GOP senators signal support for Biden impeachment inquiry after briefing by House chairmen

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Reps. James Comer and Jim Jordan, who chair the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, briefed a group of Senate Republicans Wednesday afternoon on the House impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, multiple GOP sources in both chambers told NBC News.

Comer, R-Ky., and Jordan, R-Ohio, were invited to a weekly lunch with the Senate Steering Committee — a group that includes the upper chamber’s most conservative members, such as Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — by its chair, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

The briefing by the two House Republicans lasted under an hour.

The session was designed to be informational, a setting in which the House GOP chairmen could lay out their process and planned timeline, according to one senator in the room.

“Their hope was to make it go quickly. On the other hand, they were cautioned by some to not go so quickly as to be discredited by the public. Somebody had mentioned hopefully they’d be methodical about this, and to their credit, I think they have,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told reporters afterward.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the GOP whip, said, “There’s enough smoke there that I think, you know, there are legitimate questions that they need to get answers to which they probably aren’t going to get because they can’t. They get stonewalled on a lot of the information they need.”

In a statement following the briefing, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the presentation was “compelling.” “Time will tell if the impeachment inquiry should result in formal action by the House,” he said.

A vote to start an impeachment inquiry would be the first step in a process to oust Biden from office but is not a vote on impeachment itself. If the House votes to impeach the president, it sets the stage for senators to have the final say on whether to convict or acquit him.

Some Senate Republicans have praised the House GOP investigations into the Biden family and McCarthy’s decision to begin an impeachment inquiry.

In a statement to NBC News, Lee said, “I commend Speaker McCarthy’s decision to open an impeachment inquiry for President Biden. The allegations of corruption are disturbing to all Americans and necessitate this course of action. The American people have a right to know the facts and deserve a comprehensive and thorough process to uncover them.”

In a July interview with The Daily Signal, Scott, referring to the GOP investigations, said that “what the House is doing is right.”

“They are going through a very deliberate process to say, ‘Do [the president’s] actions warrant impeachment?’” Scott said, according to the Daily Signal. “They’re doing it the opposite way that the Democrats did with [then-President Donald] Trump. [Democrats] said, ‘We’re going to impeach this guy. Let’s find something he did wrong.’”

Jordan and Comer are also expected to update members at a meeting of the House Republican Conference on Thursday morning, two Republican sources previously told NBC News.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Tuesday announced that House Republicans would begin the impeachment inquiry in an effort to seek bank records and other documents from him and his son Hunter Biden. McCarthy said Comer would lead the inquiry in coordination with Jordan and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo.

During a news conference Tuesday, McCarthy said an impeachment inquiry is a “logical next step” of the GOP-led investigations that have been happening for months.

“This logical next step will give our committees the full power to gather all the facts and answers for the American public,” which he said “is exactly what we want to know — the answers.”

“I believe the president would want to answer these questions and allegations, as well,” he said.

House Republicans, McCarthy said, “uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden’s conduct” related to “abuse of power, obstruction and corruption” that “warrant further investigation by the House of Representatives.”

The Republican-led investigations into Biden and his family have not turned up evidence of wrongdoing by the president or connections between him and Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings.

McCarthy’s announcement marked a major reversal after he said he wouldn’t open an impeachment inquiry without a vote of the full House during an interview with the conservative website Breitbart this month. The House speaker appears to lack the votes needed to move forward with the issue as Republicans across the spectrum, such as some politically vulnerable and centrist Republicans, express skepticism over the lack of evidence implicating the president in Hunter Biden’s alleged unlawful actions.

In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for the House Oversight Committee, which is investigating Hunter Biden’s meetings and payments from several foreign sources, said the panel “will soon pursue Hunter and James Biden’s personal and business bank records. The Committee also plans to interview additional Biden family associates.”

After McCarthy’s announcement Tuesday, the White House fired back at Republicans’ claims against Biden in a memo sent to U.S. news organizations that called on media to ramp up scrutiny of the GOP-led impeachment inquiry into the president.

“It’s time for the media to ramp up its scrutiny of House Republicans for opening an impeachment inquiry based on lies,” said the memo, which was written by Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the White House counsel’s office, and addressed to editorial leadership at media outlets.

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