On September 12, 2023, former US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy initiated a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden in response to accusations of abuse, obstructive behavior, and corruption. McCarthy further accused the Biden family of fostering a culture of corruption, with particular emphasis on Hunter Biden’s business dealings.
The United States Constitution’s Impeachment Clause, Article II, Section 4, provides that the President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States are to be removed from office upon conviction are limited to three specific offenses: treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors. The clause was included in the constitution to prevent instances of abuse by public officials, so that they may be removed if deemed detrimental to the public good.
In the event of a public official being impeached by the United States House of Representatives, the articles of impeachment must be passed by a simple majority vote. Subsequently, the matter must be referred to the United States Senate, which acts as the court of law. The Senate will hear testimony and evidence before reaching a decision on the public official’s acquittal or conviction. In the event of an incumbent President facing an impeachment trial, as was the case in the Bill Clinton impeachment trial and the Donald Trump impeachment trial, the Chief Justice will preside over the proceedings. If the public official is convicted, the Senate must obtain a two-thirds majority vote for the public official to be removed from office without delay. These fundamental differences in roles between the United States House and the United States Senate are outlined in Section 3, Clause 7 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution.
In order to assess the likelihood of President Joe Biden’s impeachment, it is necessary to understand the definitions of impeachable offenses. The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” is arguably the most difficult to define. Associate Justice Joseph Story wrote in Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States § 795 (1833), that the amount of political offenses committed is so large and complex that the difficulty of creating effective legislation is so great that it would appear preposterous to attempt. Consequently, the definition of these crimes is not determined by judicial decisions but rather by the historical record of impeachments in Congress.
How do Joe Biden’s actions compare to this relatively broad spectrum of impeachable offenses? On September 28th, James Comer, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, detailed evidence that had been uncovered regarding Biden’s lies to the public about his knowledge and participation in his family’s business schemes. Nevertheless, it appears as though this is not an impeachable offense according to Constitutional Law, with Comer himself stating the boundaries between what is permissible and unlawful are often blurred when it comes to family influence peddling. Furthermore, giving favorable treatment to his son Hunter during his legal troubles, especially during his recent tax evasion investigation, may also not suffice for an official impeachment inquiry.
The conspiracy myth of bribery between Biden and Ukraine, which was promoted by Trump’s legal team in 2018-19, was debunked on Bloomberg and The Times in 2019. This myth stems from an incident in which Joe Biden forced the resignation of a Ukrainian prosecutor during his time as Vice President. The prosecutor was reportedly investigating a natural gas company, Burisma Holdings, which Hunter Biden was on the board of. However, it appears that the investigation had already been inactive since the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, and Joe Biden had threatened to freeze US funds to Ukraine in order to enforce a clampdown on corruption at the beginning of 2016. Furthermore, even if Hunter Biden was found guilty of his dubious business practices, such as accepting funds from China, this may not be sufficient for impeaching the President based on his son’s business dealings.
Despite the initiation of an investigation into potentially impeachable offenses, this does not guarantee that the House of Representatives will follow suit and initiate impeachment proceedings. As of now, neither the Oversight Committee nor the House Republicans have been able to identify any specific instances of misconduct by the President within the meaning of the impeachment clause. This is despite having investigated the President since assuming the majority in the House in January. The investigation is still in its early stages, and it is yet to be determined if any new evidence is uncovered.
Written by Johannes Kuehn von BurgsdorffShare this: