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IN FOCUS – Does the House Have a Duty to Impeach?


It is no surprise that there is not one Democrat in the House of Representatives that has ever mentioned the possibility of supporting the impeachment of President Joe Biden.  A study of the votes taken in the House during 2022, when the Democrats held a slim majority, showed unprecedented party unity:

House Democrats have recorded the highest level of party unity in floor votes that either party has reached in at least 50 years….  Democrats have passed legislation on virtually every element of their party’s priority list – from the sweeping Build Back Better investment and social welfare package to bills setting a national floor for voting and abortion rights to major gun control proposals, legalization for big groups of undocumented immigrants and ambitious police reform – with dissenting votes from no more than two of their members and often opposition from only one or none.  [Emphasis added.]

This pattern of party obedience has continued in 2023, with Democrats now in the minority.  Former Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was credited for her “masterful” service in keeping Democrats in line, but Speaker Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has had no significant problem with dissenting votes from his side of the aisle either.  When the whip is cracked, House Democrats know how to fall in line.

Republicans are not nearly as unified.  Just a few months ago, there were several House Republicans who publicly criticized impeachment — but now most are warming to the idea.  For example, Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE) once was counseling against impeachment, says his reluctance is in the past.

While former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was a reluctant supporter of impeachment, Speaker Mike Johnson has announced plans to hold a House floor vote for an official “impeachment inquiry.”  He explained:  “The evidence is so clear you cannot look away.”  Johnson then went further than any Republican leader before in calling for impeachment when he characterized the issue as follows: 

The Constitution requires the House to follow the truth where it leads. We have a duty to do this. We cannot stop the process.  [Emphasis added.]

Johnson’s framing of the decision of an individual Congressmen to impeach the President as “a constitutional duty” is a horse of a different color than viewing impeachment “a choice” to be made based on a political calculation.

Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution states:

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.  [Emphasis added.]

To be sure, the Constitution doesn’t say “shall be impeached,” but only shall be removed after impeachment by the House and conviction in the Senate.  But an implicit duty can be found in these words from the Constitution — a duty of every House Member to vote to impeach when the evidence is clear that a President has committed “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”  A Congressman cannot avert his eyes to such behavior and still fulfill his oath, where he pledged:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.  [Emphasis added.]

To be sure, the duty of a House member to fulfil his oath may not be a duty that can be enforced by anyone other than the voters at the next election — but it is a duty all the same.  Think of the impeachment power by analogy to law enforcement.  Each state specifies different oaths taken by law enforcement officers, but as an illustration, the oath of the International Association of Chiefs of Police begins:

On my honor, I will never Betray my integrity, my character Or the public trust.  I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. [Emphasis added.]

Does a Congressman have a lesser duty to hold the President “accountable” for his actions?  If Congress will not act to stop corruption, who can?

For 40 years, the U.S. Department of Justice has taken the (correct) legal position that a sitting President cannot be indicted or prosecuted, since that would impair his capacity to perform its constitutional duties.  Thus, the only constitutionally permissible way to stop a rogue President is impeachment and removal, and a Congressman who refuses to impeach a President committing crimes is ensuring that the corruption will continue until the end of the President’s term.

As the House moves toward that decision to officially authorize an impeachment inquiry, let’s consider some of the high points of the information it has before it.

Bribes and Threats.  In June, House Republicans announced the contents of an FBI document detailing conversations with an informant who had spoken with Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.  Zlochevsky told the informant that he had paid Joe and Hunter Biden a bribe of $5 million each to help call off an investigation into Burisma business practices by Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin.  Biden later bragged in 2018 that, as Vice President, he had pressured Ukraine to fire Shokin by delaying $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine. “I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours.  If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’  Well, son of a bitch.  He got fired,” Biden said.

Lies about Finances.  Again and again, Biden’s claims not to be personally associated with his son Hunter’s overseas money laundering and influence-peddling schemes have been exposed as lies.  Biden has had to repeatedly move the goalposts, as each lie has been revealed.  House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer has detailed each of Biden’s lies.  “President Joe Biden claimed there was an ‘absolute wall’ between his official government duties and his family’s influence-peddling schemes.  This was a lie.  President Joe Biden claimed his family didn’t receive money from China.  This was a lie.  President Joe Biden claimed he never spoke to his son, Hunter Biden, about the Biden family’s shady business dealings.  This was a lie.”

Direct Payments.  The Oversight Committee has released bank records showing that just one of Hunter Biden’s illicit businesses, Owasco PC, made payments directly to Joe Biden, of $1,380.  According to the New York Post, Owasco PC made three monthly payments to Joe Biden, in September, October and November 2018.  Where did Owasco PC get that money?  Well, “[a]t the time that the recurring payment was set up, Hunter also was at the tail end of disbursing millions of dollars received from CEFC China Energy — one of two major Biden family dealings with Chinese government-linked firms.  Chinese Communist company CEFC.”  CEFC “transferred $5 million to another Biden family-linked entity, Hudson West III, in August 2017 after Hunter warned a China-based associate of his father’s wrath if a business deal was aborted, warning he was ‘sitting here with my father.’ Much of the subsequent transfer later went to Hunter’s Owasco PC.”

Direct Participation.  As the Oversight Committee has detailed, “the Bidens and their associates raked in over $24 million dollars between 2015 and 2019 by selling Joe Biden as ‘the brand.’”  And if the Biden family business partners didn’t do as they were told, Joe Biden himself was used as the heavy to force their hand.  As Hunter Biden himself put it in a July 30, 2017 WhatsApp message to Henry Zhao, CEO of the Chinese company Harvest Fund Management:

I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled.  Tell the director that I would like to resolve this now before it gets out of hand, and now means tonight. And, Z, if I get a call or text from anyone involved in this other than you, Zhang, or the chairman, I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction….  [Emphasis added.]

“Within 10 days of the threat, $5.1 million flowed to Biden-linked accounts in two transfers.”

Benefits to Family.  The Oversight Committee has already noted that “the law recognizes payments to family members to corruptly influence others can constitute a bribe.”  As the Committee notes, “Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, ‘Companies also may violate the FCPA if they give payments or gifts to third parties, such as an official’s family members, as an indirect way of corruptly influencing a foreign official.’”

If Donald Trump and his children had done anything near what Joe and Hunter Biden have done, Democrats would have voted to impeach him long ago.  The breadth of evidence against the Biden family is so strong, doubt only creeps in when we are astonished that anyone could have acted that corruptly.  Republicans already have all the evidence they need, not to just officially launch an investigation, but to approve articles of impeachment.  The question now is whether Republicans have the character and courage to hold the President accountable.  The goal is not to achieve a political advantage, but to fulfil a duty even if it results in political blowback.  By exercising his duties irrespective of consequences, a politician demonstrates the characteristics of a statesman.  We shall see.

Editor’s Note: To read the articles in this series, please click here.

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