he US is surfeit with impeachments of its Presidents – past and present. After former President Donald Trump went through the motions of two consecutive impeachments, it now seems to be the turn of President Joe Biden to face the prospect of an impeachment for alleged misdemeanour on his part and corruption by his son Hunter Biden. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced a few days back that he was directing the chamber he runs to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. He claimed GOP investigations suggest corruption, abuse of power and obstruction of justice.
What is astounding is the fact that investigations, so far, have been unable to unearth concrete evidence to prove the charges against President Biden and wrong business dealings of his son. Hence, observers suspect the Republicans’ desperation to impeach Biden may boomerang on the party and damage the prospect of its Presidential candidate in the election 13 months away.
Impeachment by the House of Representatives is the first step in a formal process to remove a president – or other senior executive or judicial official – from office. It requires a simple majority vote in the chamber to trigger a trial in the US Senate, where a two-thirds majority is necessary for conviction and removal. Trump was impeached twice when Democrats controlled the House – over Ukraine in 2019 and the January 6 Capitol riot in 2021 – but was acquitted by the Senate on both occasions. The impeachments met such a fate because the Democrats could not muster the numbers – two-thirds majority– in the Senate. Similar fate probably awaits the impeachment move this time against Biden since his party – the Democrats – have more numbers than the Republicans in the Senate.
McCarthy claims he found ‘credible’ allegations against the President and his son. He accused Biden of lying about knowledge of his son’s business dealings and said that Biden family members had received millions of dollars in payments from shell companies and that transactions had been flagged as questionable by the US Treasury Department. The Biden administration has been accused of giving the President’s family and associates special treatment during its investigations into possible criminal violations. However, Republicans have not found concrete evidence of misconduct by PoTUS till date.
The question is why the Speaker has cleared the first step to impeachment when credible evidence is lacking. One explanation could be the fact that the ultra-right faction in the Republican Party is goading him to provide them with the campaign material against Biden, especially when Trump had faced impeachment proceedings twice. In other words, it is simple political arm twisting. They want to tarnish Biden’s image and hope to reap electoral dividends out of it. McCarthy wilted under their pressure since he holds his position by a wafer-thin majority with the help of these very same Republicans.
The Biden team has swung into action to slam McCarthy’s impeachment announcement. It has told the national media that House Republicans have been investigating the President for nine months and they have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing. Only three US presidents have been impeached in history – Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Donald Trump twice. None was convicted by the Senate because of the clause of approval by two-thirds members. Democrats currently have a 51-49 majority in the Senate, virtually ensuring that any Biden impeachment referral from the House will meet a similar fate.
It would be naive to think that the Republicans are not aware of the tremendous risk of trying to impeach Biden without tangible evidence. This may even help Biden improve his ratings by creating the impression that his adversaries have stooped too low to hit him below the belt. The latter may also try to impress the electorate that Biden is no angel. After all, elections these days are more about perceptions among the voters than the actual performance or non-performance of a government.