September 28, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Impeaching Biden is a tired Trump play
The point is smearing the president, writes Lindsay Beyerstein.
The House Republicans will soon hold their first impeachment hearing for Joe Biden, a non-event that even backers admit will present no new evidence.
The extreme rightwing of the GOP conference is in open rebellion against Speaker Kevin McCarthy. So, as a sop to the insurgents, McCarthy agreed to allow impeachment hearings. However, McCarthy had to use a procedural trick because he would have lost a vote on the issue.
Even the most vocal proponents of impeaching Joe Biden admit that there’s no evidence that he was involved in any of his son’s influence-peddling schemes. Given that the Republicans have been investigating Hunter Biden’s messy business dealings and turbulent personal life for years, it seems unlikely that the extra subpoena power that impeachment proceedings allow is going to generate any new leads.
With a slim majority and a number of members representing districts carried by Joe Biden, it’s doubtful that the GOP has the votes to impeach Biden. Trump doesn’t care. The point is to announce the investigation.
After the mind-wipe of the pandemic and the betrayal of January 6, it’s easy to forget that Donald Trump was first impeached for trying to strong-arm Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Hunter Biden’s time on the board of the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified that Trump didn’t care whether the investigation actually happened. All he wanted was the announcement of an investigation ahead of the election. “He had to announce the investigations. He didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it,” Sondland explained during Trump’s first impeachment.
Trump’s goal was to tarnish Biden before the election. Now, Trump’s threatening House Republicans with immediate primary challenges if they don’t vote to impeach the president. With a slim majority and a number of members representing districts carried by Joe Biden, it’s doubtful that the GOP has the votes to impeach Biden. Trump doesn’t care. The point is to announce the investigation.
The repeatedly debunked allegation is that as vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire the prosecutor who was looking into corruption at Burisma. Biden did indeed push for Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin to step aside. Trump and his allies alleged that Biden was freelancing to benefit his son. In fact, pushing the prosecutor to step down was official US policy. Far from shaping US policy to benefit his son, Biden was executing the Obama administration’s anti-corruption agenda. Furthermore, the Shokin inquiry had already been shelved by the time Biden tried to force him out and its scope never extended to Hunter’s time on the board anyway.
The Republicans have tried to keep the furor alive by hyping the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop. Vish Burra, a Republican operative from New York, bragged that he spent nearly two months holed up in a hotel room with Steve Bannon trying to create “an October Surprise” with the data from Biden’s laptop. Burra said they called their effort “the Manhattan Project because we were essentially creating a nuclear political weapon.”
The October Surprise largely flopped because the mainstream media and social media giants recognized the laptop dump for what it was – a transparent attempt by the Republicans to manipulate the election with a fake scandal, just as Trump had tried to do in Ukraine.
Operatives like Burra and Bannon have done their best to spin conspiracy theories about Biden’s involvement in Ukrainian biolabs, Chinese intrigues and imaginary sex-trafficking schemes. But none of these allegations have gained traction outside the Republican fever swamps, most likely because Hunter Biden was a sad dude who dined out on his family name like countless Washington failsons, but who didn’t actually convince his father to intervene on behalf of his clients. As Hunter’s former business partner Devon Archer put it, Hunter sold “the illusion of access.”
By opening impeachment hearings with zero evidence of wrongdoing by president Biden, the GOP is running a tired Trumpian play. It doesn’t matter whether an investigation uncovers anything, all that matters is that the investigation be announced.
Lindsay Beyerstein covers legal affairs, health care and politics for the Editorial Board. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, she’s a judge for the Sidney Hillman Foundation. Find her @beyerstein.