Congress is in a holding pattern without a House speaker, but Republicans’ most prominent investigations will go on as planned for now, according to multiple people involved with them.
The House Oversight Committee, one of three panels leading the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, indicated it plans to conduct business as usual following Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) ouster Tuesday night.
The committee’s “work continues,” an Oversight aide said. “The committee is continuing to review documents, records, and communications and will take further action in the coming days.”
The committee is investigating allegations the president inappropriately leveraged his authority when he was vice president for his family’s personal financial gain.
As part of that, Chairman James Comer (R-KY), in coordination with the House Judiciary Committee, issued far-reaching subpoenas last week seeking a wide range of personal financial information from two of President Joe Biden’s immediate family members, his son Hunter and brother James.
While Comer awaits those records, some have pointed to the possibility that the subpoenas could carry less weight, at least temporarily, in a stalled House. The lower chamber cannot in its current state vote to refer anyone to the Department of Justice for contempt, an oft-used threat lawmakers pose to those who challenge subpoenas or otherwise defy congressional demands.
One attorney heavily involved in Republicans’ investigative legal work countered in a brief interview with the Washington Examiner however that there would be no interruption to the subpoena process.
“I have zero concerns. I have no concerns. Neither should you,” he said.
While he agreed the House could not hold a person in contempt at present, he said there were other legal mechanisms that would allow certain committee chairmen to sue an uncooperative subpoena recipient.
He also noted that escalating matters with contempt threats or lawsuits is “necessarily a process,” one that takes at least weeks.
The House is expected to vote on McCarthy’s successor next week. No candidate has emerged as the definitive choice, signaling the vote could fail and last at least several days, as it did in January when McCarthy was elected after a brutal 15 rounds of GOP infighting. Lasting several weeks is a less likely scenario, however.
Early favorites in the speaker race include Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), who has also been leading the GOP’s top investigations alongside Comer.
Jordan subpoenaed Elvis Chan, a San Francisco-based FBI assistant special agent in charge, last month but has run into problems with Chan objecting to the committee’s typical rules for transcribed interviews and depositions. Chan’s meeting with the committee is scheduled for Thursday, but according to a letter obtained by the Washington Examiner, whether it actually happens on terms the committee approves of remains uncertain, even at this late stage.
Should holding Chan in contempt become the committee’s next preferred option, the Judiciary chairman would likely simply wait until the speaker has been established to proceed with it.
Jordan is examining Chan’s role in social media companies’ decision to suppress the story about Hunter Biden’s laptop in the lead-up to the 2020 election as part of Jordan’s broader inquiry into alleged weaponization of the federal government against conservatives.
The FBI has criticized the committee for what it says is a “significant departure from normal procedures” with Chan and said Chan “remains willing to take part in a voluntary interview with appropriate legal representation.”
As part of the impeachment inquiry, Jordan is also wrapped up in negotiations with the Justice Department as he investigates whether the department extended Hunter Biden preferential treatment during its yearslong investigation of him.
He has issued several subpoenas to department employees as part of that process, but whether the Justice Department sees any impact from the lack of a speaker is unclear. The department declined to comment for this story.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO), the third chairman involved in the impeachment inquiry, has taken a different position than his Oversight and Judiciary counterparts. While they all opposed McCarthy’s ouster, Smith said the “needless and selfish action” would “stall and setback efforts to hold President Biden accountable for his involvement in his family’s business dealings.”
Unlike Smith, one senior GOP aide involved with the inquiry described a sense of optimism among Republicans that the proceedings would move forward with fresh urgency under a new speaker.
“It’s not going to stifle the impeachment inquiry and the investigations into the cult of corruption. It’s going to turbocharge it,” the aide said.
Sarah Bedford contributed to this story.