Tune in next week.'”

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