I Have a Fever, and the Only Prescription is More Impeachment
Kevin McCarthy tries to satiate the MAGA caucus.
Happy Baby Friday to everyone. This is a special Jackal coming to you a day early because I will be off in California tomorrow. Until then, I’m giving you a brief synopsis of the possible impeachment of President Joe Biden.
Impeachment vs. Impeachment Inquiry
Earlier this weak, GOP Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy formally announced that the House would launch an “impeachment inquiry” of President Biden over the business dealings involving his son, Hunter Biden. I wanted to get into the technical aspects of this before actually doing a deep dive.
An “impeachment inquiry” is when an investigation into a possible impeachment emerges from one of the Committees within the House of Representatives. This is how the (first) impeachment of President Donald Trump began in 2019, and a lot of people hit at McCarthy over this tweet from back then:
On its face, this sounds pretty hypocritical. However, it was pretty carefully worded: It is true that the Speaker of the House can’t decide on impeachment unilaterally. And it is true that impeachment requires a full vote of the House of Representatives. But it didn’t apply in Pelosi’s case, because she was launching an impeachment inquiry, not a full impeachment.
Historically, this is what used to happen: The Committees would launch an investigation, draw up a report, and the House would later vote on whether or not to impeach. Bill Clinton’s impeachment has somewhat distorted our memory on this, since the Starr Report came out first, and then the House held a vote on whether or not to begin an inquiry. But even during the Nixon Administration, the Judiciary Committee held a vote on whether or not to launch an inquiry first, before the House as a whole really got a chance. Pre-Nixon, the historical precedent was to begin at the Committee-level1 and then move on from there.
All in all, there is only one impeachment in all of American history that began without an inquiry: The second impeachment of Donald Trump. People are calling McCarthy a hypocrite (and maybe he is, based on more than just one carefully-worded tweet), but his method has solid historical footing.
Wait. You just said the House voted on the floor to launch an inquiry into Clinton. Why not do it that way?
The simple answer to this question is that McCarthy doesn’t have the votes. If you want to understand why McCarthy’s slim majority in the House is such a problem for him, go back and re-read this Jackal, where I interviewed my buddy Danny Leiva, a previous employee of the House in Speaker John Boehner’s office.
But the true fact of the matter is that McCarthy cannot get to 218 votes - even with his Republican majority - to file articles of impeachment against Joe Biden. Why not? For one, no Democrat is going to sign on. But McCarthy has problems within his own caucus for a few reasons:
An impeachment 100% puts GOP moderates at risk, and if you held a formal vote on impeachment, you’d be forcing a lot of those members to walk the plank. Keeping those moderates in the House is the key to Republicans holding onto the chamber in 2024.
Impeachment requires linking Joe Biden to a “high crime or misdemeanor” and that evidence doesn’t exist right now.
Even for an impeachment inquiry (which is a lower standard than a formal impeachment), there aren’t facts or evidence to support it.
Even if you want to look at past activity and speculate about whether or not Joe Biden committed a crime, the available evidence says he didn’t.
Only a few days ago, McCarthy told Breitbart that he wouldn’t launch an inquiry unless he got the votes on the House floor. Jim Jordan - who will be heading up part of the inquiry - basically said the same thing. They flipped on those positions because they do not have the support of Republican members in the House.
OK, so then why are they
impeaching inquiring about impeaching Joe Biden?
To explain this to you, I want to reference a very trendy and relevant story that I’m sure you have already thought about this week: Beowulf.
Beowulf is an old, epic poem about a Norsey Viking dude who gets called back to defend a Norsey Viking kingdom from a monster that keeps attacking, night after night. Beowulf kills the monster, then goes to a cave and kills the monster’s Mom, and then years later also kills a dragon for good measure.
In 2007, Neil Gaiman and Rogery Avary tried to re-tell the story of Beowulf, and in their version the titular character kills the monster, bangs the monster’s Mom (???), and then years later kills a dragon for good measure, but the dragon is also his child and Angelina Jolie is its mom (???). And John Malkovich is in it.
There are two important lessons here:
The 2007 Beowulf movie sucks and is super weird.
The current (supposed) impeachment of Joe Biden is kind of like Neil Gaiman’s re-telling of Beowulf. It is a re-hash of the first impeachment of Donald Trump. Walk with me back to 2019.
Impeachment 3.0 is really Impeachment 1.2
Talk of Trump’s first impeachment began in late August of 2019, so we are literally four years out from its genesis. But it essentially went like this: Trump was withholding aid to Ukraine unless they announced an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine.
To recap: Hunter was on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, and it was under the investigation of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Victor Shokin. While Biden was Vice-President, he publicly bragged about getting Shokin fired.
Trump world saw that as an opening into investigating Biden. The Vice-President got a prosecutor fired who was investigating his son? Clearly looks like a conflict of interest.
Except a bunch of people in the Trump Administration said Shokin’s firing made it more likely that Burisma would be investigated, and that Biden’s effort was a part of broader U.S. policy. It was also endorsed by our European allies, who say Shokin has hopelessly corrupt.
George Kent, the Ukraine deputy chief of mission testified that Biden’s actions were part of a “whole-of-government effort to address corruption in Ukraine” and that the plan to leverage aid to get Shokin removed originated in the State department, not Biden.
Kurt Volker, the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, testified Biden was carrying out “U.S. policy at the time and what was widely understood internationally to be the right policy.”
Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testified that Shokin was simply “not doing his job” and essentially everyone wanted him ousted before additional aid was given to Ukraine.
Again, all of these people worked for Trump. On top of this, you had one of the originators of the allegations come clean and say, “Yeah, we made them up.” Whoopsie.
The failure of this narrative to take hold has pushed Republicans to heavily focus on Hunter Biden’s other business activities, which - it has to be said - are shady and clear evidence that he uses his last name to squeeze money out of business partners. But there is no evidence Joe Biden has been involved. Ben Shapiro disagrees:
The problem with this “evidence” is that it often contradicts itself, or is just flat-out false:
Bobulinksi says a lot of different things in public, but when people actually went through his emails, they found evidence of he himself saying that there were “no other members” in Hunter’s business deals with China other than Hunter, Bobulinski, James Biden (Joe’s brother), Rob Walker, and James Gillar.
I am assuming one of the next two is a reference to the “10% held by H for the big guy” email, and many speculate that Joe Biden is “the big guy.” Except Gillar, the guy who sent that email, says it is not Joe Biden. He also said that the proposed deal fell through.
“WhatsApp” and “text” messages do not show a role for Joe Biden in Hunter’s businesses, as Fox News reported three freaking years ago.
The Shokin thing is addressed above.
The final point is kind of like the impeachment inquiry itself: An assertion without evidence. In defense of the GOP, many of them are saying that the point of the inquiry is to get to the bottom of all this, and maybe it will produce concrete evidence of corruption.
Generally, that is not the sort of language you want to using before you launch an impeachment inquiry, which is currently based more on vibes than actual evidence. But maybe they are right. Maybe! I am personally skeptical that something will magically pop up after four years of us having this conversation, but they are not really doing anything else anyway.
The truth is that the real reason the GOP is still going after Joe Biden on all of this stuff is because Donald Trump missed his chance to get Biden with this narrative in 2019. Believe it or not, the guy who is still obsessed with appearing on the cover of Time Magazine, the size of his inauguration crowd, the 2020 election, and the documents he had with him at the White House, is unable to mentally process his failure to smear his political opponent four years ago.
I know what you’re thinking: OK, but Donald Trump isn’t even in government anymore. How is he doing this?
Trump cannot get his failed narrative about Biden out of his head, so he is obsessed about it in the same way he is obsessive about all sorts of really weird things. And Kevin McCarthy knows this.
So, McCarthy knows his impeachment inquiry is BS?
Undoubtedly. McCarthy is in a tough spot. For one, he made promises to people like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, that eventually there would be an impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden, and he did that in exchange for their votes as Speaker of the House.
He also simultaneously made promises that such a move would occur in exchange for funding bills to keep government running. McCarthy knows that government shutdowns - by default - get blamed on Republicans (it is hard to be the Party of less government and not take the blame for it going bye bye for a few weeks), so he’s doing this in the hopes of forging a deal later on this month.
McCarthy also knows that an impeachment of Joe Biden would backfire on the GOP. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Biden is secretly hoping for it. For all those reasons, I don’t think McCarthy will actually bring an impeachment vote to the House floor, even leaving aside the lack of evidence.
I know he has brain worms, but why does Trump actually want Biden to be impeached?
A lot of people assume that Trump is dumb (and he certainly provides evidence), but his political instincts are actually pretty good. After the Access Hollywood came out in 2016, Trump pulled a wild move before his debate with Hillary Clinton: He invited all of Bill Clinton’s accusers to come forward for a press conference.
Trump’s goal was basically to say: I may have said bad things, but so did Bill Clinton, and Hillary is married to him. Dave Chapelle actually explained this in an SNL monologue: Trump said he knew the tax system was corrupt, “…because I use it.” Trump basically says, “Yeah, I’m bad, but so is everyone else.” It’s why he needs Joe Biden to be hopelessly corrupt and intertwined with Hunter’s deals.
Trump is fully aware that his son-in-law got a multi-billion dollar deal with Saudi Arabia after leaving the White House. Hell, Ivanka Trump got a deal done with China while she was working in the White House. This stuff makes Hunter’s schemes seem like money in the banana stand, but Trump needs Biden to be as bad as he is so he can at least make the argument.
In the past, the old me would have said, “Hey, let’s welcome impeachment. All the facts will come out, and the GOP will eventually move on to something else after everything is proven to be false.” But the new, war-torn, grizzled (attacked by a grizzly bear), and cynical me knows that none of it will matter. Even after a long impeachment trial, where multiple witnesses say that Joe Biden had nothing to do with his son’s business dealings, Republicans will press on and believe it anyway, and use it against Joe Biden in November 2024. People are that gullible.
I know this because last month, Republicans hyped up the testimony of Archer (noted above), who worked with Hunter Biden. Archer was going to tell them about how Joe Biden was secretly in on all of Hunter’s deals, and blow the whole thing open. Instead, Archer said the opposite and that although Hunter repeatedly invoked his Dad, it was mostly him “bragging” in order to get better deals.
I know this because a “whistleblower” who the House GOP cited to ultimately said that claims about Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s business were “wishful thinking.” Both Jim Jordan and James Comer interviewed these witnesses directly, heard their testimony, and decided to go forward with an inquiry anyway.
I know this because an FBI agent said this week that politics did not influence the investigation into Hunter Biden, and GOP representatives keep saying the opposite.
So basically, if the House wants to try and impeach Joe Biden, I think they are going to do it because Donald Trump wants them to and he controls the Party. But it’s not just me expressing skepticism; do you remember those four points I made above, about why McCarthy can’t get impeachment through the House?
That actually wasn’t me. It was the words of current House GOP members, with some paraphrasing. I quoted Nancy Mace; Ken Buck; David Joyce; and Don Bacon (respectively). And that’s before you get to the Senate, where members are much more skeptical. If these are the things they’re saying publicly - “no evidence” - what do you think they’re saying privately?
Does Kevin McCarthy think Joe Biden is an international mafia boss who made money off of foreign governments? Of course not. Does he think impeachment is a good idea? Of course not. But he might do it anyway, because Donald Trump wants him to.
OK, it’s really just one, but this article from McKay Coppins is just unreal, and solidifies why he is one of the best reporters out there right now. It is also particularly relevant to this conversation; here is an excerpt:
I don’t know why I’m getting ads to visit Seattle, but now I kind of want to go. #Capitalism.
I am off to Napa valley for a vacation. I’ll be back on September 29th. Maybe Joe Biden will be impeached by then!
This is a reminder that the House does more than just impeach Presidents. It actually impeaches and removes judges too, as well as public officials. One of the reasons I think Adam Schiff did so well in Trump’s first impeachment is that he was one of the few members who had actually presided over an impeachment previously, which ultimately resulted in the removal of a corrupt judge in Louisiana.
I know I have a reputation for being a 90s-movie-homer, but it’s seriously so good.
It is still mirky to me whether or not “testified” is the right word to use, but Archer had a private interview and was apparently under oath. And he was given a private interview after it became pretty clear that his testimony was going to throw a wrench in the GOP’s allegations against Joe Biden.
There is a separate report from the Daily Mail that says Biden has $5.2 million of “unexplained” income, wherein the word “unexplained” is doing a lot of work. Regardless, it is heavily suggested that the $5.2 million has to do with the deal with a Chinese company, but again, that deal fell through.