His statement, delivered solemnly last week as if it were a moment of great importance for the republic, recalls a comment attributed to Rudy Giuliani, who after the 2020 election has continued to make statements far-fetched and false claims about election fraud in its portrayal of the then-president. Donald Trump.
“We have a lot of theories. We just don’t have any evidence,” Giuliani said, according to Rusty Bowers (R), then speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, who testified before the House select committee investigating the attack of January 6, 2021 against the Capitol.
Impeachment proceedings were not supposed to begin with theories. In a world turned upside down, that’s what McCarthy did. The real reason for McCarthy’s decision to open the investigation was obvious to all. It was a tribute to far-right members of his conference who asked him to do so at a time when the speaker is caught in infighting with those members over government funding ahead of the September 30 deadline .
Some of these members threatened to attempt to remove McCarthy as president; his grip on the hammer is tenuous as he barely regained it in January in the 15th round. In stinging language, he told them in a closed-door meeting to talk about it. It is this climate that has led to the invocation of one of the most serious and, until recently, rarely used mechanisms in the Constitution for disciplining a president.
Divisions among House Republicans over spending could eventually lead to a government shutdown, potentially causing political damage to the Republican Party as the 2024 elections approach. The impeachment inquiry, if it spins out of control or fails conclusively, could have the same effects or worse, particularly for the 18 House Republicans who serve in districts won by Biden in 2020. Given their slim majority, House Republicans may I can’t afford to make things difficult. for their most vulnerable members.
By definition, the impeachment procedure is a political exercise with legal aspects. With this latest twist, it is now almost entirely political, a downgrade of what was supposed to be a way to impeach a president for malfeasance, even in the absence of criminal charges. As Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said in an interview last week: “This is not impeachment. This is an investigation and I have not heard any allegations that meet the Constitution’s high felony standards.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board, a voice for traditional rather than Trumpian conservatism and which has consistently criticized Biden over his son’s business dealings, issued a warning to House Republicans.
“Congress risks turning the grave sanction of impeachment into a new censure – a statement of reprimand rather than a threat of impeachment,” the editorial read. “Republicans will need evidence of real corruption on the part of Mr. Biden if they want to convince a majority of Americans that he should be removed from office as the 2024 election approaches.”
The same editorial criticized the first of two impeachments of Trump, saying the Ukraine investigation was based on “flimsy evidence to appease progressives.” The result of that impeachment was a near party-line Senate vote to acquit Trump. (Romney was the only Republicans must vote with Democrats to convict.)
Yet this impeachment began with more than McCarthy currently has. There was confirmation of a phone call between the president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump, who at the time was refusing aid to that country, pressed Zelensky to dig up information about Biden that could be used against the Democrat in the 2020 elections.
Other indictments have also been launched with more substance than McCarthy currently has. The Watergate scandal, a vast conspiracy of lawlessness led by many, brought Richard M. Nixon to the brink of impeachment, which he only avoided by resigning from the presidency. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying in a deposition about having an affair with a White House intern. Democrats, while not defending Clinton’s behavior, felt that impeachment was not the appropriate remedy, and the proceedings ended in party-line acquittal votes. Trump’s second impeachment came in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack and his role in inciting the mob. Romney and six other Republicans joined Democrats in the Senate in convicting, but it still fell short of the required threshold.
McCarthy had said earlier that he would not open an impeachment inquiry without a House vote. He went back on his word, instead issuing a unilateral order to begin debates – an apparent acknowledgment that he did not have the votes to do so in the House and an indication that this was due to rather political pressure. than a preponderance of evidence.
As House Republicans have continued, impeachment is now more a score-settling than a serious undertaking, a blow-for-blow in retaliation for Trump’s four criminal indictments this year and allegations by a Justice Department armed. This could lead to a steady stream of indictments in the years to come as control of the White House and Congress changes hands.
House committees have long investigated Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family. Why now? McCarthy said that by opening an impeachment inquiry, investigators would have better tools to access information that could help prove what Republicans hope to prove, that the president personally profited from his son’s contracts with foreign entities.
Yet, as Jacqueline Alemany of the Washington Post reported, it is not clear what these additional tools are or why the label “impeachment inquiry” will suddenly reveal evidence hoped for months of investigative work by these committees have not yet produced. Many Republicans see enough smoke in what is known so far to believe there must be fire with respect to the president. For the moment, this is not the case.
Hunter Biden has also been under investigation for years by the Justice Department. He was indicted on gun charges Thursday after breaking a previous plea deal with prosecutors over the summer. The federal investigation, led by special counsel David Weiss, could also result in an indictment of the president’s son on tax charges. Nothing that was made public during the Justice Department investigation showed that the president did anything illegal.
So far, it is known that Biden, when he was vice president, was on a phone call with his son and his son’s business associates, and that he showed up at two dinners with similar attendees. Devon Archer, a business partner of Hunter’s, testified before Congress that all of this helped promote the family’s brand, but he also said that Biden did not discuss business in any of those settings. Republicans are also wary because Biden uses multiple pseudonyms in his emails.
Archer’s testimony shows that Hunter Biden exploited his father’s position and suggested to potential clients that he had influence over his father beyond what he had. Biden’s judgment in his dealings, even in passing, with his son’s business associates, a son who was in turn struggling with drug addiction at the time, may be questioned. But Republicans have failed to deliver on their promises, after months of trying, that Biden would have benefited financially or that U.S. policy would have been changed as a result.
Trump faces 91 counts in four criminal indictments. He wants nothing more than to muddy the waters in voters’ minds, hoping to persuade people that he is no worse than Biden. There is no equivalence between the accusations against Trump (and the strong evidence in the indictments) and the claims about Biden, even though anyone watching Fox News might believe otherwise.
Some Republicans in the House are nervous about what McCarthy has started. A few have been outspoken, including Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado), who wrote in a Post op-ed that his impeachment colleagues are “relying on an imaginary story” while the process ” should have a foundation.” rock-solid facts.
Now that the investigation is underway, it could take on a life of its own, in which case it could be difficult to stop it before articles of impeachment are filed. Or the investigation could last months without success, without ever leading to formal indictment proceedings, but without anyone putting an end to it.
McCarthy said the impeachment inquiry was a “natural step” after the work that has been done, but there is nothing natural about it. This is a political measure, taken under duress from the speaker. The burden of proof falls on McCarthy and his Republican colleagues.