Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, is taking an exceedingly cautious approach to launching formal impeachment proceedings against sitting President Joe Biden.
Johnson, who was formerly a member of the Judiciary Committee where a portion of the inquiry is being conducted, has taken a different stance than some Republicans who argue that Joe Biden should be impeached yesterday over a mountain of evidence showing that his family is guilty of influence-peddling in nations such as Ukraine and China.
Vice President Biden not only certainly knew about such operations, but he actively aided and abetted them, according to numerous verifiable reports.
The Washington Post, however, is pouring cold water on Republicans’ hopes that Joe Biden will be impeached anytime soon.
“Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), a constitutional lawyer by training, has taken a more reserved tone, both publicly and privately, urging members to conduct a thorough and fair investigation with no predetermined outcome. In a closed-door meeting with House GOP moderates this week, he indicated that there is insufficient evidence at the moment to initiate formal impeachment proceedings, according to people who attended the meeting.”
Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), characterized as a “moderate Republican” by the Post, echoed Johnson’s reported remarks.
“We’ll just go where the evidence goes and we’re not there yet,” he said.
“Most of us are saying, look, we can’t even get a single Democratic vote on this right now. I think the voters will reject what they are seeing when it comes to Biden [policies] — but high crimes and misdemeanors? I don’t think we’ve seen that or enough data to really make a good case and I feel like [Johnson] really agreed with us on that,” Bacon added.
Interestingly, some Republicans are arguing that there is less urgency to impeach Joe Biden because, quite frankly, he is in a terrible position to win re-election in 2024.
“Is it pragmatic? Does it make sense? Connecting those dots matter,” Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.) said after the meeting. “So I don’t think it makes sense to move down a road unless those dots can be connected, and I think that’s the message he was trying to send to us which we appreciated.”
On the other hand, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) has continued to call for formal impeachment proceedings.
Comer on Wednesday issued subpoenas for Hunter Biden and James Biden, requesting the president’s son and brother appear for depositions. The House Oversight Chair also requested voluntary closed-door interviews with other Biden family members, including Hallie Biden, the widow of Hunter’s older brother Beau with whom Hunter Biden had an affair after his brother died, and Hunter’s wife, Melissa Cohen.
Comer issued additional subpoenas on Thursday requesting interviews with several of Hunter Biden’s business associates, including his New York City art gallerist Georges Bergès, and Elizabeth Naftali, a buyer of Hunter Biden’s art and a Democratic donor.
Earlier, Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University Law School professor, testified at a Biden impeachment hearing, gave his professional opinion that the evidence did not yet substantiate an open-and-shut-case that Joe Biden is guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and therefore should be impeached.
“This is a question of an impeachment inquiry,” he continued. “It is not a vote on articles of impeachment. In fact, I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment. That is something that an inquiry has to establish, but I also do believe that the House has passed the threshold for an impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Biden.”
However, Turley dispelled the myth that “smoking gun” evidence of direct payments to Joe Biden showing a quid pro quo is necessary to impeach the sitting president.
“Professor Turley, false statements, influence-peddling scheme, and Joe Biden might’ve benefited,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said. “Let’s do the third one. First, is a benefit to your family? Can a benefit to your family be a benefit to you?”
“It is,” Turley remarked. “There’s been repeated statements ‘that you need to show that President Biden accepted direct money’ in order for this to constitute a benefit, even under criminal cases that deal with bribery, extortion, and the Hobbes Act. The courts actually have rejected that. They’ve said that money going to family members is in fact a benefit and I don’t really see any legal basis for that. Obviously, the strongest case is if you have a direct payment. But this idea that you can have millions going to a politician’s family and that’s not a benefit, I think it’s pretty fallacious.”
Turley is not alone in this evaluation of the bribery and extortion laws.
“There are cases in which payments made to family members can be treated as bribery of the principle if he is aware of it,” Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz told the Daily Caller News Foundation in August.
Former federal prosecutor and FBI consultant Joseph Moreno told the DCNF that federal law makes it a crime “for a public official to directly or indirectly receive something of value in return for being influenced in the performance of any official act.”
“So in establishing whether there was a quid pro quo, prosecutors would have to prove that something was demanded or received by a public official (including the President) in exchange for some official act (i.e., approving foreign aid, putting pressure on a foreign official),” he explained. “This can be done via a direct payment or gift to a public official, or an indirect one through, say, a family member or business associate.”
A payment accepted through a family member could also be relevant in an impeachment trial, where the standard leading to removing a president is easier to meet and does not “require a statutory violation,” he added.
“Impeachment by the House (Art. I, Section 2) and trial by the Senate is for when a President commits ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ which is not a term defined in the Constitution but has largely been considered to be whatever Congress deems to be,” he said. “So if Congress wants to impeach and try President Biden for benefitting from improper payments received through his son or other family members, it is free to do so.”
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