By Kristen Holmes and Eric Bradner | CNN
Donald Trump has publicly and privately encouraged House Republicans’ push to impeach President Joe Biden ahead of their potential rematch in 2024, two sources close to the former president said.
Trump has kept close tabs on the matter, the sources said – including speaking by phone with New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the House GOP conference chair, about the party’s impeachment strategy shortly after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced on Tuesday that he is calling on his committees to open a formal impeachment inquiry into Biden.
The former president also had dinner Sunday with Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene at his New Jersey golf club, where the two discussed the impeachment inquiry, a source familiar with the conversation told CNN.
The inquiry came amid increasing pressure from McCarthy’s right flank to pursue Biden’s impeachment, even as Republicans have yet to prove allegations he directly profited off his son’s foreign business deals.
Two sources close to Trump insisted that while he had spoken to members about impeachment and kept tabs on House Republicans’ progress on the matter, he was not intensely focused on it and was not forcing the issue.
However, multiple sources said that whether he was forcing the issue or not, the impeachment was inevitably linked to Trump.
“President Trump has gone on his social media account and said that we should be impeaching President Biden. Kevin McCarthy said we have an impeachment inquiry. You draw the conclusion,” Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican, told CNN. “When President Trump speaks, there’s a whole a lot of activists that get on board and the activists make their members aware of that. And so directly or indirectly, this impeachment inquiry was a result of President Trump’s pressure.”
“He doesn’t need to directly tell people what he wants – they know,” another source close to the former president said.
“President Trump isn’t sitting in Bedminster or Mar-a-Lago calling the shots in the House of Representatives and telling people like myself or others what to do,” Greene told CNN. “Not only is he running for president, he’s winning the primary. He’s going to be our nominee. And we fully expect him to be our president in January of 2025. And then we’ll be working on a shared agenda moving forward.”
A source who had spoken recently with the former president said that Trump had been more interested in the House’s ability to defund the Justice Department. After Trump’s arraignment in New York in April, he called on Republicans to Congress to defund “THE DOJ AND FBI UNTIL THEY COME TO THEIR SENSES,” in a post on Truth Social.
Trump has also discussed the prospect of having Congress expunge his own two impeachments, an idea McCarthy said he personally backed and would bring it up to the conference to gauge support, as CNN previously reported.
One source close to Trump said McCarthy faces more intense pressure from conservatives in Congress – both on Biden’s impeachment and on a looming potential federal government shutdown – than he does from Trump.
“McCarthy’s existential threat is not Trump. His bigger existential threat is the more hardline members right now on spending an impeachment,” the source said.
On Tuesday, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Trump ally, outlined a series of demands, including calling for passage of individual spending bills rather than a short-term stopgap measure to fund the government, as he threatened a push to remove the speaker.
“Do these things or face a motion to vacate the chair,” he said in a speech on the House floor.
Other Republicans have cautioned that pursuing Biden’s impeachment could backfire on the party, though they supported McCarthy’s move.
Senior House Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma told reporters Wednesday that impeaching Biden would likely be bad politics but that he believes there is enough that warrants the House’s inquiry.
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“I haven’t seen anybody do too well after an impeachment process. It didn’t do well for us in ’98 with President Clinton,” he said. “I don’t see it as good politics, I do think though that there’s enough stuff here that it deserves to be looked at. And I think the speaker had it right when he said this is the next logical step.”
Trump has long said he would seek retribution against his opponents if he wins another term in the White House in 2024 – a vow he made again at a campaign rally Friday in South Dakota.
“That means that if I win and somebody wants to run against me, I call my attorney general. I say, listen, indict him. Well, he hasn’t done anything wrong that we know of – I don’t know, indict him on income tax evasion, you’ll figure it out,” Trump said.