THE LOOMING BIDEN IMPEACHMENT

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Impeachment

The impeachment of President Joe Biden and possibly other senior officials is premised on the GOP taking control of the House in the forthcoming November midterm elections. Freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has already introduced several bills to impeach Biden, one of which cites dereliction of duty in the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Impeachment
U.S. Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) at the Conservative Political Action Conference CPAC held at the Hilton Anatole on August 05, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. [Brandon Bell/Getty Images]

MAGA: Impeachment is the least acceptable remedy

Republicans in the House scheme to impeach Joe Biden sometime next year following a series of performative investigations. This is not their current plan, but they will gradually work up to it. The MAGA base’s pressure will mount. A triggering event will break all limitations. Republicans will eventually have no option.

This projection is predicated on Republicans gaining control of the House next month, which appears likely: Democrats would need to win an improbable number of toss-up races to win their majority. To pass the House, an impeachment resolution requires a simple majority.

Nothing in the public record suggests that the Senate, even if controlled by Republicans, would convict and remove Biden from office. Still, House Republicans will see plenty of benefits in impeaching Biden—and possibly numerous other key administration officials.

Impeachment is already a hot topic. A May poll by the University of Massachusetts Amherst indicated that 68 percent of Republican voters believe the House should impeach Biden. However, a majority of people think he will be impeached. Breaking those expectations would be risky for any House Republican.

The impeachment poll scores are closely related to Republicans’ conviction that Biden is an illegitimate president. This is no coincidence: impeachment is the logical extension of election denial—the unshakeable confidence that Biden cheated in 2020 and Donald Trump won. If you honestly believe that and haven’t joined a militia, impeachment is the least of your concerns.

The Republican Party’s core position now is election denial. Two-thirds of the Republican caucus in the House voted to overturn the presidential election in 2020, including Kevin McCarthy, who is expected to become the next speaker. A new group of incoming members, Republican nominees in safe red districts, has campaigned as election doubters. Following several forced retirements and establishment setbacks in primaries this year, few party members will publicly admit that Biden won a free and fair election.

According to Kevin Madden, a former top GOP spokesperson and strategist, the impeachment chatter would be at the forefront of any conversation about a Republican agenda. He claims that MAGA supporters believe establishment Republicans have allowed Democrats to play hardball for too long and that now is the time to fight fire with fire. Trump supporters, he claims, desire “retribution.”

McCarthy has been hesitant to call for impeachment. Instead, his allies tell me that he would try to redirect this energy into legislative investigations of the president, his family, and his administration. The potential chairs of the relevant committees, Oversight and Judiciary have already established the framework for these investigations in planning meetings and public statements.

However, taking the next step toward impeachment is hazardous and could backfire on voters.

McCarthy wants to oversee subpoenas and Benghazi-style hearings to damage the president ahead of the 2024 election, not call for Biden’s ouster.

However, there is little reason to believe that McCarthy will be able to oppose the GOP’s impeachment drive once it gains momentum. He is a noticeably inept conference leader that proved unmanageable for his predecessors, Paul Ryan and John Boehner. If he is elected speaker, it will be a monument to his strategy of avoiding conflict with those groups.

Impeachment
U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) at the U.S. Capitol July 01, 2021 in Washington, DC. [Alex Wong/Getty Images]

Presidential impeachment proceedings in history

McCarthy’s caucus continues to be dominated by Donald Trump. He will be the dominant figure in determining Republican objectives in the House whenever he chooses to meddle. So Trump appears to be able to get a message out, energize the Republican Party’s grassroots base, and motivate all of these members.

And what will Trump want? Another McCarthy loyalist and former member of the House leadership team, Doug Heye, believes the answer is easy. Donald Trump is going to want to impeach everyone.

We tend to think of presidential impeachment processes as uncommon. In 1787, the Constitution established the authority to impeach. Nearly a century elapsed before Congress used that tool, impeaching and (barely) acquitting Andrew Johnson in 1868. Another hundred years passed before Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, just as he was about to be impeached. Then there was Bill Clinton, who was impeached in 1998 and acquitted the following year, and Donald Trump, who was impeached twice (in 2019 and 2021) and cleared both times.

Even if Nixon is counted, that’s five times in 235 years. However, there is a lesser-known and more lengthy past. Impeachment resolutions have been filed against 12 presidents, including all but one since Jimmy Carter. Despite the hostility he elicited, the exception was Barack Obama.

Barbara A. Perry, a presidential historian, admits that impeachment is becoming routine in the twenty-first century. While most impeachment attempts have been symbolic gestures with no possibility of winning a majority in the House, the upcoming Biden impeachment will not be. Instead, it has a good chance of passing and being heard in the Senate.

On January 21, 2021, Joe Biden’s first full day in office, Marjorie Taylor Greene filed the first article of impeachment against him. At the time, House Resolution 57 was nothing more than a scoff at a president whom Greene declared illegitimate. Greene had to have known she wouldn’t have a floor vote or a committee referral with the House under Democratic control. The House leadership did not even acknowledge the submission.

Greene’s threat to Biden, however, was not meaningless. It will prove to be extremely real in the long run.

Despite a history of anti-Semitic, racist, and ludicrously conspiratorial statements, Greene wields an increasing position within her party. Unlike the current Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, McCarthy cannot disregard Greene’s future impeachment resolutions, which she promised to introduce in the new year.

According to Madden, Marjorie Taylor Greene will have as much, if not more, influence in the message and political focus of a Republican House conference than Kevin McCarthy will, and this is just a very real pressure Kevin McCarthy will confront.

Greene’s first-day impeachment move set the tone for the Republican conference. In August 2021, she offered three more resolutions, gaining eight co-sponsors, including fellow bomb-throwers and election doubters Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar. Other members of the Freedom Caucus quickly caught on.

The following month, a new resolution was introduced in less than two weeks. Lauren Boebert introduced two resolutions against Biden and Kamala Harris three days later. (In a beautiful bit of circular reasoning, one of the charges against Harris was neglecting to invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to remove Biden.) The avalanche of impeachment resolutions continued in April, with another from Greene last month.

None of these resolutions will lead to Biden’s impeachment. They all expire shortly after the new year when the 117th Congress concludes. Republicans will most likely control the committees, the floor, and the rules when the next Congress convenes. Impeachment will gain steam in 2023.

Impeachment
Former US President Donald Trump tees off during a visit a day ahead of the 2022 LIV Golf Invitational Miami at Trump National Doral Miami golf club on October 27, 2022 in Miami, Florida. [GIORGIO VIERA/AFP/Getty Images]

GOP Charge On Biden

Advocates need to concoct something that a majority of the House will support, which will take time.

On the subject, many Republicans point to the president’s son, Hunter Biden. Hunter is an all-purpose symbol of scandal in the Republican Party, which is understandable. He has admitted to using drugs; he was unqualified for his position on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural-gas company, which he held while his father was vice president; and he is reportedly under federal investigation for alleged tax crimes and lying about his drug use on a gun-purchase application. He has stated that expert advisers assisted him with his tax matters and that he is convinced they were handled legally.

The issue for those seeking impeachment is linking the president to his son’s alleged escapades. Republicans who addressed “the Hunter issue,” even those who believed it would be the critical predicate for impeachment, became evasive when asked how it indicated wrongdoing by the president. The phrase “pay-to-play scheme” would be bandied about a lot, but it never specified who paid whom for what dishonest reason.

The sole formal complaint against Biden in relation to his son appeared in Greene’s first impeachment resolution. Her evidence was insufficient. The best Greene had was a 2011 email in which a business associate informed Hunter Biden: They needed to bring guys to an event or something where they’d get just formally to meet Joe Biden. Greene deduces from this that Biden enabled his son to trade appointments with his father… in exchange for cash remuneration. Still, no evidence implies that Hunter agreed to organize such a meeting, let alone that it occurred.

A former House leadership official close to McCarthy said an impeachment complaint against the president based on his son’s behavior would be politically effective only if it were found that Joe Biden was heavily involved in making money for Hunter… and he’d done something criminal.

Another frequently cited basis for impeachment is Biden’s immigration policies and border enforcement. One impeachment resolution proposed last year alleged that Biden allowed illegal aliens to enter the United States in violation of immigration law, admitted aliens who tested positive for COVID-19 into the United States, defied Congress by not completing the southern border wall, and offered border agents the necessary manpower and resources to secure the border. This is a policy disagreement, but Congress has the authority to define high crimes and misdemeanors in whatever way it sees fit.

Afghanistan

Another potential foundation for impeachment is the failed US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. According to a resolution supported by eight Republicans, Biden could not secure the evacuation of thousands of American civilians and Afghan allies before and during the withdrawal. The resolution also stated that Biden armed the enemies by leaving numerous weapons, ammunition, and other military equipment in Afghanistan that might be used against American citizens, allies, and other civilians.

Republicans have also offered impeachment based on the federal government’s temporary eviction restriction. According to three Freedom Caucus members, Biden showed “disrespect for Congress” and contempt for a (nonbinding) concurring Supreme Court judgment that placed doubt on the CDC’s jurisdiction to block foreclosures.

Greene accused Biden last month in her newest impeachment complaint of “endangering, compromising, and undermining the energy security of the United States by selling oil from the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve to foreign nations.”

By historical standards, none of these constitutes impeachable behavior. However, the GOP will discover a new source of resentment, and some prominent Republicans believe the details will be irrelevant.

Senator Ted Cruz stated on his podcast in December that Biden’s impeachment, whether justified or not, will be in retaliation for Trump’s and that the Democrats have weaponized impeachment.

Cruz claims that Democrats utilized it for partisan purposes to target Trump because they disagreed with him. And one of the significant downsides of doing so is that the more you weaponize it and turn it into a partisan cudgel, you know, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

As George Conway, an establishment Republican turned Trump critic, said, “This is a party that virtually thrives off of false equivalences now.”

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