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Republicans add new threats to impeach Austin and Garland, along with Biden and Mayorkas

With little legislation having been passed into law, impeachment is quickly becoming a go-to release valve for a fractious and frustrated House Republican majority.
Joe Biden speaks with Lloyd Austin.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and President Joe Biden both face impeachment threats in the House.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Republicans are entering their impeachment era.

The House majority is kicking off the new year by aggressively advancing existing impeachment inquiries into President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Now, Republican lawmakers are launching new threats to impeach Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Attorney General Merrick Garland, as well.

Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., has announced articles of impeachment after Austin failed to inform the White House for three days that he had been hospitalized. Rosendale, who is considering a possible Senate bid this year, proclaimed Monday that Austin has “violated his oath of office time and time again, and has jeopardized the lives of the American people.”

The same evening, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., indicated in an interview with Newsmax that Garland could also be subject to impeachment if the Justice Department doesn't charge Hunter Biden with contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena.

Asked whether failure to charge Hunter Biden, the president’s son, would be grounds for Garland’s impeachment, Comer said, “I think so.”

“We know how he’s treated two Republicans that were held in contempt of Congress,” Comer said. “Now he’s going to have an opportunity to hold the same type of justice with a Democrat that disavowed a lawful subpoena.”

Under the law, if the House votes for a contempt referral, it would go to the U.S. attorney with jurisdiction, not to Garland.

All of the House impeachment talk is overkill for even some Senate Republicans, who say they are focused on more important things, like averting a government shutdown this month, beefing up border security and providing additional aid for Ukraine and Israel.

“We’ve got so many things to do,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., a member of party leadership. “I don’t think impeachment was something that [was] intended to be brought up every three months or every two months.”

The calls for impeachment highlight how a once rarely used tool is becoming a go-to release valve for a fractious and frustrated House Republican conference that's struggling to impose its will on Democrats in the Senate and the White House.

While the House requires a simple majority to impeach an official, the Democratic-led Senate stands in the way of convicting and removing one from office, which requires a two-thirds majority.

“House Republicans are treating impeachments like an Oprah audience giveaway,” White House spokesperson Ian Sams said. “They are disregarding the Constitution for the sake of cheap, baseless political stunts, instead of focusing on the issues Americans care about, and it lays bare how extreme they have become.”

Schumer calls it 'absurd' and 'ridiculous'

A House committee is already initiating impeachment proceedings against Mayorkas, and Republicans voted unanimously before the holidays to formalize an impeachment inquiry into Biden.

Wednesday will be a big day on the impeachment front. The Homeland Security Committee will hold its first Mayorkas impeachment hearing, focusing on how his border policies have affected states. It’s a necessary step before the panel marks up the impeachment resolution and sends it to the floor for an expected vote.

The same day, the House Oversight and Judiciary committees will both mark up resolutions to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena to compel him to testify behind closed doors. (The younger Biden has insisted he will testify only in public.)

In the most consequential of the four potential impeachments, House Republicans have beefed up their impeachment inquiry into the president, with the power to enforce subpoenas, amid claims that he may have benefited from his son’s foreign business entanglements. They haven’t produced direct evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or cited a high crime or misdemeanor to impeach him for.

“The bottom line is what the Republicans are doing in the House is just absurd. And I think the American people will see it as ridiculous and a big negative,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters about a possible Biden impeachment trial.

Asked how many Senate votes a Biden conviction would get, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., responded, “I have no idea.”

In recent days, House Republicans have targeted Mayorkas, portraying him as a symbol of the Biden’s administration’s inability to control a surge of migrants illegally crossing the southern border. Hard-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., spent months trying, unsuccessfully, to impeach Mayorkas last year. But it was only recently, during a trip to the border, that Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and his deputies announced their support for a Mayorkas impeachment effort that would be led by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn.

A GOP senator poured cold water on Rosendale’s push to impeach Austin, a close Biden friend and ally who has the backing of the White House but faces numerous GOP calls to resign over his hospitalization flap. Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., argued that Rosendale simply filed articles of impeachment to generate publicity — and campaign cash — for a potential Senate bid (which the party’s official campaign arm opposes).

“I don’t put any stock in what Rosendale does. … Rosendale is trying to get attention,” Mullin, who briefly served with Rosendale in the House, told NBC News. “How can they do articles of impeachment when they haven’t had anything to say about what’s impeachable? We don’t even know the details yet. Rosendale just wants attention.”

Rosendale said Tuesday that Austin’s newly revealed prostate cancer diagnosis won’t affect his plans for impeachment. “His current health condition, set aside, does not remove the violations of public trust and the endangerment that he placed the United States security under,” Rosendale said on Fox News Radio while adding that he wishes Austin a speedy recovery “in private life.”

Before the Defense Department announced Austin's diagnosis Tuesday, Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 GOP leader, described Austin’s disclosure failure as “a pretty stunning lack of transparency” and said Austin will need to testify on Capitol Hill about why he handled the situation so poorly.

But asked about other Republicans calling for Austin to resign or be impeached, Thune replied: “Before you go down that path, I want to hear what he has to say. … Congress needs to do its job and provide the oversight function and ask the hard questions, and he needs to be up here and answer them and be accountable.”