Washington Wednesday: Impeachment delay

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MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 17th of April, 2024.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

LINDSAY MAST, HOST: And I’m Lindsay Mast. Time now for Washington Wednesday.

This week the White House said President Joe Biden will not testify to the House Oversight Committee on his family’s business dealings. Late last month, Committee chairman James Comer invited the President to respond to evidence of corruption. Here’s Comer on Fox News:

JAMES COMER: So we need to hear from Joe Biden because we’re at the point now to where we’re what I call trying to now provide accountability. We’ve proven the crimes now it’s time to hold people accountable for the crimes. And Joe Biden needs to answer some questions…

REICHARD: The White House says the investigation’s turned up no evidence of wrongdoing while Biden was Vice President.

So, does the House have evidence to hold the president accountable for misuse of power? If so, what comes next?

Washington Bureau reporter Leo Briceno has the story.

LEO BRICENO: Back in November, House Speaker Mike Johnson announced plans to continue an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden.

MIKE JOHNSON: We have a duty to pursue the facts where they lead. John Adams famously said facts are stubborn things and you heard a recitation of that here this morning. These facts are alarming …

Johnson called the corruption “obvious” and “blatant.”

JOHNSON: From 2014 to 2019, Biden Family members and their affiliates received more than 15 million from foreign companies and foreign nationals—these are all facts, facts are stubborn things—that included Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Romania and China. Biden business associates received an additional 9 million…President Biden of course has lied at least 16 times about his involvement in his family’s business schemes; there are at least 22 examples of Joe Biden speaking with or meeting with Hunter Biden’s foreign business associates. The oversight Committee recently released two checks. You see the graphics up here today. These checks are to Joe Biden. One is for $40,000 from China and another is for $200,000 from a now-bankrupt healthcare company that his brother, James Biden, apparently swindled.

That’s a lot of numbers. But at the heart of the investigation are two simple questions: Where did these payments come from? And what services were rendered in return?

Republicans say the evidence points to a pay-to-play scheme in which the Bidens traded political influence for money. In one instance during his time as vice president, Joe Biden threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine unless the government fired a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma. That’s the energy company whose board Hunter Biden served on. In the end, the prosecutor was fired.

Democrats are criticizing the investigation, questioning why Republicans haven’t issued any articles of impeachment yet. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat from New York, sits on the House oversight committee.

JARED MOSKOWITZ: I want to, with my last couple minutes, show the American people that they’re never going to impeach Joe Biden! It’s never going to happen. Because they don’t have the evidence. Okay, this is a show! It’s all fake!

So if Republicans haven’t issued articles of impeachment yet, does that mean they haven’t found anything criminal?

I posed the question to Adam Carrington, assistant professor of politics at Hillsdale College. He explains that criminal offenses would almost always be an impeachable offense.

ADAM CARRINGTON: The idea was: this includes criminal activity because that would be—especially for a president—almost inherently possibly an abuse of office. Your job is to take care of the laws we faithfully executed and now you’re violating them yourself…

But Carrington also thinks the House’s power of impeachment may be broad enough to take action on something that comes close to—but isn’t explicitly criminal.

CARRINGTON: It has usually been understood, this was debated a bit with the first president and second president Trump impeachments, but generally it’s been understood than even not-provable-in-court in violations—things that are abuses of power or dereliction of duty or things like that—could be impeachable if the House makes that determination. And that’s where, if you get into the federalist papers, 65 and 66 really talk about impeachment, they really talk about the idea that it’s almost better that you’re not proving it in a court of law because the nature of those infractions needs something different than the exacting judicial process. It needs the people’s representatives being able to sift through this distinction between criminality and abuse of power, but allowing for both to be open to possible prosecution.

That means Congress could determine that President Biden misused the authority of his office and so warrant impeachment.

Congresswoman Nancy Mace of North Carolina sits on the House Oversight Committee—one of the committees tasked with the investigation.

NANCY MACE: I absolutely believe that Joe Biden is corrupt, that there’s bribery, that there’s pay to play, potential RICO. I fully support continuing our investigation. The American people deserve to know everything that Joe Biden and his family did to get paid off by our adversaries.

Knowing the evidence is one thing…but acting on it is another. I spoke with Rep. John Duarte of California who says he’ll follow the direction of Speaker Johnson. But for his own part, Duarte thinks Republicans already have enough evidence to proceed with an impeachment.

JOHN DUARTE: We have the Foreign Agent Registration Act. If you take money from foreign entities and you participate in government policy, as a lobbyist, as a high-level cabinet appointee, or as an elected [official] at any level, and you do not report that you have taken money from foreign interests, you are an unregistered foreign agent. That is a felony in [and] of itself.

With a razor-thin two-seat majority, it would take near unanimous support among Republicans to approve the articles of impeachment. I asked Duarte if he thinks that’s feasible.

DUARTE: Every last one of us? I don’t think so. And I don’t want to see us waste our time on it if we don’t have the votes.

Neither does Kentucky Congressman James Comer. In a fundraising email last month, he said the Democrat-controlled Senate could not be trusted to fairly handle an impeachment trial. The best course of action, according to Comer, could be to make criminal referrals to the Justice Department.

Quoting from his email, Comer says, “When President Trump returns to the White House, it’s critical the new leadership at the DOJ have everything they need to prosecute the Biden Crime Family and deliver swift justice.”

Congresswoman Mace agrees.

MACE: Absolutely. Whatever we have to do, and even if we do a criminal referral or hold an impeachment vote, nothing is going to change. The DOJ isn’t going to hold Joe Biden accountable, but at least the American people will know the truth.

Carrington thinks that’s not quite the political win Republicans are looking for … but he understands Mace’s position.

CARRINGTON: The only thing they have, though, constitutionally speaking, to punish another branch or another officer that is within Congress’ exclusive power, ultimately is the impeachment power. So it would be more, does Congress want to be in control of the process? Then it needs to be impeachment. Do they want to merely try to persuade other parts of the government to take this up? Then those other options would be on the table, but then they would not be doing, they would be asking.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leo Briceno.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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