Editor’s note: The Hill’s Morning Report is our daily newsletter that dives deep into Washington’s agenda. To subscribe, click here or fill out the box below.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday directed House committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden based on the prosecution of his son Hunter Biden and House Republicans’ investigations of his family’s foreign business dealings.
Now, as the chamber preps its probe into the president, the Speaker will have to contend with the potential fallout — both from within his own conference and across the aisle.
Calling for a committee probe marked a major change in strategy for McCarthy, who previously indicated that he believed the full House should vote on whether to move forward with an impeachment inquiry. He notably criticized then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for not holding a full House vote when she opened an impeachment inquiry into former President Trump in 2019 (The Hill).
THERE’S ONE BIG QUESTION in the room as McCarthy launches the impeachment probe and tries to avert a shutdown, The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in The Memo: Does the decision carry more risks or rewards for a Speaker who’s already balancing on a high wire?
McCarthy only narrowly eked out a win for the gavel in January, in part by making concessions to the House GOP’s rightmost flank. Those concessions put McCarthy in a precarious position — exposing just how reliant he is on the support of the right-wing firebrands in his conference who have threatened that if their demands aren’t met, they won’t hesitate to open a vote to remove him from his post.
MCCARTHY ALREADY FACES THREATS from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who in January led an unsuccessful effort to deny him the gavel and said Tuesday that McCarthy is “out of compliance” with the terms of the deal he made to become Speaker. Gaetz said if McCarthy suggests passing a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown at the end of the month, he would start “every single day in Congress with the prayer, the pledge and the motion to vacate” (USA Today).
While a single member can trigger a “motion to vacate,” actually removing the Speaker requires a majority of the House — and likely substantial support from Democrats, who haven’t expressed interest. “No love for Kevin. But [there is] concern about more chaos, and who might take his place if he is booted,” a Democratic lawmaker told Axios, calling McCarthy “the devil you know.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has become a close ally of the Speaker, previously said she will not vote to fund the government unless the House votes to open an impeachment inquiry into Biden. McCarthy, with his slim majority in the House chamber, has just until the end of the month to pass a series of government funding bills or risk a shutdown, meaning every vote he can get — including Greene’s — counts.
Over in the Senate, McCarthy is facing further criticism from his own party.
“It’s a waste of time. It’s a fool’s errand,” one Senate Republican told The Hill on the condition of anonymity to speak freely and critically about the politically charged decision.
House Democrats, meanwhile, released a 14-page memo Monday detailing what they called the “overwhelming failure” of the Republicans’ investigation into Biden (The New York Times). If the Speaker pushes hard for impeachment, it’s likely that those criticisms will surpass a memo — if a House Republican brings a motion to vacate, Democrats could feel emboldened to vote for it.
ONE GUARANTEED SUPPORTER: Trump — who has used social media to urge Republicans to impeach Biden as a form of payback (“THEY DID IT TO US”) — privately discussed impeachment this week with House allies GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Greene (Politico).
▪ The New York Times: Here’s where the 2024 Republican candidates stand on impeachment.
▪ Politico: How Trump’s Justice Department gave Biden a major assist in the coming impeachment probe. The department’s 2020 opinion around Trump’s impeachment trial could place some serious constraints on House Republicans now.
👉 3 Things to Know Today:
▪ Hunter Biden’s lawyer accused House Republicans of pursuing “repackaged, inaccurate conspiracies” about his client’s “legitimate business activities” in a response Tuesday to McCarthy’s impeachment inquiry announcement.
▪ Everyone ages 6 months and older should get the updated COVID-19 vaccine this fall, and the shots may be available in a day or two in some areas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday (The Hill).
▪ Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) refuses to budge on military promotions despite growing GOP pressure (The Hill).
LEADING THE DAY
➤ POLITICS FROM MOSCOW TO MICHIGAN
© The Associated Press / Benjamin Fanboy | Elon Musk in San Francisco in January.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at a conference in southeastern Russia on Tuesday as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un arrived by train in Moscow for meetings, dove headlong into U.S. politics, seemingly eager to stir controversy with an embrace of Trump and even mega billionaire Elon Musk. The space and tech innovator has not been shy about inviting his share of political rebukes in the U.S. (The New York Times).
Putin, charged by the International Criminal Court with war crimes in Ukraine, called the 91 felony charges against Trump good for Russia and an indication of the American system’s “rottenness.” He argued the United States “cannot pretend to teach democracy to others,” prompting applause from an audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.
Putin said it was “total bull—-” that Trump had been accused in the U.S. of having special ties to Moscow. “He more than anything imposed sanctions on Russia,” he added. “So, what to expect in the future, regardless of who is president, is difficult to say. But it’s unlikely anything will change definitively, because the current government has configured American society in such an anti-Russian manner and spirit,” he added.
But GOP presidential primary rivals were quick to reject Putin’s remarks and some suggested the Russian president had endorsed Trump in the 2024 contest, an idea viewed as alarming among many Republicans and Democrats who oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Lincoln Project, a right-leaning political group animated by its antipathy toward Trump, pounced on what it called Tuesday’s endorsement by the Russian autocrat of the former president — what it called “evil authoritarian nationalists who will see democracy destroyed to line their own pockets and ensure their own bankrupt vision for the world.”
Putin, during his remarks, described Musk as “an outstanding person” and a “talented businessman.”
Musk conceded last week that last year he thwarted a Ukrainian attack on Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet by refusing to let the Ukrainian military use his satellite network, Starlink, to guide its drones — provoking a furious response from a top official in Kyiv and renewing questions about the global power wielded by the businessman, the Times reported.
Musk believed the Kremlin would respond to the attack with nuclear weapons — a fear based on conversations he had with senior Russian officials. Before the attack, he had deactivated Starlink within 100 kilometers of the Crimean coast. Ukraine asked him to reactivate it and Musk refused, according to an amended excerpt drawn from Walter Isaacson’s book “Elon Musk” (The Washington Post).
▪ The Hill: How Musk became a power player in the Ukraine war.
▪ The Hill: Trump, eager to woo Michigan voters, hammers the administration’s electric vehicle policies. Biden won the Wolverine State by 50.62 percent in 2020. (Musk’s Tesla is the largest EV manufacturer in the world. Some in Detroit worry that EV manufacturing is moving south, out of Michigan.)
2024 roundup: GOP presidential candidate and former Vice President Mike Pence will appear at a town hall Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET broadcast by NewsNation and moderated by anchor Leland Vittert with a live studio audience, along with a remote audience of Iowa voters. Here’s how to watch (The Hill and NewsNation are owned by Nexstar). … Trump will speak Friday at 7 p.m. to the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Conference in Washington, then speak at 9 p.m. nearby to the Pray, Vote, Stand Summit (The Hill). … Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott’s (S.C.) girlfriend: “Does anybody care?” (The Washington Post). … Democratic mayors and governors are pressuring the administration to effectively deal with a migrant influx (The Hill). … Here’s a data point that doesn’t play well for most Democratic candidates who champion Biden’s handling of the economy: Real median household income fell for the third consecutive year in 2022 (The Wall Street Journal).
© The Associated Press / Vladimir Smirnov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP | North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday at Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky in Russia.
Kim and Putin met at a remote space launch site in Russia’s far east Wednesday, ahead of anticipated arms talks and just hours after North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into waters off the Korean Peninsula. The meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, is seen as a significant development, bringing together two leaders who are increasingly isolated on the world stage (CNN and NBC News).
Kim offered Putin his country’s “full and unconditional support” for what he called Russia’s “sacred fight” to defend its security interests — an apparent reference to his invasion of Ukraine — and vowed they “will always be together with Russia in the fight against imperialism.”
A Biden administration agreement with Iran to unfreeze $6 billion of funds to Tehran in exchange for the release of five American prisoners has roiled lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. As The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell reports, Republicans in Congress — and even a few Democrats — fear such a deal, which comes after more than a year of indirect negotiations between Washington and Tehran and could encourage hostile nations to take more Americans traveling abroad hostage in the future.
More than 5,300 people were killed in Libya after torrential rains caused two dams to burst near the coastal city of Derna, destroying much of the city and carrying entire neighborhoods into the sea. Complicating rescue and aid efforts, the country is administered by two rival governments, and its infrastructure has been poorly maintained after more than a decade of political chaos (The New York Times). In a series of maps, The Washington Post breaks down why Libya’s floods were so deadly.
Meanwhile, Morocco is still reeling from a major earthquake that killed at least 2,900. Across the country and among international aid and rescue teams, anger is quietly growing against the government’s slow reaction and reluctance to accept foreign aid, fueling solidarity among Moroccans who have been affected by the disaster (The New York Times and Reuters). Caroline Holt of the International Federation of the Red Cross told the Associated Press that accessing some quake-hit areas “is extremely complex.”
“One of the worst things to do in an already chaotic situation is to introduce further uncertainty and potential chaos by opening the doors and everybody coming in,” she said.
The Justice Department’s antitrust case against Google kicked off Tuesday in Washington, starting a months-long trial that has the potential to subdue one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies. The case revolves around whether the search giant illegally used its leading industry position to limit competition in its core search and search advertising businesses (The Washington Post). The Hill’s Rebecca Klar breaks down five key questions that will emerge over the course of the trial.
“This case is about the future of the internet and whether Google will ever face meaningful competition,” Justice Department lawyer Kenneth Dintzer said during his opening statement.
Elsewhere, a legal battle over social media content moderation could soon reach the Supreme Court, any outcome of which would have resounding implications for combating disinformation. The Hill’s Ella Lee reports that an appeals court panel last week found that Biden’s administration likely violated the First Amendment by pressuring social media companies to moderate specific content, ruling that federal agencies cannot “coerce” social media platforms to take down posts the government doesn’t like. Now, the Justice Department has a week to decide whether to ask the Supreme Court to review the case, paving the way for a consequential censorship case to reach the high court.
■ Where is the evidence, Speaker McCarthy? by David French, columnist, The New York Times.
■ How Jack Smith can prove Trump knew he lost the 2020 election, by Dana M. Radcliffe, opinion contributor, The Hill.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will convene at 10 a.m.
The Senate will meet at 10 a.m. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) organized a forum today about artificial intelligence with top tech executives and labor and civil rights advocates (Axios).
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will convene a meeting of select Cabinet members at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the administration’s programs to fight cancer. First lady Jill Biden will attend. The president will travel to nearby McLean, Va., for a campaign reception at 6:40 p.m. and then return to the White House two hours later.
Vice President Harris will ceremonially swear in the President’s Committee on Arts & Humanities at 12:55 p.m. She will travel to Chicago to headline a campaign event at 5 p.m. CT and return to Washington.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak at 10 a.m. at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. He will participate in a Security Integration and Prosperity Agreement signing ceremony with Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa at the State Department at 1:15 p.m. The secretary and the crown prince will meet at 1:30 p.m.
The first lady will host the International Medal of Arts Ceremony at the White House at 5 p.m., featuring selections by the State Department drawn from the Art in Embassies program.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m. and will include Jared Bernstein, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
© The Associated Press / Alex Brandon | First lady Jill Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the White House Tuesday for an arts event.
© NASA, ESA, CSA / Illustration by Ralf Crawford (STScI), Joseph Olmsted (STScI) | The James Webb Space Telescope has detected carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere of exoplanet K2-18 b, a potentially habitable world 8.6 times as massive as Earth.
And finally … 🔭 An intriguing exoplanet known as “K2-18 b,” which orbits a dwarf star, is much more massive than Earth and 120 light-years from our planet. Scientists want to continue exploring clues that it could potentially support life (USA Today).
A new investigation by astronomers relying on data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals the presence in the exoplanet’s atmosphere of carbon-bearing molecules including methane and carbon dioxide. With a shortage of ammonia, scientists think there could be signs of an ocean-covered surface and a hydrogen-rich atmosphere (The Washington Post).
In comparison, Earth’s atmosphere is about 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, 0.9 percent argon and 0.1 percent other gases. About 71 percent of Earth’s surface is covered in ocean.
K2-18 b was first identified as a discovery in 2015.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.