How Trump has pushed House Republicans to go after Biden: 'They did it to me'

But some GOP lawmakers say "the real pressure" will be coming from their base.

September 15, 2023, 3:21 PM

Before House Speaker Kevin McCarthy decided to move forward with an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump openly pushed Republicans to do more, claiming his political rival is a "crook," which the White House denies as baseless.

Sources tell ABC News that, this week, Trump also privately discussed Biden and impeachment with House Republicans before and after McCarthy announced he was launching an investigation, which ramps up congressional scrutiny of the president at the same time that Trump faces four criminal cases of his own.

He has pleaded not guilty to all of his charges.

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is a member of the Republican leadership, spoke with Trump on Tuesday afternoon and updated him on the just-announced impeachment inquiry, according to two sources.

Trump also had dinner on Sunday night with Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and discussed the topic of impeachment, per two sources. She shared a photo of the two together at the dinner.

"It wasn't something he asked about," Greene told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. "It was just something that I was telling him the strategy that I thought we should take."

In an interview with Megyn Kelly that aired Thursday, Trump said: "That's up to them [Republican lawmakers] if they want to do impeachment or impeachment inquiry."

But he suggested it was payback for his two previous impeachments. (Senate Republicans acquitted him in both trials.)

“They did it to me, and had they not done it to me, I think, and nobody officially said this … perhaps you wouldn’t have it being done to them,” he told Kelly, later adding, “It’s a shame … that’s human nature.”

Former President Donald Trump speaks with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in West Palm Beach, Jan. 14, 2018.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

McCarthy, who has also faced pressure from hard-line members of his conference to pursue impeachment against Biden, hasn’t commented on whether he’s discussed it with Trump.

A Trump campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on whether Trump has privately urged House Republicans to make such a move.

He has previously expressed multiple times that the House wouldn't need to do a long impeachment inquiry, claiming the case against Biden is already clear. McCarthy on Tuesday alleged there was a "culture of corruption" around the president.

The White House has pushed back on the inquiry, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying Wednesday, "What you see Republicans in Congress, they have spent all year investigating the president. That's what they have spent all year doing. And have turned up with no evidence, none, that he did anything wrong."

Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, a staunch Trump congressional ally, said he hasn't talked to the former president about the impeachment inquiry and didn't have plans to, deflecting on the argument that some Republicans felt pressure from the former president to act.

"I think the real pressure is going to be borne by voters, specifically Republican voters," Donalds told ABC News.

Meanwhile, Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who had recommended against an impeachment inquiry, subsequently said that since the decision has been made to launch one, he wants to "do it right, by the book."

"I don't want to make impeachment normal in our country," Bacon told ABC News. "So we've had four in total in the history of this country. I've already been in two of them, and so I want to make sure that we do this cautiously and meticulously -- do it right, by the book."

Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks on at a South Dakota Republican party rally in Rapid City, S. D., Sept. 8, 2023.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

As of right now, the House likely does not have the 218 votes needed to impeach President Biden on any charges, and congressional Republicans appear to disagree about whether they think there's enough evidence to carry through an impeachment.

Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, said this week that he was "not seeing facts or evidence at this point." Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who would serve as a juror at an impeachment trial, agreed. She said this week she did not think enough evidence had been presented for a conviction.

Out on the trail, Trump has pledged to investigate Biden and other political opponents, contending that the Justice Department under the Biden administration has pursued him out of partisanship. "Nobody's ever seen anything like it," he said during a rally with the South Dakota Republican Party last week.

The federal special counsel who charged Trump in two cases, Jack Smith, has disputed that, pointing to the grand juries who approved both indictments.

"Republicans in the Senate and the Republicans in the House cannot let this go on," Trump said in South Dakota.

For Republicans in Congress that don't act on Biden, Trump has said they "should be immediately primaried and get out."

ABC News' Rachel Scott and Will Steakin contributed to this report.

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