With Republicans convinced that they have the midterm elections in the bag they are hauling out their big guns. As I’ve mentioned before, they have unveiled plans to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to force President Biden to give tax cuts to their wealthy benefactors (which explains why so many of them are pouring late money into the campaign) and also to reestablish their old-time conservative movement bonafides by gutting Social Security and Medicaid.
In that article, I also mentioned in passing that a GOP House majority will have investigations and impeachments on the front burner. Yes, I do mean plural. They’ve got a long list of Biden administration officials they believe should resign or face impeachment. They’ve been talking about doing this since Biden’s first few months in office when the Freedom Caucus (which should just rename itself the MAGA Caucus at this point) held a press conference to announce its plans.
First on the list for impeachment is Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, for alleged failures at the border, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, for the withdrawal in Afghanistan. (I’m not sure why they hold Blinken responsible for that military botch-up, but whatever.) They’ve also called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, as well as Biden himself, of course. They didn’t actually mention impeaching Biden in that initial press conference, which was slightly odd. But by then their illustrious colleague, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, had already filed the first of her five impeachment resolutions — on Biden’s first day in office, in fact — claiming that he had abused the power of his office by allowing his son Hunter “to influence the domestic policy of a foreign nation and accept benefits from foreign nationals in exchange for favors.” Did that happen sometime between the parade and the inaugural address?
Given the cast of characters involved, especially Greene, it’s easy to dismiss this as backbench folderol. But Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who seems to think he’s got a second career as a stand-up comic or late-night talk show host in his future, told his podcast audience in late 2021 that there was a good likelihood that a Republican House majority would seek to impeach Biden. He admitted there was no specific high crime or misdemeanor he could point to, admitting that it would simply be an act of raw partisan power:
And whether it’s justified or not… the Democrats weaponized impeachment. They used it for partisan purposes to go after Trump because they disagreed with him. And one of the real disadvantages of doing that… is the more you weaponize it and turn it into a partisan cudgel, you know, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Yes, we’re into the dreary old cycle of “you started it.” In fact, impeachment articles have been filed against every president, of whichever party, since Richard Nixon. The first of those that actually got off the ground was the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which I’ve always seen as the long-delayed retaliation for Nixon (who was not technically impeached but only avoided it by resigning). Republicans hadn’t really had a chance to take their pound of flesh, since they held the presidency for 12 years under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, but when they finally got a Democratic president to attack they went for it.
It was an exceedingly thin case, consisting of a charge of perjury against Clinton for lying in a deposition — in a case that had been dismissed — and obstruction of justice for his feeble attempts to cover up the affair with Monica Lewinsky. The public rallied to the president’s side and the Republicans lost seats in the next election. If anyone weaponized impeachment it was the Republican Party of the 1990s, and it backfired.
Donald Trump’s two impeachments were of an entirely different order, and were definitely not meant to avenge Bill Clinton, whom Democrats, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, would just as soon let pass into history without further comment. But the revenge cycle was bound to continue after the Trump impeachments. Vengeance forms the core of his psyche, as he has proudly admitted for years. Here’s what Trump told the supposedly devout Christian student body of Liberty University in 2012:
Since he remains the de facto leader of the Republican Party and 2024 frontrunner, it’s easy to see where this is heading. Trump will demand, in no uncertain terms, that House Republicans impeach Biden. I have never doubted this for a moment.
The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman, who correctly predicted Trump’s Big Lie strategy and the national strategy to manipulate the electoral system going into 2022 and 2024, reported this week that impeachment looks almost certain. He spoke with a number of GOP officials and political advisers and they believe it’s inevitable, even though Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the presumptive House speaker if Republicans win the majority, clearly considers it risky. Apparently McCarthy can see that Republicans behaving like lunatics while Trump eggs them on, in the months leading up to the presidential campaign might not be a good look. (Maybe someone reminded him how things turned out in 1998.) As Gellman puts it:
But there is little reason to think that McCarthy can resist the GOP’s impulse to impeach once it gathers strength. He is a notably weak leader of a conference that proved unmanageable for his predecessors Paul Ryan and John Boehner. If he does in fact reach the speakership, his elevation will be a testament to his strategy of avoiding conflict with those forces.
Watching McCarthy flail about, trying (and failing) to control the wild beasts of the Republican caucus, will be one of the few enjoyable aspects of GOP House rule.
Gellman asked around to see what House Republicans might come up with to rationalize their impeachment revenge strategy, and nobody was quite sure. It could be about Hunter Biden, which seems to be the favorite, although impeaching a president over something he allegedly did years ago as vice president seems like a stretch, especially when there’s no tangible evidence he did anything wrong. (Which certainly won’t stop them.) Some GOP members suggested the Afghanistan withdrawal, the border crisis or Biden’s extension of the eviction moratorium, all of which have already been mentioned by Marjorie Taylor Greene in her various articles of impeachment — which may reveal who’s really running this show.
As Gellman points out, these are policy disputes which in vaguely normal times would never be considered high crimes and misdemeanors. But as Gerald Ford said when he was House minority leader, there is no clear constitutional standard for impeachment, and “an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”
With this crowd there is only one reason that matters. Biden’s impeachable offense was the high crime of winning the election, and it will not go unpunished.