WASHINGTON — Three years ago, ahead of a special Senate election in Georgia, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) traveled to the Peach State and urged voters to back Republicans so they could investigate Joe Biden’s son and maybe even remove the soon-to-be president from the White House.
“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the Senate,” Buck said at a rally in Duluth, “keep it as a firewall, investigate the corruption that happened during the [Barack] Obama administration and put these people out of office.”
Republicans wound up losing Congress’ upper chamber after that election. However, they retook the House in last year’s midterms, and this week House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) launched an impeachment effort against Biden.
But Buck, who was a federal prosecutor and district attorney before joining Congress in 2015, hasn’t gone along with his colleagues’ claims that they’ve uncovered evidence implicating the president in his son’s foreign business deals.
“I have been a prosecutor for 25 years. I want to see evidence that ties Joe Biden to Hunter Biden’s activities. I haven’t seen that evidence yet,” Buck told HuffPost on Thursday. “If that evidence was developed, would I be in favor of impeachment? Yes, but it hasn’t been developed yet.”
Buck has been pointing out the lack of evidence against the Bidens on national TV since at least July — an amazingly contrary message for someone in the House Freedom Caucus, whose other members claim it’s obvious that Joe Biden committed crimes to enrich his family.
Buck’s comments wouldn’t seem so jarring, though, if Republican leaders weren’t constantly exaggerating their material. McCarthy said this week, for instance, that a “trusted FBI informant has alleged a bribe to the Biden family.” But in fact, the FBI source merely reported that a Ukrainian oligarch mentioned a bribe, which the FBI source even said might have been made up. The State Department has long considered the source himself to be highly corrupt; the FBI, for its part, assessed the allegation and considered it unworthy of an in-depth investigation.
Among Republicans, it has been the moderates, especially the 18 members representing districts that Biden won in 2020, who have publicly questioned the evidence against the president and the wisdom of an impeachment inquiry. Yet even some of them have said they’re OK with McCarthy’s announcement that the ongoing investigations into Biden would formally become an effort to throw him out of office.
Buck thinks the whole thing is a sideshow as Congress hurtles toward a funding lapse and partial government shutdown at the end of the month.
“We’ve got border problems and we’ve got crime problems. We’ve got inflation problems. We’ve got a [government funding resolution] that we’ve got to come up with,” he said. “So this is distracting at a point where we don’t need a distraction.”
The Colorado Republican is conservative but often breaks from his party. He supports stricter antitrust enforcement against big business, for example, and he spoke out against Republican plans to vote against certifying the 2020 election result. Earlier this month he skewered claims that Donald Trump supporters who rioted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, have been mistreated by the criminal justice system.
Some of Buck’s colleagues are sufficiently angry about his impeachment comments that they’re trying to recruit a primary challenger next year in his deeply conservative district, which covers most of Colorado’s rural Eastern Plains. Buck suggested he hasn’t really been feeling the pressure.
“I had somebody come up to me yesterday and say, you know, ‘I’m really glad that you’re taking the heat,’ and that ‘I agree with you on impeachment,’” Buck said.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, declined to criticize Buck despite their differences on impeachment.
“I appreciate Ken. He’s a colleague. But I just disagree with that assessment,” Jordan said.
If Republicans decide to go through with an impeachment vote, the resolution would travel through Jordan’s committee, of which Buck is a member.
Democrats, meanwhile, have been thrilled to refer reporters to Buck’s frequent statements about the lack of evidence against the president.
“Don’t just take our word for it: Republican Congressman Buck is confirming that House Republicans have failed to uncover evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden because the evidence doesn’t exist,” White House spokesperson Ian Sams said in a statement earlier this month.
“He was a [district attorney] and he was the chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said. “He’s a guy who knows criminal law and he understands constitutional law. And he understands what a farce this is.”