President Joe Biden remains focused on his work after a week that saw the launch of an impeachment inquiry and the indictment of his son, according to aides, even as the developments pose new challenges heading into next year’s campaign.
Hunter Biden was indicted Thursday by special counsel David Weiss in connection with a gun he purchased in 2018, the first time in US history the Justice Department has charged the child of a sitting president.
Earlier in the week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he was opening an impeachment inquiry into possible links between Biden and his son’s foreign business dealings, despite lacking any evidence so far tying the president to any wrongdoing.
Inside the White House, neither was an unexpected development. Weiss had previously signaled an indictment was coming after the collapse of a plea deal, and McCarthy has been teasing an impeachment inquiry for more than a month.
Biden had just arrived back to the White House from a five-day swing through Asia when McCarthy formalized his impeachment plans Tuesday. Two days later, he was preparing for an economic address when the indictment of his son was unveiled. He delivered the speech as planned.
Aides said Friday the president remained squarely focused on his work, even amid the setbacks. That included contending with the start of strike of American autoworkers, which Biden addressed in a speech midday.
“You don’t have to take it from me,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. “You heard directly from the president that he’s focused on delivering for the American people.”
In meetings Friday, Biden did not appear distracted, according to Sullivan. Instead, he said the president appeared focused on domestic and foreign policy issues, including a series of meetings surrounding the annual United Nations meetings in New York.
“That’s true in terms of what he’s trying to get done here at home. And it’s definitely true in terms of what he’s trying to deliver in the way of security at the UN General Assembly in supporting Ukraine and moving forward,” Sullivan said. “So that’s what he’s focused on. That’s where his mindset is.”
In Friday morning’s Presidential Daily Briefing, Sullivan said Biden was “dialed in on the key issues that we’re confronting and will continue to be as we head into the New York week next week.”
The White House has sought to compartmentalize its response to McCarthy’s impeachment inquiry, walling off its response operation from the ongoing work of the administration. That includes building a team of two dozen lawyers, legislative staff and communications advisers to push back against a potential impeachment.
An element of the White House strategy is keeping Biden focused on his governing duties while discrediting House Republican investigators. With the prospect of a government shutdown looming if lawmakers cannot come to agreement on a new spending package by September 30, Democrats also see an opportunity to point out what they view as a fractured conference unable to perform the basic duties of their jobs.
Speaking Wednesday evening, Biden told Democratic donors in Northern Virginia he was focused on his work – not on Republicans’ inquiry.
“So look, look, I got a job to do. Everybody always asked about impeachment. I get up every day, not a joke, not focused on impeachment. I’ve got a job to do. I’ve got to deal with the issues that affect the American people every single solitary day,” he said.
When it comes to Hunter Biden, the president has been quieter. He did not respond to a question about his son on Friday after speaking about the autoworkers’ strike.
White House officials have also steadfastly refused to weigh in, describing it was a family matter. Asked Friday whether the president had spoken to his son following Thursday’s news, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to weigh in.
“I’m not going to get into private conversations that the president has with his family,” she said.
Still, his son’s legal issues have weighed on the president as they’ve unfolded over the past year. The issues at stake occurred when Hunter was addicted to drugs, an experience he recounted in his memoir.
When it appeared Hunter was nearing a plea deal, Biden was hopeful a dark chapter in his family’s life was closing. When the deal collapsed, Biden was taken aback and frustrated.
Biden speaks to his family members regularly, and has remained concerned for his son’s well-being amid the investigations. The president and first lady have kept him close amid his legal proceedings, and Hunter has appeared at family events and White House functions.
Jean-Pierre reiterated Friday her previous assertion that Biden would not consider pardoning his son.