Biden Impeachment Follies Continue

[ Posted Tuesday, November 28th, 2023 – 17:03 UTC ]

Impeaching a United States president should be a rare and unusual thing. And for the first two centuries of our existence, it was. We had one impeachment that failed (Andrew Johnson) and one that was threatened but didn't happen, because the president resigned instead (Richard Nixon). Since then, however, it has become a lot less rare. First Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about having an affair with a White House intern. Then Donald Trump was impeached twice, for trying to pressure a foreign nation to manufacture an investigation of his political rival and then for trying to overturn the result of the election that put his rival into power instead of him. And now we face another possible impeachment, this one of Trump's rival President Joe Biden, for the crime of... well, they'll figure something out.

The difference between how the parties have used the power of impeachment was pretty stark even before the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and began conducting an impeachment investigation based on rumor and innuendo. Clinton faced the Whitewater investigation, which dragged on for years without finding very much until it branched out to include "anything Bill Clinton might ever have done wrong." Donald Trump's high crimes were exposed for everyone to see (and hear, on the tapes). Joe Biden hasn't done anything wrong, or at least the Republicans haven't come up with a shred of evidence of any wrongdoing. Their story is a simple one: Joe Biden did nefarious deeds while he was vice president (and possibly while president), and in exchange his son Hunter Biden and other members of his family were paid by foreign agents. They'd really like to accuse Joe Biden of personally profiting, but again, there is no actual evidence he has ever done so.

There is no evidence of any of this, in fact. The most obvious way to debunk a whole lot of the accusations coming from the Republicans is to point out that a lot of the things they are trying to paint as shady happened while Joe Biden held no political office. Biden was a private citizen between January, 2017 and January, 2021, meaning it would have been impossible for him to directly do any favors for anyone. This is just one gaping hole in the sea of holes that becomes quickly evident when you examine what the Republicans are claiming.

Sure, Hunter Biden cashed in on his last name. Just like many other presidential family members have done for a very long time (Billy Carter springs to mind, as do both Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared). But Joe Biden never participated in any of it. There is precisely zero proof that he did.

The Republicans on the committee have been playing a game with the rightwing media over the issue for months now. They take sworn testimony behind closed doors and then they leak out just the things that sound suspicious -- while conveniently omitting anything that contradicts (or flat-out disproves) their accusations. The committee has only held one public hearing, and it was a huge embarrassment for the Republicans -- no solid evidence of wrongdoing was presented, and in fact the witnesses said some exculpatory things that deflated the accusations the Republicans were trying to make. It was so embarrassing that the committee hasn't held any other public hearings and doesn't intend to in the future.

But now the committee has subpoenaed Hunter Biden to give testimony -- behind closed doors. Biden, through his lawyers, responded that he would be happy to testify -- in public, with the cameras rolling. Why not let everyone in America hear what Hunter has to say? In full, not chopped into tiny bits with no context. The Republican chair of the committee immediately refused this reasonable request, since allowing actual facts and testimony to be heard would undermine the insinuation campaign he's got going with Fox News (and their ilk).

This is all probably going to come to a decision-making moment early next year. The Republicans are going to have to choose whether to go forward and actually hold an impeachment vote on the House floor (complete with presenting their evidence to the House and to the whole country) or they're going to have to find some way of saving face while they sheepishly admit that they've got nothing. No smoke, no fire... nothing.

It could go either way. If they don't find some solid evidence soon, they'll have to make up a conspiracy theory backed up by nothing but their own feverish imaginations and then they'll have to sell it to all the other members of their party. Already, some House Republicans (mostly in moderate or battleground districts) are signalling that they will not vote to impeach Biden unless there is some actual proof of a high crime or misdemeanor. Since the committee doesn't have any of that (it doesn't even have enough for a parking ticket or other minor legal infraction), the Republicans may hold an internal vote in one of their own closed-door caucus meetings and realize they don't have the votes to succeed even in their own House. This may be the eventual end of the impeachment circus.

Even if the Republicans do manage to corral enough votes to impeach Biden over nothing, the Senate is going to vote to keep Biden right where he is in the Oval Office. But that's not the point, for the rabid MAGA Republicans. They are still incensed that their Dear Leader was impeached (twice!) and they are looking for some payback. If they can impeach Biden at least once, that'll have to do.

How long this period of using impeachment as a political weapon goes on for is anyone's guess. And it is entirely up to the Republicans. Both of Trump's impeachments were well-deserved, and if ten more Republican senators had been brave enough to vote to convict on the second one, we simply would not be where we are today -- because Donald Trump would be barred from ever running for president again as a result. Clinton's impeachment grew out of the "vast rightwing conspiracy" that Hillary Clinton rightly complained about, and Biden's impeachment is nothing short of MAGA Republicans trying to get revenge on the Democrats. And hotheaded GOP House members may go down this road again in the future, with either Biden (again, for some other completely manufactured reason) or with some future Democratic president.

The only thing that could nip this trend in the bud (perhaps) would be for the current impeachment effort to fail. Either they admit early next year that they have nothing to credibly accuse Joe Biden of doing, or they try to build a case based on sheer supposition with no evidence to back it up -- and they can't even get enough Republican votes to pass it. Either way, Biden would finish his first term without having been impeached, which would probably enrage the MAGA crowd. But for the rest of us, it would be a huge relief, because it would mean that maybe enough Republicans still realize that impeachment should be reserved only for the gravest of crimes against the country. Like trying to overturn an election, for instance.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


One Comment on “Biden Impeachment Follies Continue”

  1. [1] 
    dsws wrote:

    It's still an odd-numbered year, for one more month. Still the time when a smart political party fires up the base, who will donate to and volunteer for the campaigns that will soon be revving up. Who will remember their excitement even after they have forgotten the reasons, and remember the reasons long after the swing voters and turnout voters have forgotten. The nonsense that Republicans are doing now is, unfortunately, sound political tactics.

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