Impeachment, Big Lie; A Litmus Test For Republicans ahead of 2024

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Freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a divisive firebrand from Georgia, has already submitted a slew of impeachment bills against 46th President Joe Biden. Greene has made impeaching the president an explicit feature of her campaign; if Republicans control the House in November, there are triggers Republicans will try to impeach Joe Biden weekly.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas during a senate subcommittee hearing on homeland security at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. on May 4, 2022. [Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post/Getty Images]

Impeachment devised to max political damage ahead of 2024

House Republicans and conservative experts have been gathering for months to plan an ambitious program of hearings and investigations for the upcoming term. Much of the action will take place on the Oversight and Judiciary Committees, which are anticipated to be chaired by James Comer & Jim Jordan. The ultimate goal will be to do political damage to the president in the run-up to the 2024 election. These investigations will not, however, be limited to Biden.

Mike Howell, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project and a participant in a May planning conference with senior congressional staffers, believes that oversight would rapidly lead to impeachment debates, beginning with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Impeachment comes up in almost every discussion of what to do when the next conference gavel falls, and that, according to Mike, is about Mayorkas’ impeachment.

An impeachment resolution against Mayorkas garnered 31 co-sponsors last year, including Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry. This year, Heritage posted a draft impeachment resolution against him. Republicans have already filed articles of impeachment against Attorney General Merrick Garland, Kamala Harris, & Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

All of this momentum, according to Howell, might naturally lead to the president, and the case for impeaching Biden is strong. But, as Howell put it, there are multiple types of impeachable conduct across the board.

US Vice President Kamala Harris waves to the crowd during a conversation on protecting reproductive rights at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, US, on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. [Sam Wasson/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

The Impeachment Pitfalls

Impeaching Biden is a no-brainer for Trump supporters. But there are risks for McCarthy and the rest of the possible House leadership. Brendan Buck, a former top assistant to both Boehner and Ryan, believes there are several reasons not to go on an impeachment spree, not the least of which is that it might be regarded as overreach, making House Republicans look nuts while making Joe Biden look better.

But McCarthy’s hesitation on impeachment carries the seeds of its demise. He wants to appease irate voters and fanatical members of his conference by conducting robust investigations of Biden, but he wants to avoid asking for the president’s departure. That technique has two likely results, both of which spell danger for McCarthy. First, the party’s grassroots will demand stiffer treatment if the investigations do not politically damage Biden. If they do, McCarthy will be forced to finish the job.

Jim Jordan may be the tipping moment. He helped start and is a leading member of the Freedom Caucus. He has said some very harsh things about Biden before. However, his future as head of the Judiciary Committee urged him toward institutional prerogatives and the orderly execution of McCarthy’s intentions. So far, he has been deliberately equivocal on impeachment, noting that it is undoubtedly a necessary discussion but raising the bar for proceeding: The conference must decide. It would be best if you had complete buy-in from the entire conference and its leadership.

So Jordan is still with McCarthy’s idea for the time being, but he has long made a point of putting himself on the front lines against Democrats. He will not be matched by zealots like Greene and Gaetz once momentum for impeachment rises. Instead, he will want to ensure that his committee is the prime arena for challenging Biden. When he accepts impeachment, the die is cast.

Former U.S President Donald Trump at a ‘Save America’ rally on October 22, 2022 in Robstown, Texas. [Brandon Bell/Getty Images]

The Trump Factor

Above all, my belief in impeachment is based on Trump’s demand. His impeachments embarrassed him, and losing to Biden was a blow to his ego, which he has yet to recover from. He is obsessed with vengeance. His lifetime survival strategy has been to deflect every accusation back on his opponents. And when he is on the defense, as he is now on numerous legal fronts, he is extremely vulnerable to deflecting attacks elsewhere.

There will be an event in the new year that will set off all of those impulses. Given his reaction to the Mar-a-Lago search warrant and his barely veiled threats of violence, if prosecuted, that event might very well be the announcement of criminal charges against him. Trump’s angry reaction, exacerbated by his supporters and enablers, will alter every Republican’s calculus on impeachment.

Impeachment will gradually, and then short, become as much of a litmus test for Republican House members as the Big Lie. McCarthy, or “my Kevin,” as Trump calls him, will not be able to stem the surge. But, in the end, he will not even try.

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