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Did impeachment just fizzle?
The Republicans' star witness corroborates Biden's story
No, not that impeachment. The attempts to impeach Trump are over, having been successful in the House where The Former Guy was impeached but failed in the Senate, which declined to remove him from office. Unless Trump somehow manages to get re-elected, his days of being impeached are over. (Although House Republicans are talking about trying to expunge Trump’s impeachments from the record, which shows exactly what their priorities are).
Instead, I’m talking about Joe Biden. House Republicans have been hell-bent on a revenge impeachment of President Biden and have spent the past year and a half looking for a justification to proceed. Lauren Boebert (R-Col.) even claimed that she was being directed by God to push for impeachment. To that end, they’ve been holding hearings into the “Biden family” finances and business activities for the past few months.
Lost amid the furor when the Trump Indictment III dropped last week was a hearing that was supposed to be a smoking gun implicating President Biden in his son Hunter’s wrongdoing. The hearing involved testimony from Devon Archer, a business associate of Hunter Biden.
Immediately after the hearing, Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), a member of the Oversight Committee that held the hearing, told reporters that Archer’s testimony lacked direct links between wrongdoing and President Biden.
Speaking to CNN, Goldman said, “The witness (Archer) was very consistent that none of those conversations ever had to do with any business dealings or transactions.”
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) seemed to confirm Goldman’s analysis of the hearing when he said, “When Joe Biden was Vice President of the United States, he joined Hunter Biden’s dinners with his foreign business associates in person or by speakerphone over 20 times” but failed to identify any single time in which the vice president discussed business, legal or otherwise, with his son.
This has been my criticism of the Republican investigation all along. The Republican hype about alleged Biden corruption has not been matched by the evidence that they have been able to provide. Comer says that Archer’s testimony reaffirmed questions about Joe Biden’s knowledge and involvement in Hunter’s business activities, but an investigation that is now about a half a decade old should be much further along… if there is anything to find.
In the days that followed, Republicans failed to trumpet the discovery of any smoking guns in Archer’s (or anyone else’s) testimony. With Donald Trump’s indictment for attempting to overturn the 2020 election results in the headlines, evidence of criminal activity by Joe Biden would have been a welcome diversion. Instead, Rep. Comer released the transcript of Archer’s interview on Thursday to little fanfare.
Comer’s website lists “key exchanges” from the interview, but the smoking gun fizzled and misfired. Archer said that he believed that Hunter was hired into Burisma, the controversial Ukrainian energy company, because of the value of the Biden family “brand” but failed to directly tie Joe to the deal.
“Well, I mean, he [Hunter] was a lobbyist and an expert and obviously he carried, you know, a very powerful name,” Archer said. “So I think it was ‑‑ that’s what they were asking for.”
Comer’s key exchanges detail how Hunter would call his father with his business associates around, but noticeably absent from the highlights is Archer’s claim that business was not discussed in these phone calls.
At one point, Archer stressed, “ I've said across the board, there was no business-deals specifics discussed ever at any of these things, but it was -- it was a nice, you know, conversation.”
In one amusing exchange, a questioner asks Archer, “Did you ever witness Hunter Biden asking Joe Biden to do something for -- you know, to help [Chinese company] BHR [Patners] or help out Jonathan Li [CEO of BHR Partners]?”
“A college recommendation,” Archer answers. “She didn't get in.”
The testimony also exploded myths that Republicans have propagated about the Bidens’ business relationship. When asked about the allegation that Mykola Zlochevsky bragged about bribing two Bidens with $5 million each, Archer said that he was not aware of the payments.
“I would assume he's probably talking about me and Hunter, but I don't know. But I don't know anything about those five,” he said.
“And in Ukraine, in Russia, they brag about how much -- they brag about bigger bribes than they actually give,” Archer added.
Archer also disputed Republican claims that Hunter Biden was influencing US policy through his father. Archer speculates that Hunter was giving the illusion of influence with his father to the management of Burisma.
“I have no basis to understand what his father and his conversations were about policy in Ukraine,” he testified, “But, as you can see, that seems pretty familiar, that, you know, he can't influence it but take credit for it.”
The questioner clarified, “In other words, it's not that Hunter Biden was influencing U.S. policy. It's that Hunter Biden was falsely giving the Burisma executives the impression that he had any influence over U.S. policy.”
“I think that's fair,” Archer confirmed.
And that seems to be the bottom line. Hunter Biden was somewhat of a con man. He would apparently get his dad on the phone to say “hello” and then parlay that into the idea that Joe was involved in his business dealings.
Atcher agreed several times to the proposition that Hunter was “projecting this illusion of access to his father.” That is problematic, but it is not illegal. At least not for Joe and probably not for Hunter. The Republicans have not even conclusively shown that Joe was even aware that Hunter was making money off of their relationship, much less that the elder Biden was getting a cut.
The correlation between Joe and Hunter is reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s problems with his brother, Billy. Billy Carter was a ne’er-do-well brother of the president who embarrassed Jimmy by, among other things, becoming a registered agent of Muammar Ghadaffi’s Libya. Billy got into trouble on numerous fronts, but his problems were never connected to President Carter.
To the Republicans who claimed during Trump’s impeachments that criminal activity was necessary, the evidence against Biden clearly falls short. As I’ve explained in the past, I don’t hold this view as the original intent of “high crimes and misdemeanors” included a variety of both criminal and noncriminal offenses. I favored both Trump impeachments since Trump clearly did what he was accused of and his actions in both cases were clearly abuses of power.
Other Republicans, those who simply want revenge, aren’t worried about the proper use of impeachment, but they do have other concerns. Chief among these is politics.
If Republicans are somehow able to muster enough votes from their moderate members to impeach Biden, it is highly unlikely they will have the votes in the Senate to remove him from power. While they might technically exact revenge, they would likely do so at a high cost.
An obviously politically-motivated revenge impeachment of Joe Biden would likely unite the fractured Democratic Party and turn moderates and independents against the GOP. Voters typically want the parties to work together rather than instigate pointless and damaging and divisive political battles.
The disappointing (for Republicans) result of the Archer hearings was evident in Rasmussen polling from Friday. The right-leaning pollster found that support for impeachment hearings against Biden had declined from 42 percent in May to 38 percent. And I’d guess, based on my observations of Rasmussen, that those results overstate the truth if anything.
For comparison, FiveThirtyEight’s polling average showed that about 47 percent of Americans consistently favored removing Trump from office during the Ukraine aid scandal. That rose to 52 percent after the January 6 insurrection. Even with a slight majority of Americans favoring impeachment for Trump, there weren’t enough votes to get the job done in the Senate. It would be political suicide for Republicans to proceed with 38 percent (or less) support.
As I’ve said in the past, I’m open to the idea that Joe Biden has engaged in unethical or illegal business deals, but I also look at the evidence. So far the Republicans haven’t been able to prove anything beyond the fact that Joe called his son often to exchange pleasantries and talk about the weather. And that’s after investigations that began back around the middle of the Trump Administration. After all, that was what the Ukraine aid scandal was about. Republicans even released a report on the old investigation of the Bidens just prior to the 2020 election that found no wrongdoing on Joe’s part.
Republicans talk a lot about witch hunts and endless investigations. It’s starting to look a lot like they are taking part in both when it comes to Joe Biden. If Republicans can’t come up with something more substantial than innuendo and allegations, they need to stop beating a dead horse. Doing so would benefit their own party as well as the country.
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