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Biden DHS head lawyers up ahead of possible impeachment

By Sarah May on
 February 13, 2023

As the prospect of a GOP-led impeachment of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas continues to gain steam, the agency has reportedly hired attorneys to advise on how best to respond to congressional probes and provide a defense should a trial ultimately occur, as Politico reports.

The news comes as leaders of the House Republican majority make good on promises to probe the border crisis they assert has grown more urgent during President Joe Biden's tenure in office, a process they have warned may lead to Mayorkas' impeachment.

Counsel retained

As Politico noted, HHS recently entered into a contract with high-powered law firm Debevoise & Plimpton in anticipation of protracted investigations as well as a potential impeachment inquiry and trial.

The outlet explains that the firm is slated to represent both the agency itself as well as Mayorkas in his official capacity, and all fees will be paid by DHS.

In announcing the move, a DHS spokesperson said, “The Department of Homeland Security has retained outside counsel to help ensure that the department's vital mission is not interrupted by the unprecedented, unjustified, and partisan impeachment efforts by some Member of Congress, who have already taken steps to initiate proceedings.”

A DHS official told Politico that the agency does “not want this to distract the secretary or the department from the important homeland security, national security work that we do day to day,” and the outlet added that the department lacks attorneys who possess the type of specific impeachment experience held by Debevoise & Plimpton lawyers.

Fallon files

The specter of impeachment has been following Mayorkas for quite some time, with Republican Rep. Pat Fallon (TX-04) having filed articles aimed at accomplishing just that in early January, as The Hill reported at the time.

In seeking to initiate Mayorkas' impeachment, Fallon accused the Cabinet-level official of “high crimes and misdemeanors” related to his handling of the unprecedented surge in migrants seen during the Biden administration's first two years and alleged misrepresentations made before Congress and to the American people.

NBC News noted in January that the congressman said with regard to the bold step of pursuing impeachment, “It is unfortunate that we have gotten to this point, but it is necessary.”

“Secretary Mayorkas' potential impeachment is not an accident,” Fallon said. “He has willfully abdicated his duties as Secretary of Homeland Security and actively misled Congress and the American people. To make any progress at our southern border, he must go.”

Biggs begins

On Feb. 1, Republican Rep. Andy Biggs (AZ-05) also filed articles of impeachment against Mayorkas, as NBC News, further turning up the heat on the embattled DHS secretary.

Asserting that Mayorkas has violated the oath he took upon assuming office, Biggs stated, “The founders said that you have impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors – that's constitutional. They didn't say you have to be convicted of a felony. What they said is you have a public official who has violated public trust, and there is nobody who typifies that more in my opinion than Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.”

“Every day Secretary Mayorkas remains in office America becomes less safe,” Biggs said in a statement. “Secretary Mayorkas is the chief architect of the migration and drug invasion at our southern border. His policies have incentivized more than 5 million illegal aliens to show up at our southern border – an all-time figure. Instead of enforcing the laws on the books and deporting or detaining these illegal aliens, the vast majority of them are released into the interior and never heard from again.”

In introducing his articles of impeachment, Biggs appeared together with Fallon, and the two lawmakers noted that they would be co-sponsors of each other's proposed measures, and the Arizona congressman urged the House to move forward “swifty,” albeit through the proper committee channels.

Next phase unclear

Whether the will to impeach Mayorkas does catch hold in the House remains an open question, though Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) has in the past signaled at least some openness to the idea, saying back in November, “If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign, House Republicans will investigate every order, every action and every failure to determine whether we can begin an impeachment inquiry.”

In that vein, Republican Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (OH-04) and Oversight Chair James Comer (KY-01) have already launched hearings on the matter, as Politico notes, but it remains to be seen whether the former is likely to move ahead with an official impeachment inquiry, let alone a trial or whether sufficient support for such a move exists within the GOP caucus more generally.

For his part, Mayorkas outwardly appears unbothered by Republican saber rattling over a possible impeachment, explaining last month in ABC's This Week when asked about the prospect, “I've got a lot of work to do, and we're going to do it.”

Speaking to Politico, Mayorkas said, “Everyone agrees that the immigration system has been terribly broken and outdated for decades. It is my hope that Congress takes that problem and fixes it once and for all,” further noting his commitment to working within that system to “increase its efficiency...provide humanitarian relief...and also deliver an enforcement consequence when the law dictates.” But, in light of DHS' recent retainer of impeachment counsel, it seems that even he suspects that his time on the job may be running short.