President Joe Biden’s team has begun to execute an impeachment playbook more than a year in the making: Discredit the investigators while sticking to the business of governing.
Biden’s aides spent the August congressional recess honing their plans after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy suggested in late July he was likely to open an impeachment inquiry.
But they’d been hiring staff and gaming out possible scenarios for months before that, consulting veterans of past impeachments and determining the contours of their response.
The principal objective for Biden’s team is countering what many Democrats fear could become an ingrained narrative of self-dealing about the president — despite a lack of any evidence so far of wrongdoing.
“If you don’t answer it, it can sink into the voter psyche. They’re walking that line,” a person familiar with White House thinking said.
On September 13, Biden made his first public comments on McCarthy’s impeachment inquiry, linking the inquiry to the upcoming showdown over funding the government. Congress faces a September 30 deadline to keep the government open and McCarthy is facing deep divisions within his own conference about how to handle the matter.
“Well, I tell you what, I don’t know quite why, but they just knew they wanted to impeach me. And now, the best I can tell, they want to impeach me because they want to shut down the government.”
“So look, look, I got a job to do. Everybody always asked about impeachment. I get up every day, not a joke, not focused on impeachment. I’ve got a job to do. I’ve got to deal with the issues that affect the American people every single solitary day.”
The impeachment inquiry comes at a fragile political moment for the president. Widespread concern about his age and reelection prospects have caused jitters in Democratic circles. Some allies have voiced private concern at how intense attention on his son Hunter Biden could become a drag on him, politically and emotionally.
But Biden’s advisers believe the inquiry announced by McCarthy could be used to their advantage if Republicans are viewed as overstepping in their claims or shirking their governing responsibilities, according to officials who laid out their plans.
Read more about how Biden prepared for the inquiry.