(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s allies are bracing for a possible impeachment by House Republicans and looking to turn it into a liability for GOP candidates in the 2024 elections.
They are tapping a deep bench of Democratic veterans of Donald Trump’s two impeachments and a team of two dozen White House aides to paint the impeachment effort as an evidence-free political stunt that exposes the disarray in the Republican Party.
The preparation, which has been going on behind the scenes for months, picked up urgency just before the House returned from summer recess with pressure mounting on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to launch a formal inquiry.
McCarthy did just that, and Republicans have set the first impeachment inquiry hearing for Thursday before the House Oversight Committee.
Representative Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on that panel and the manager of Trump’s second impeachment, recently gathered Democratic members and staff on a Sunday evening Zoom call to hone their message.
The Maryland Democrat, who became a liberal hero during the 2021 Trump impeachment trial, laid out Biden’s defense in a 14-page memo rebutting Republican allegations against the president and his son, Hunter Biden.
Other lawmakers working on the effort include New York Representative Dan Goldman, who as a congressional staffer was Democrats’ lead counsel in Trump’s first impeachment trial, as well as Texas Representative Jasmine Crockett, California Representative Robert Garcia and Florida Representative Jared Moskowitz.
Their efforts have been coordinated with White House officials, who spent much of August preparing for a hostile messaging war over impeachment. The day after McCarthy’s announcement, the White House released its own memo rebutting GOP impeachment allegations, saying they are “based on lies.”
White House counsel Ed Siskel, who started the job last week just as McCarthy announced the probe, has now been thrust into what could be the fifth presidential impeachment in US history — and the third in four years. But he’s no stranger to Republican investigations, having worked on the White House response to them under President Barack Obama.
The White House team includes attorney Richard Sauber and Russ Anello, the former staff director of the Oversight committee. White House spokesman Ian Sams has been the public face of the White House’s pushback, attacking Republican claims in television appearances and on social media.
“Extreme House Republicans want to distract people from their chaotic inability to govern and its impacts on the country,” Sams said this week.
A spokesman for House Oversight Chair James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, said the Democrats’ efforts show that they see evidence gathered by Republicans as credible and damaging to the president, and Republicans will continue to dig for evidence of the president’s involvement in his son’s overseas work.
Read more: How Hunter Biden’s Scandal Fueled Impeachment Inquiry: QuickTake
A fundraising email sent by Vice President Kamala Harris the day after McCarthy announced the impeachment inquiry was her best-performing message since the launch of the reelection bid, a Biden campaign official said.
Biden himself has said little about the impeachment probe, but last week asserted GOP lawmakers “want to impeach me because they want to shut down the government.”
Republicans say Hunter Biden was cashing in on his connection with a powerful father and that the president is lying when he says he wasn’t engaged in his son’s overseas work. They’re also portraying the Biden family as corrupt, saying millions of dollars Hunter and the president’s brother James received from their business dealings amounted to bribes intended to affect US policy while Biden was vice president — and say without evidence that Biden was involved.
A House Oversight Committee spokesperson said the Sept. 28 hearing will focus on “the constitutional and legal questions surrounding the president’s involvement in corruption and abuse of public office.” Within days, the committee also could subpoena Hunter and James Biden’s personal and business bank records.
Earlier: Trump’s Clout on Display With House Impeachment, Spending Moves
Democrats counter that the Republican case falls short of the constitutional standard for impeachment, which says an official must have committed bribery, treason or other high crimes or misdemeanors. And they say the lack of ironclad proof shows the House is doing the political bidding of Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination who has told influential Republicans he wants Biden impeached.
The White House, Biden campaign aides and Democratic lawmakers have repeated those arguments in press statements and in appearances on cable news shows. Democrats have also seized on comments from some congressional Republicans who have dismissed the impeachment push as a misguided distraction.
The House Democrats’ campaign arm is specifically targeting 18 House Republicans representing areas Biden won in 2020. Some have signaled wariness about the effort and do not want to take a tough impeachment vote.
The Congressional Integrity Project, an outside group run by Democratic operatives, just launched a digital ad campaign in those 18 districts, calling on the Republicans to address “real priorities, not bogus impeachment stunts.”
The group also commissioned a poll of voters in those districts, cited by Goldman and other Democrats, that found 56% of voters in those districts, and 61% of independent voters, think an impeachment inquiry would be more about damaging Biden politically than about finding the truth.
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