House Republicans Advised to Tread Carefully as They Mull Biden Impeachment

September 28, 2023 by Tom Ramstack
House Republicans Advised to Tread Carefully as They Mull Biden Impeachment
Witnesses are sworn in before the House Oversight Committee impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. From left are, Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at the George Washington University Law School, Eileen O'Connor, former Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, Bruce Dubinsky, with Dubinsky Consulting, and Michael Gerhardt, Burton, Craige Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — Constitutional law experts advised a congressional committee Thursday to be careful about overstepping its authority as lawmakers consider impeaching President Joe Biden.

Republicans accuse him of using his political leadership to enrich himself and his family through influence peddling with foreign enterprises.

If true, the accusations would create an illegal conflict of interest for the president.

Investigators have “uncovered a mountain of evidence” against the president, said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Although the president’s son, Hunter Biden, led “his family’s corrupt business dealings,” witnesses, bank records and emails show his father appears to have participated, Comer said.

The Biden family gained at least $24 million from influence peddling, much of it from businesses in Russia, China, Ukraine and Romania, he said. An ongoing investigation shows additional payments to the Bidens that might have violated laws on foreign agents and lobbying, according to the president’s Republican accusers.

President Biden denies the accusations, saying they represent reprisal by his political adversaries. Any financial misdeeds can be attributed only to his son, the president says.

Hunter Biden faces criminal tax evasion charges after the Internal Revenue Service claimed to have found millions of dollars paid to him by foreign businesses that he never reported as income.

Two law professors who testified at the hearing said that without solid evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors” by the president, Congress lacks the constitutional authority to impeach him.

Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., speaks during the House Oversight Committee impeachment inquiry hearing into President Joe Biden, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“High crimes and misdemeanors” is a phrase from Section 4, Article 2, of the Constitution, which says, “The president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” It does not require removal from office but authorizes it with a vote of Congress.

Presidents who have been impeached include Donald Trump, William Clinton and Richard Nixon.

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University constitutional law professor, said the president could lawfully be impeached only with evidence of a “nexus” that proves his support of his son’s inappropriate business dealings.

So far, the evidence is inconclusive, Turley said.

“We still need to know the scope of this,” he told the committee.

Michael J. Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor, said partisan politics appears to be a motive behind accusations against the president as much as evidence of illegal behavior.

“I don’t think that’s how the law should work,” Gerhardt said. “I don’t think that’s how impeachment should work.”

He quoted constitutional requirements of Fifth Amendment due process and judicial review in questioning whether Congress had authority for impeachment without better evidence.

“These proceedings should be based on principle, not on partisanship,” Gerhardt said.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., holds up a whiteboard he wrote on during a House Oversight Committee impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, comparing the impeachments and indictments of former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Democrats on the committee joined in denunciations of the impeachment inquiry.

“It is chaotic infighting,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.

The law does not support Congress trying to hold the president responsible for wrongdoing of his son, Raskin said.

“What a staggering failure of leadership,” he said.

Eleanor Holmes-Norton, the District of Columbia’s Democratic delegate, said, “It is incredible that we are having this sham hearing.”

The White House issued a statement while the hearing continued that cast doubt on whether it was appropriate while Congress struggled to agree on an annual budget. The government will run out of money to pay employees on Sunday without a budget agreement.

“There are 58 hours and 25 minutes until the government shuts down because of extreme House Republicans’ chaos and inability to govern,” the statement said. “The consequences for the American people will be very damaging.”

Echoing the statement, White House Spokesperson for Oversight and Investigations Sharon Yang said, “Today, House Republicans wasted hours peddling debunked lies, even as their own witnesses admitted there is no evidence that merits this baseless stunt. This flop was a failed effort to distract from their own chaos and inability to govern that is careening the country towards an unnecessary government shutdown that will hurt American families.

“Congressional Republicans have also made clear that this fact-free stunt will continue even if the government shuts down because they believe these partisan political attacks are more important than ensuring our troops get paid, funding efforts to fight fentanyl trafficking, making sure kids and infants have access to food assistance, and more. President Biden will always stay focused on the priorities of the American people — not these political games House Republicans have chosen to pursue instead of doing their jobs.”

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