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House Republicans vow to escalate probes of Biden administration

SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:

The historic federal indictment of former President Trump is escalating pressure on his allies in Congress to ramp up their own probes into the Justice Department and President Biden. Speaker Kevin McCarthy says Republicans will use every tool at their disposal to fight back against Trump's criminal charges. Here's McCarthy speaking with Fox News Digital.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: This is going to disrupt this nation because it goes to the core of equal justice for all, which is not being seen today, and we are not going to stand for it.

DAVIS: This also comes after a tough week for House Republicans, who are paralyzed by party infighting that forced McCarthy to adjourn without advancing any legislation. Joining us now is NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Hello, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Sue.

DAVIS: So let's start with Speaker McCarthy. What exactly are House Republicans pledging to do here in light of Trump's indictment?

GRISALES: Well, McCarthy, like members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, have been quick to publicly come to the former president's aid and say they're going to take whatever steps necessary to defend him. That involves an effort that's already been underway by House Republicans to discredit the Justice Department and this criminal federal investigation against Trump, while also ramping up their own probes into President Biden, his administration and his family. The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee, which is led by a member of the Freedom Caucus - this is Jim Jordan of Ohio - is several months into these investigations.

And then simultaneously, the House Oversight panel, which is led by Kentucky Republican James Comer, has also double-teamed these efforts. McCarthy has said they'll get to the bottom of this investigation into Trump, saying, quote, "House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable." But we should note this indictment brought against the former president is pretty detailed and paints a pretty clear picture of alleged wrongdoing. And special counsel Jack Smith said yesterday in his remarks that the Justice Department investigators involved have adhered to the highest ethical standards.

DAVIS: Wasn't McCarthy himself just facing a revolt by members of the very same Freedom Caucus? Is the indictment sort of bringing the caucus together again?

GRISALES: Yeah. It could. In some ways, they're already speaking the same language. They're forcefully defending Trump, marking the most engaged segment of the congressional membership, readily attacking the Justice Department and Biden in light of these new criminal charges. And we can't forget, McCarthy was elected speaker after 15 rounds where Trump played a big role. So that said, before this, we saw the House adjourned several days early this past week. They were paralyzed by members of the House Freedom Caucus looking to extract new agreements from McCarthy as a result of his deal with President Biden to lift the debt ceiling.

So it remains to be seen if they can put their differences aside to get on the same page when they get back Monday night. But it will undoubtedly involve some negotiations to see if they can and how fast they can get there, and that will dictate what next steps House Republicans take together with these ongoing probes and whether they'll even expand talk of impeaching members of Biden's administration or even Biden himself.

DAVIS: How much real momentum, though, is there behind trying to impeach the president?

GRISALES: Well, that would take an enormous amount of agreement among House Republican members, and that seems very far-fetched right now, especially after this past week. But there's some still pushing for this. That includes Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene. And after news of the Trump indictment broke, she tweeted that Republicans need to stop fighting each other, alluding to this floor chaos we saw this past week, and said instead they should follow Democrats' lead of working together and that Republicans should unite.

DAVIS: You've talked a lot about House Republicans but haven't heard much from Senate Republicans following the indictment.

GRISALES: Right. For example, we haven't heard from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or his No. 2, Republican whip John Thune. And we know there is no love lost there when it comes to Trump. And while some Senate Republicans have come to Trump's defense, there's a pretty long list of moderates who haven't commented at all, with just a few exceptions to that. But we'll be watching closely when the Senate returns Monday night to see if some of these Senate Republicans who have yet to address Trump's federal indictment finally will.

DAVIS: NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thank you.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.