Thursday, June 29, 2023

Impeachments for everyone!

Impeachment is in the air. And it has been for quite some time. I’m not talking about President Biden, although Republicans would certainly love to impeach him (and they have tried). The House Republican impeachmentapalooza didn’t start with Joe Biden.

There was talk of impeaching Biden from the earliest days of his administration. The talk, however, was limited to the fringes of the party. For instance, Marjorie Taylor Greene filed articles of impeachment on January 21, 2021, the day after Biden was inaugurated. The attempt went nowhere, but to an even greater extent than some fringe Democrats set out to impeach Donald Trump from Day One, MAGA Republicans have been gunning for Joe Biden from the beginning.

a wooden judge's hammer on top of a table
Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

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MTG’s impeachment effort went nowhere, but MAGA didn’t stop there. In August 2021, the Biden Administration was at a low point with the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal and the extension of the pandemic-era eviction moratorium. I wrote at the time about the rumblings of another impeachment attempt. As it turned out, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) introduced articles of impeachment in September 2021, but again, the effort went nowhere.

The next target was Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The attempt to impeach Mayorkas began in earnest after Republicans took control of the House in 2022. In the winter and spring of 2023, I saw a lot of chatter online about impeaching Mayorkas, but it was never really clear was the basis would have been.

Politico story on the subject links the impeachment movement to Biden border policies (which Mayorkas did not set), Mayorkas’s handling of the border situation, and a claim by Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, that Mayorkas was “derelict” in doing his job.

The basis of these claims was unclear and that is likely why the Mayorkas impeachment fizzled. By mid-June, Republicans were admitting that they didn’t have the votes. And it wasn’t just Democrats who presented a problem. Adopting articles of impeachment in the House requires only a simple majority, but not all Republicans were on board.

“Maladministration, even of this magnitude, is not grounds for impeachment,” Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), told CNN. “Show me treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors. And I’m all ears. But at the moment I have not heard it or seen it.”

McClintock is wrong that maladministration is not grounds for impeachment. As I discussed during the Trump years, abuse of office and incompetence were traditionally grounds for impeachment in both English common law and in the early US government. However, McClintock is correct that Republicans have not made the case that Mayorkas has committed impeachable offenses.

More recently, two new discussions of impeachments have arisen. Both center around Hunter Biden, who, of course, is not a government official and cannot be impeached.

Republicans obviously hope to get get to Joe by way of Hunter, but so far criminal links to the president have eluded them. That’s why Republican talking points so often include references to the “Biden family.”

One of the most intriguing pieces of evidence is a Whatsapp message allegedly sent by Hunter to Chinese business partners in which he claimed to be “sitting with my father” as he pressured them to comply. But Joe still denies ever being in business with his son and the date of the exchange, July 30, 2017, was when Joe was neither president nor vice president and had little influence to sell. Even if the message is authentic, it does not yet incriminate Joe in anything illegal or unethical.

A different tactic is the threat to impeach Merrick Garland. Hunter’s plea deal has aroused suspicions and whistleblowers claim that there was interference from the Justice Department in the investigation.

Accounts from Attorney General Merrick Garland and US Attorney David Weiss differ on how much authority Weiss was given in the investigation. Garland claims that Weiss had final authority while Weiss allegedly said that he was “not the deciding official on whether charges are filed.”

However, in a letter to Jim Jordan earlier this month, Weiss wrote, “I have been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges and for making decisions necessary to preserve the integrity of the prosecution.”

Unless something damning pops up, this impeachment also seems likely to go nowhere, but the investigation will undoubtedly be long-lasting.

It’s also unlikely to reach President Biden. Even if the whistleblower accounts are correct, there is so far no evidence that any interference came at Joe’s orders. It is just as likely that lower-level officials acted to protect Hunter because they assumed that is what the president would want them to do.

So far, House Republicans have given their base what they promised: a myriad of investigations. But so far the investigations have come up short. More than anything else, Republican efforts seem like revenge impeachments in search of justifications.

To some extent, the same was true of Democrats during the Trump Administration, but the big difference is that Joe Biden has not given his opponents much ammunition to use against him. That is unlike Donald Trump who threw caution to the wind, ignored his advisors, and abused his office.

Trump deserved to be impeached both times. Republicans need to get past that and concentrate on the business of government. It will be their record of getting done to make the lives of Americans better that will be the issue in 2024, not the gotcha politics of investigating and impeaching members of the Biden Administration.

And no, they are not the same thing.

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SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN RACIAL AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: Breaking news as I write this is that the Supreme Court has ruled that race cannot be a factor in college admissions.

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