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White House says Republicans have ‘zero credibility’ over Biden documents case – as it happened | US politics

Key events

Closing summary

Republicans are continuing to pressure Joe Biden over the classified documents found at his residence and former office, while Democrats are telling anyone who will listen that there are significant differences between the president’s case and that of Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the White House is demanding Kevin McCarthy release the details of agreements he made with conservative Republicans to win their support for his House speaker bid, arguing he has empowered extremists.

Here’s what else has happened today so far:

  • The White House attempted to explain why it didn’t announce the discovery of classified documents in Biden’s possession when it was first made in November.

  • Trump may be the big winner of the kerfuffle over Biden’s classified documents, especially if it undermines the investigation into the government secrets found at Mar-a-Lago.

  • Daniel Goldman, who served as the Democrats’ lead prosecutor of Trump during his 2019 impeachment, will play a major role in defending Biden from the GOP’s investigation campaign.

  • State Democratic parties are revolting against Biden’s plan to shake up the primary calendar for presidential nominations.

  • George Santos lied his way into office, but he will nonetheless serve on committees in the House, McCarthy said.

It’s going to be a tough couple of months for Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary who has become the subject of near-daily criticism from Republicans for his handling of the surge of migrants at the country’s southern border.

The GOP has already vowed to call him repeatedly before the House, and will probably use the hearings as another cudgel against the Biden administration. Today, CNN reports that several top Republicans are ready to impeach the secretary – something that hasn’t happened to a cabinet secretary since 1876:

The House Judiciary Committee, which would have jurisdiction over an impeachment resolution, is prepared to move ahead with formal proceedings if there appears to be a consensus within the GOP conference, according to a GOP source directly familiar with the matter. The first impeachment resolution introduced by House Republicans already has picked up support, including from a member of the GOP leadership team.

A GOP source said the first Judiciary Committee hearing on the border could come later this month or early February.

One top chairman is already sounding supportive of the move, a sign of how the idea of impeaching President Joe Biden’s Cabinet secretary has moved from the fringes to the mainstream of the conference.

‘If anybody is a prime candidate for impeachment in this town, it’s Mayorkas,’ Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told CNN.

But not all Republicans are on board, with several lawmakers worrying the public won’t see the need for the effort, which is sure to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate anyway. Here’s Republican Dusty Johnson’s thoughts on the matter, to CNN:

Clearly, the management of the Southern border has been incompetent … That is not the threshold in the Constitution for impeachment – it’s high crimes and misdemeanors. … I would want to think about the legal standard the Constitution has set out – and whether or not that’s been met.

Mario Diaz-Balart was of a similar mind:

Has he been totally dishonest to people? Yes. Has he failed in his job miserably? Yes … Are those grounds for impeachment? I don’t know.

For all the bombast of Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans in the House, keep this fact in mind: their margin of control is only four seats. If the party wants to maintain its grip on the chamber for the next two years, the GOP simply cannot afford to have any of their lawmakers leave office.

That said, not all Republicans were happy with the deals that McCarthy cut to win the House speakership, and Puck reports that one lawmaker is particularly aggrieved over the Californian’s bargaining. That would be Vern Buchanan, who was passed over as chair of the tax-writing ways and means committee in favor of Jason Smith, an ally of the speaker.

With no committee to helm, Puck reports that the 71-year-old Buchanan could decide that now’s the time to retire. According to their story, he already told McCarthy what he thought of his decision to promote Smith rather than himself on the House floor:

Just how angry was he? Well, a source on the House floor during the vote told me that while McCarthy was gaveling down the votes, Buchanan walked up to McCarthy and said, ‘You fucked me, I know it was you, you whipped against me.’ He then proceeded to chew out McCarthy’s deputy chief of staff for floor operations, John Leganski. It was shocking to see such fury from Buchanan, who’s known for being mild mannered. Indeed, I heard that the tirade was so heated that the Speaker’s security detail stepped in with a light touch. (McCarthy’s spokesperson Matt Sparks disputed this detail saying, ‘at no point did anyone have to step in.’ A spokesperson for Buchanan declined to comment.)

The House hasn’t convened its committees yet, and thus Democrats and Republicans have taken their squabble over the investigations into Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s possession of classified material to the next logical venue: Twitter.

Jim Jordan, chair of the House judiciary committee, fired the latest salvo by reiterating his latest talking points about the investigation into Biden’s documents:

Why was President Trump’s home raided but not President Biden’s?

Why did the FBI take pictures of President Trump’s so-called classified documents but not President Biden’s?

Americans are tired of the double standard.

— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) January 17, 2023

To which Daniel Goldman, a Democrat who has lined up to be one of Biden’s chief defenders in the House and served as the lead counsel when Democrats impeached Trump in 2019, fired back:

1) because Trump obstructed justice by failing to comply with a subpoena. Biden volunteered all docs.

2) It’s standard procedure for the FBI to photograph everything they find during a search warrant.

In the future, feel free to reach out to me directly with your questions.

— Daniel Goldman (@danielsgoldman) January 17, 2023

And before you “investigate the FBI” to obstruct their investigations into you and others, you might want to brush up on the FBI Manual of Investigative Operations and Guidelines (MIOG) so you don’t ask any more dumb questions.

— Daniel Goldman (@danielsgoldman) January 17, 2023

Ramon Antonio Vargas

Arizona’s US senator Kyrsten Sinema, who recently left the Democratic party and declared herself an independent, drew political fire from critics Tuesday after defending her congressional chamber’s filibuster rule at Switzerland’s Davos World Economic Forum.

Among other remarks Tuesday, Sinema reportedly said the Senate filibuster was the “basis of the productivity for some incredible achievements” in Congress during Joe Biden’s first two years in the White House.

Both Democrats and Republicans have used the rule, which allows a relatively small group of senator to block action by the majority. Sinema outraged Democratic supporters before she left the party in December when she opposed filibuster reform to pave the way for the passage of voting rights legislation.

A group named “Replace Sinema Because Arizona Deserves Better” on Tuesday issued a statement arguing that the first-term senator preferred to be at Davos rubbing elbows with “billionaires and Wall Street execs” as well as others belonging to the global elite rather than “doing her job” in her state or on Capitol Hill.

The Arizona US senator Kyrsten Sinema arrives for a meeting on 3 August 2022.
The Arizona US senator Kyrsten Sinema arrives for a meeting on 3 August 2022. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

Meanwhile, one journalist snapped and tweeted out a photograph of her appearing to speak warmly with former Donald Trump White House spokesperson Anthony Scaramucci and ex-US House speaker Paul Ryan, both figures in the Republican party. The tweet referred to both Ryan and Scaramucci – Republican figures and Democratic opponents – as “old pals”.

Sinema, like centrist Democrat Joe Manchin (who was alongside her on stage at Davos), has often taken stands that undermined key Biden administration agenda items along with other left-leaning interests in the nation’s capital. Her defection from the party came shortly after Raphael Warnock’s victory over Republican challenger Herschel Walker in Georgia left the Democrats thinking they had a clear one-seat majority in the Senate.

There has been no indication that Sinema will caucus with Republicans, and she has said she doesn’t intend to. Either way, when the Senate was split 50-50 for two years beginning in 2021, Vice-President Kamala Harris broke ties in the Democrats’ favor.

Lauren Gambino

Lauren Gambino

The White House on Tuesday defended its public handling of revelations that classified documents were discovered at Joe Biden’s home and the president’s private office.

In a call with reporters, White House spokesperson Ian Sams said the decision not to immediately inform the public of the discovery of sensitive records in November was “consistent with safeguarding the integrity of the investigation”.

“We understand that there’s a tension between the need to be cooperative with an ongoing DOJ investigation, and rightful demands for additional public information,” Sams said. “And so we’re trying to strike that balance.”

He pointed reporters to a line in a statement released by the president’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, after the discovery of additional documents, which stated that “regular ongoing public disclosures also pose the risk that, as further information develops, answers provided on this periodic basis may be incomplete.”

The explanation did little to satisfy Republicans – or reporters – who have repeatedly pressed the White House on why it was not transparent with the public when the documents were first found at the president’s private Washington office on 2 November. On 2o December, Biden’s personal lawyers found “a small number of potential records bearing classified markings” in the garage of the president’s Delaware home. Five more pages of materials were found at his home on Thursday.

‘Rampant hypocrisy’

After the first discovery two months ago, the White House said it “immediately”notified the National Archives and Records Administration, which then informed the US justice department.

Sams repeated that the White House was cooperating with the investigation and would continue to do so, drawing a sharp distinction with the way Biden’s presidential predecessor Donald Trump handled sensitive documents.

Trump refused to turn over troves of government documents that he took with him to his Mar-a-lago estate, even after being subpoenaed. Agents dispatched to his home to retrieve the materials, which Trump said he had the right to keep, and even argued without evidence that he had declassified.

Sams accused Republicans of fomenting “faking outrage about disclosure and transparency” and “rampant hypocrisy.”

‘Fake outrage’

He seized on comments by the newly installed Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer, who has promised to aggressively investigate Biden’s handling of the documents. In a CNN interview this weekend, the Republican said: “At the end of the day, my biggest concern isn’t the classified documents, to be honest with you. My concern is there’s such a discrepancy between how President Trump was treated … versus Joe Biden.”

Asked last year about Trump’s handling of the documents, Comer, Sams noted, said it “didn’t amount to a hill of beans.”

“House Republicans lose credibility when they engage in fake outrage about an issue that they’re clearly pursuing only for partisan gain,” Sams said.

Sams said the White House was reviewing “a few letters” from the House Oversight committee related to Biden’s retention of classified documents and will make a “determination about our response in due course.”

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has vowed to investigate both the classified documents found at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and at Joe Biden’s properties.

But his sympathies were clearly with Trump. The Republican leader argued that the former president had been treated more harshly than Biden, which “just does not seem fair.”

“This is why the American people get so upset and distrust their government when they see that the law is not applied equally,” he continued, accusing Biden of “hypocrisy” for not making the document discovery public before the November midterms.

Here’s C-SPAN with his full comments:

Republicans to seat George Santos on committees despite his lies

George Santos will be seated on committees in the House, even though the New York Republican admitted to lying about his qualifications for office, House speaker Kevin McCarthy said.

While he did not say on which committees the freshman lawmaker will serve, the comment underscores that Republican leadership is disinclined to take any major steps to exclude Santos, who is facing an array of investigations into his admitted dishonesty on the campaign trail.

Here are McCarthy’s comments, courtesy of C-Span:

The day so far

Republicans are continuing to pressure Joe Biden over the classified documents found at his residence and former office, while Democrats are working to point out the significant differences between the president’s case and that of Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the White House is demanding Kevin McCarthy release the details of the agreements he made with conservative Republican to win their support for his House speaker bid.

Here’s what else has happened today so far:

  • Trump may be the big winner of the kerfuffle over Biden’s classified documents, as it undermines the investigation into the government secrets found at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

  • The House Democrats’ lead prosecutor of Trump during his first impeachment will play a major role in defending Biden from the GOP’s investigation campaign.

  • State Democratic parties are revolting against Biden’s plan to shake up the primary calendar for presidential nominations.

In Florida, the Guardian’s Richard Luscombe reports that US authorities are turning back more and more migrants amid a surge in arrivals:

Authorities in Florida have been turning back growing numbers of undocumented Cubans and Haitians arriving by sea in recent weeks as more attempt to seek haven in the US.

Local US residents on jet skis have been helping some of the migrants who attempted to swim ashore after making arduous, life-threateningand days-long journeys in makeshift vessels.

Joe Biden’s turn to the center over immigration comes as Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, attempts to plot his own strategy for handling a sensitive situation in the south of his state, calling out national guard troops in a hardline approach.

To the GOP, the White House’s demand for answers from Kevin McCarthy is little more than a distraction from the unfolding investigation into Joe Biden’s classified documents.

Here’s Republican operative Matt Whitlock:

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