Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said Sunday that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) remarks last week teasing an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden is just part of his effort to deal with the “craziest” Republicans in his conference.
“But what concerns me is, I think McCarthy may open an impeachment inquiry because he thinks it will lead off the steam with the craziest in this conference,” Schiff said on MSNBC’s “Inside with Jen Psaki.” “But by doing it he is going to set a train in motion that he may not be able to stop. And, of course, McCarthy isn’t thinking ahead. He’s thinking, how do I keep my speakership for another day, maybe another week.”
Schiff’s comments come in reaction to a lingering, carefully calculated word game McCarthy played all throughout last week.
Last Monday, McCarthy told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that his caucus’ ongoing, bogus probes into President Biden and his family are “rising to the level of impeachment inquiry.”
Less than a day after the Fox interview, the Speaker walked his remarks back.
“I wasn’t announcing it,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday. “I simply said that the actions that I’m seeing by this administration — withholding the agencies from being able to work with us, that would rise to the level of an impeachment inquiry.”
He dulled his statement even further Thursday afternoon, saying he would only launch an inquiry if the White House does not hand over the information House Republicans request in their various probes, while clarifying he had raised the prospect of an “impeachment inquiry,” not impeachment.
“If they do not provide the information we need, then we will go to an impeachment inquiry,” McCarthy said during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
The Speaker’s back and forth got mixed reactions from his caucus. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), a McCarthy loyalist who also is among the loudest, furthest right members of Congress, parroted leadership’s talking points, saying that an inquiry is actually “different that an actual impeachment vote.” Other far-right members like Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) criticized McCarthy, calling his political maneuvering “impeachment theater.”
On a bigger picture level, House GOP’s infighting gives another glimpse of the politics House Republican leadership has to manage — a dynamic that has dominated McCarthy’s speakership from his fight to win the position forward. The charade around a potential Biden impeachment points to the daily dance McCarthy has to participate in to keep the hardcore far-right members of his caucus, who routinely threaten to jam up all forms of legislative business, in line, while attempting not to cast unwanted public attention on moderates and those from swing districts, whom he tries to keep onboard with the party agenda by downplaying hardliner’s shenanigans.
In this case, just the word “impeachment” hits a particularly sensitive note for MAGA Republicans, whose leader, former President Donald Trump, is obsessed with taking revenge for his two impeachments as well as his ongoing and deepening legal trouble.
Schiff — who served as the House impeachment manager during Trump’s first impeachment trial — echoed that sentiment, saying that these “kind of faux investigations and this potential abuse of the impeachment power” are “devastating” to the country.
Schiff added the House GOP doesn’t even know who they would like to impeach, pointing to chaos within the caucus and its shifting array of targets, from various Cabinet secretaries to, potentially, the President himself.
“I mean, for a long time it didn’t appear clear that they even knew who they wanted to impeach,” he said. “You know, did they want to impeach [Alejandro Mayorkas] or maybe Merrick Garland, or maybe Joe Biden, or maybe somebody else.”