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House Oversight Democrats prepare Biden defense amid impeachment threats

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are preparing for an active defense of President Joe Biden as their Republican counterparts continue to aggressively pursue evidence to support a potential impeachment inquiry.

House Republicans, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, continue to signal their belief that the investigations from the House Oversight, Ways and Means and Judiciary committees have collected enough information to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. Democrats are ready to counter that narrative with a vigorous response operation already underway. 

According to a source directly familiar with the Committee’s work, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the ranking member on the Oversight Committee, has held several strategy sessions with his fellow Democrats over the year, including one Sunday night where Raskin rallied the troops and told them to prepare for a bruising battle.

“The Constitution says that the standard for impeachment is treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. They don’t have anything like that,” Raskin said, according to a source in the room. “The impetus here, of course, is just to do the political bidding of Donald Trump.”

According to the source, Raskin, who served as the lead impeachment manager during Trump’s second impeachment trial, said, “Trump could not handle the fact that he’s going to be running against someone for president when he, Trump, has two impeachments against him for the first time in American history. And Biden has no impeachments. So he’s literally just telling them, you’ve got to impeach him.”

Raskin told the group that Democrats do not have the luxury of waiting for Republicans to make the first move, that it will be their job to go on the offensive and debunk assertions made by Republicans that are either false or are taken out of context. 

“There’s no need for, ‘more evidence.’ There’s been a huge, voluminous amount of evidence, and they’ve been able to get tons of evidence,” he said, according to the source.” It’s just that the evidence doesn’t show what they want it to show.

The Raskin-led group issued a memo Monday morning outlining its case that the Republican investigations have not lived up to their lofty goals. The 14-page document goes point by point to rebut many of the key claims Republicans have made about the president, his son Hunter, and the possible connections between the president and his son’s business dealings. The special counsel’s office overseeing the federal investigation into Hunter Biden said it intends to seek a grand jury indictment later this month but there’s no indication that the president himself is part of his investigation. The president has repeatedly said he played no role in any of his son’s businesses. 

In the memo, Raskin describes the GOP-led probe as a “total bust” and a “epic flop.” That language is a preview of how aggressive Democrats plan to be in the effort to defend the President. 

“They’re grasping at straws,” said Rep. Robert Garcia in the private meeting, according to the source. “[Let’s keep] the offensive, being tough, pushing back on every lie, you know, […] making sure that folks know that—that basically, this is all political. It’s all about Donald Trump.”

Republicans, feel very differently. They argue the new push by Democrats is evidence that their investigation has worked.

“The Oversight Committee has a duty to continue to follow this pattern of corruption and hold President Biden accountable for abusing public office for the financial benefit of his family,” said Jessica Collins, a spokesperson for the Oversight Committee Republicans in a statement to NBC News. “Unfortunately, Democrats would rather play Biden family defense lawyer instead of working for the American people. We will continue to work to provide the transparency and accountability that Americans demand and deserve.”

And the GOP push has shown no signs of slowing down. The three committees leading the investigation are in the process of a series of closed-door transcribed interviews with a group of FBI and IRS investigators who they believe have direct knowledge of the claims made by IRS whistleblowers that the investigation into Hunter Biden was given preferential treatment. Special Counsel David Weiss, a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney, has denied the allegations.

But while Republicans continue to push forward, they have yet to deliver the smoking gun evidence that would implicate the president, a point Democrats plan to hammer home as much as possible. 

“Their real problem is that that mountain of information does not show any wrongdoing by President Biden, as numerous Republicans in both chambers have acknowledged,” said Rep. Daniel Goldman, D-N.Y., on the private call, according to a source in the meeting. “There is no support for an impeachment inquiry based on the evidence collected over the past eight months or in order to obtain more information, but Speaker McCarthy is desperate to placate Marjorie Taylor Greene and other far-right Republicans with a half-baked impeachment inquiry designed to do Donald Trump’s political bidding.”

While several Republicans on the right, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, are demanding that McCarthy move toward an impeachment inquiry as soon as possible, the conference is far from united. In an interview with MSNBC’s Jen Psaki on Sunday, Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado said, “There is not a strong connection at this point between the evidence on Hunter Biden and any evidence connecting the president.” He urged his party to stay focused on border security, crime, and inflation instead.

The White House, meanwhile, has stood up its own war room of two dozen lawyers, legislative aides and communications staffers to lead an aggressive response to any impeachment inquiry, a White House aide familiar with the strategy told NBC News last week. 

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