How Much of a Priority Will Investigating Biden Be for the New Congress?

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To get a better sense of the House GOP’s investigative priorities in the new Congress — and a look into the new investigations that could spawn from the handling of these classified documents — we with POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney, a reporter who covers Congress and legal affairs.

How much of a priority will investigating Biden be for the new Republican-led Congress?

The new Republican Congress knows that legislating isn’t really going to be possible in a divided Congress with a Democratic president, so the most significant thing they achieved were committee gavels that come with subpoena power. They just watched the Jan. 6 select committee mount an extraordinary investigation that not only unearthed damaging facts about Donald Trump, but had an impact in the midterms, convincing voters that the threats to democracy were significant. Now, Republicans say they intend to use that subpoena power to delve into some of the issues that have animated their base.

What sorts of issues are they hoping to use that subpoena power to uncover? Do you have a sense of what their plans are for the next six months or so?

It’s wide-ranging, everything you can imagine — from genuine policy issues related to illegal immigration and the border, Covid relief fraud and the Afghanistan withdrawal to more red meat issues for the base. I’m particularly interested in the newly established Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, which was a key demand of Speaker McCarthy’s hardline detractors. That one will look at ongoing criminal investigations, the FBI, the intelligence community, social media companies, etc.

What does the news that classified documents linked to Biden from his time as vice president were found in an office of his do to that agenda?

I’m certain the Oversight Committee will play a role in looking into those documents, and potentially this new subcommittee as well. It’s a legitimate issue worth exploring, and one that I have the sense is more common than people realize — the mishandling of classified documents. The Republicans were particularly animated because they used it as a chance to compare the situation to the criminal jeopardy that Trump is facing because of his own issue with classified documents. There’s just not enough information yet to really compare these cases, and at the very least, we know Biden’s team returned the documents without requiring a subpoena or drawn-out negotiations.

Will Republicans demand a special counsel? Will that change how the DOJ conducts its business around this case? And how much of a thorn in Biden’s side does this have the potential to turn into?

The main caveat is, we don’t know very many details about the Biden documents. Whatever Republicans say about it isn’t going to influence the Justice Department, but they will have to contend with the obvious questions about why Trump’s conduct warrants criminal scrutiny and Biden’s does not — if it does not. Politically, it presents an optics problem, but legally that theoretically shouldn’t matter. The biggest difference appears to be that when the Biden team discovered these documents, they turned them over immediately, it didn’t require a Justice Department subpoena and negotiations that dragged on for months.

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