MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 13th of September, 2023.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s time for Washington Wednesday.
Today, another possible impeachment of another president.
The House of Representatives is back in session, and top of mind for many in Washington is the task of averting a looming government shutdown. But then yesterday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy added an item to the punch-list.
MCCARTHY: House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible allegations into President Biden's conduct. Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption. That's why today I am directing our house committee to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
What’s the story behind this impeachment inquiry?
Joining us to talk about what’s going on here is Daniel Suhr. He’s an attorney in Milwaukee who served as senior adviser to the Governor of his state, Scott Walker. He is also a contributor to WORLD Opinions.
REICHARD: Daniel, good morning!
DANIEL SUHR: Good morning, Mary, great to join you.
REICHARD: So describe what exactly an impeachment inquiry is …and what evidence or behavior will this inquiry consider?
SUHR: Sure. So we start with the Constitution. The Constitution is the governing framework for how impeachment works. And the Constitution sets a high bar for impeachment. When the American people vote to elect a president, we expect that person to stay in office for four years. And so the Constitution makes it an arduous process to remove a president, because we want to respect the will of the American people that's been voted on at the ballot box. And so that means the majority of the U.S. House of Representatives has to vote to impeach, it's kind of like a grand jury would do in a typical criminal case. And then the United States Senate sits as the jury and two thirds have to vote to convict. Two thirds of our senators have to hear the evidence, listen to the arguments from lawyers, and then vote to convict before we finally remove a president from office. And in all two plus centuries of American history we've ever net never actually done that before. We've never removed a president all the way through the end of the impeachment process.
This particular impeachment inquiry, that starting with Speaker McCarthy this week, is directing three committees of the House of Representatives to investigate whether or not President Biden's business dealings with his son Hunter Biden, and associates of their family, actually crossed the line into corruption, whether or not there were allegations of bribery and dollars changing hands to influence us policy during the time that then Vice President Biden was in the Obama White House.
EICHER: You mentioned high crimes and misdemeanors … and the committee probe … what is the House going to have to show in order to bring articles of impeachment that clear the high bar?
SUHR: So ultimately, impeachment is a political act, not a judicial act. In other words, when you have an average citizen in front of a jury, right, we expect evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to establish guilt. That's not the standard here. We have 435 members of Congress who are responsive to their constituents, to their donors, and to their own political futures. And Speaker McCarthy's challenge is can he reach a point where a majority of the members of the House, which would mean a vast overwhelming majority of Republicans are ready to vote for impeachment. Now, that might not be the right standard for high crimes and misdemeanors, right? That's not necessarily a legal definition. And so in terms of what proof is necessary, we're going to have members of Congress who are looking at the facts, looking at the evidence that this inquiry is able to assemble. We know it's going to include things like bank records of Hunter Biden's business deals, it's going to include these transactions between foreign companies and these shell companies that we've seen reported in the news that are ultimately routed to Hunter Biden, and then whether or not those business transactions correlate with the Vice President's official activities: was Hunter Biden essentially selling access to his dad and the White House in order to influence U.S. policy? And if he was, does the majority of the U.S. House Representatives find that sufficient within the political context that those members operate, to vote for impeachment? That's the question that we're going to work out over the course of the next year.
REICHARD: This doesn’t come in a vacuum. House Republicans, especially members of the Freedom Caucus, have been pushing for the impeachment of President Biden since earlier this year.
What kept that from happening before do you think, and why do you suppose McCarthy acted on it now?
SUHR: I think it's important to say some members of Congress have been pushing for an impeachment. At the same time, there are members of McCarthy's caucus who I think don't want this, right? And so McCarthy is sort of caught in this tension between one wing of his caucus that really wants to move forward with these charges and wants to go all in on the president, and then other members who are more interested in just the traditional tools of governing, and don't want these sorts of ugly political fights. And so McCarthy has been caught in the tension between the two, and several months ago, the standard he set was if you bring me credible evidence that shows serious allegations of corruption, then I'll launch an inquiry. And at least as far as he's told the media, he feels like he's seen that evidence and is ready to move forward now into this next more formal stage of investigation.
EICHER: Kevin McCarthy has another problem on his hands. Back in the 2019-2020 session, McCarthy, then the House Minority Leader, wrote a resolution that would’ve required the House to hold a vote before launching an impeachment inquiry. Now, that resolution was tabled, but as recently as a few weeks ago, McCarthy basically said the same thing. Vote first, impeachment inquiry second. But that’s not how it went down yesterday.
Daniel, why do you suppose McCarthy didn’t stick to that roadmap he previously laid out … and do you foresee it costing him anything politically?
SUHR: Certainly it will come at a media cost to him. But I think that he's obviously made a calculation, the media cost is less than the political cost of not moving forward with an inquiry. So, you know, back in 2019, when he introduced that it was in the context of what was happening to then President Trump and widespread frustration among Republicans, both in the grassroots and in the House, that Democrats were engaging in essentially cheap impeachments, that they were watering down what counts as high crimes and misdemeanors, because they were just so obsessed with, and angry with, the fact of Donald Trump's presidency. And so McCarthy as Minority Leader was responding to that frustration with cheap impeachments and trying to make Nancy Pelosi own impeachment.
He's in a different place now where he's Speaker, and he's got members of his caucus who are demanding this. He's got other members of his caucus, as I said, people who represent moderate or suburban districts who don't want to take a floor vote on this. And so opening an inquiry allows him to let the advocates for impeachment go forward. But it essentially puts the burden on them to say, Okay, guys, I'll let you go forward. I'll let you have the staff and the permission you need to undertake this investigation. But now the burden is on you to show me the goods, like come up with the evidence we need to be able to convince a majority of your colleagues to actually put this on the floor and take a vote that represents a broad, unified coalition within the Republican caucus. Now, obviously, for all of us as American citizens, what we should actually want are bipartisan impeachments. We're not at that point yet. But we also don't know what the evidence is yet.
REICHARD: Some say McCarthy is just trying to keep his party together while also trying to get back to Congressional business as usual. Do you think that this concession to the House Freedom Caucus will win him the support he needs to avoid a government shutdown?
SUHR: One of the problems with deals that are made in the back rooms of Washington DC, is it's really hard to hold people to them. And it's so it may be that for today, conservative hardliners in his caucus have said, If you give us this, we will give you what you need on the shutdown vote or whatever other issues are coming up. But it's really hard to hold people that deal in private, when they're then on the floor in public. So we will have to see. The reality though, is that all of these members are responsive to different political considerations. And the opportunity to get on Fox News, the opportunity to raise money nationally, the opportunity to be a hero nationally is when people don't play the game. When people stand up to leaders within their own party, that's how you get national recognition. And so at minimum, Mary, I'd say all of the incentives are for conservatives in the house to have their cake and eat it too, to take the impeachment inquiry and still throw sand in the gears on something like shutdown.
EICHER: Daniel Suhr is an attorney and a contributor to WORLD Opinions. Thank you Daniel!
SUHR: Thank you, Nick. Thank you, Mary. And let's all wait and see what happens and pray for our country and our Constitution. It's going to be an interesting few months ahead.
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