WASHINGTON — The White House’s top Republican critic in President Biden’s impeachment inquiry is considering leaving Congress for a new post — and has expressed interest in becoming an on-air commentator for CNN, The Post has learned.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado), a five-term budget hawk, surprised his conservative colleagues by repeatedly criticizing the investigation launched last week into Biden’s alleged corruption, including in a Washington Post op-ed on 15 September that other Republicans said. contained blatant inaccuracies.
Buck said privately last month that he was interested in a job at CNN, a source told the Post, after evaluating other options over the past year — including joining a law firm based in Washington or even as a Biden appointee to the Federal Trade Commission. .
Buck, 64, confirmed to the Post that he was exploring his options and said it would be “great” to join CNN.
“I’m interested in talking to people at CNN and other news outlets – I don’t want to call them left-wing, but sort of left-of-center – and having the opportunity to do it full-time or to do it as a contributor would be great as well,” Buck said in a phone interview.
The congressman called back later in the day to say he had also expressed interest in a position at right-wing Fox News or Newsmax.
“I didn’t want to give you the impression that I only spoke to people from CNN, on the left. I told other people about it too,” Buck said.
Buck represents a large rural district that spans the entire eastern border of the Rocky Mountain state and said Tuesday it was unclear whether he would leave office “this Congress, the next Congress or whatever — but (I) just really explored the possibility of…preparing different things before we go.
A source familiar with Buck’s considerations scoffed at the prospect of him working for Fox News or Newsmax, arguing that Fox “doesn’t need” him and that the smaller network would likely pay poorly.
“His voters elected him to do a job now — not to seek a TV contract, or to try to audition for his next job,” the source said. “People may question whether or not he has changed his rhetoric (on politics), but I think many would say that’s probably the case.”
In recent weeks, Buck has emerged as a leading critic of the impeachment inquiry focused on Biden’s alleged ties to his son Hunter and brother James’ businesses in countries including China and Ukraine over of his vice-presidency.
Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House counsel’s office, tweeted Buck’s remarks seven times over the past week.
A Republican congressional source told the Post it was “obvious” Buck was exploring career options — after former Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) became a leading on-air critic other Republicans before joining CNN in January.
Buck’s Washington Post op-ed particularly angered his Republican colleagues.
He wrote that there was “no evidence” that Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin “was engaged in an investigation into Burisma,” the natural gas company that paid Hunter Biden a million-dollar salary , when he was fired.
Shokin was removed from office by a vote of the Kyiv parliament on March 29, 2016, less than two months after seizing the assets of Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky in a corruption case.
Biden then bragged about forcing Ukraine’s hand by using $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees as leverage to get Shokin to resign.
Newly released email correspondence indicated that National Security Council members were surprised in late January 2016 that Biden linked Shokin’s withdrawal to U.S. aid.
“I met with the investigators (of the House impeachment inquiry) after I wrote the opinion piece,” Buck told the Post on Tuesday. “It’s one of those things where I wrote an opinion piece, I submitted it to the Washington Post and I met with the investigators and it was published after I met with the investigators. “
Buck said he remains unconvinced that Shokin was ousted because of his investigation into Burisma. An unproven FBI informant said Zlochevsky claimed in 2016 that he was “coerced” into paying $10 million to Joe and Hunter Biden in exchange for firing Shokin.
Other Republicans also took issue with Buck writing that “the Republican Party’s charge against Biden is that he personally benefited from his son’s deplorable business exploits,” but that “what is missing is despite years of investigation, this is the smoking gun that links Joe Biden to the corruption of his scoundrel son.”
But his Republican colleagues say corruption can still exist without proof that funds were paid to Joe Biden if he, as vice president, influenced American politics to benefit those close to him.
The House Oversight Committee is issuing subpoenas for Hunter and James Biden’s bank records to determine whether foreign income benefited their powerful relative.
In May, the panel described nine Biden associates who allegedly obtained foreign funds.
Buck is a member of the Freedom Caucus, a hardline conservative party, and has said he could still vote to impeach Biden depending on how the investigation goes.
“I’m a prosecutor, so I was beaten in court when evidence was missing,” he said. “So perhaps I am being too cautious in this matter. But it is very clear to me that something does not smell good, that there is smoke.
“I’m not opposed to impeachment, I’m opposed to the impeachment inquiry because I don’t think it gives us broader authority to investigate this matter,” Buck added.
“I think all three investigations – judicial, surveillance and ways and means – reveal a lot of very good information. And I think other information might change my mind and convince me that there should be an impeachment. »
Buck said he wanted to know more about why Russian billionaire Yelena Baturina was spared U.S. sanctions against Russia’s business elite after transferring $3.5 million in 2014 to a company controlled in party by Hunter Biden before having dinner at least once with Joe Biden in Washington. .
The Colorado representative, who has a particular interest in antitrust policy, told the Post that he had spoken this year with two senators about the possibility of being nominated by Biden to be one of two Republicans in the House. FTC, composed of five members, but chose not to pursue this approach.
Buck, a grandfather of six, also said he doesn’t want to serve in Congress until he’s 80 — unlike some more prominent members.
“I never considered this work as a career, as work that I had wanted to do for several decades. …Do I want to stay here long? The answer is no, I don’t,” he said.
“I want to make an impact. I want to represent my constituents well in my state and in this country, and then I want to put this behind me and move on to another challenge.
Buck said he was interested in CNN’s potential role, in part because “I feel like members of Congress are picking which silo they want to speak in, and then they’re competing with each other to try to be more to the right or more to the left. … I think it’s essential that we get out of our tent and try to attract more people or convince more people that we are rational and that we have good arguments to support our positions.”