It looks like what was good for the goose may end up being good for the gander.
When Democrats impeached Donald Trump the first time, it seemed nearly inevitable that Republicans would return the favor if they had the chance against a Democratic president. And now, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has announced an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
There is no doubt that Biden's connection to his son Hunter Biden's shady foreign business dealings is a serious matter that deserves a serious investigation and accountability to the public. The only question is how best to go about it.
The media have proven that they have no real interest in pursuing a story that could hurt Biden and help Trump’s prospects and instead have tried to act as a collective flak jacket for the president. Under the leadership of Attorney General Merrick Garland and prosecutor David Weiss, the Department of Justice has bungled the investigation of Biden's son in a way that has served to shield the big guy.
Since taking office in January, Republicans have stepped into the breach and unearthed some gravely concerning behavior through bank records, various other documents, and witness testimony. What they have found is that the Biden family and associates raked in millions of dollars from foreign entities that were funneled through various shell companies. The product for sale was access to and influence with then–vice president Biden; no other products or services were involved that could possibly have justified the sums involved. The sources of the funds were located in sensitive parts of the world (including Ukraine and China) where U.S. policy was in flux at a time Biden had significant influence over it. While Biden since 2020 repeatedly denied knowledge of or involvement in his son's business dealings, Republicans have since shown that he spoke to his son's business associates dozens of times and, according to a witness account, had dinner with an executive from Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm, after that executive had asked Hunter Biden, point blank, to "use your influence" to shield Burisma from investigations. It is further alleged that Biden himself communicated with his son and his son’s associates through a pseudonymous email account.
The best defense Biden could make, which isn't particularly flattering (or convincing), is that he was somehow unwittingly duped by his son into becoming the prop in a lucrative global influence-peddling operation and lied about his role because he was too embarrassed about it. But the even more alarming possibility is that the elder Biden not only was aware of what his son was actually up to and closely involved but enriched himself and may have even been bribed to influence U.S. foreign policy. Neither the use of a web of shell companies by the Biden family nor the alleged use of a fake name by Biden himself would appear to have a plausible innocent explanation.
While all of this cries out for further investigation, McCarthy's decision to open an impeachment inquiry is risky.
One immediate issue is the matter of votes. McCarthy bypassed a floor vote on opening an inquiry, deciding instead to direct the relevant committees (Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means) to pursue this inquiry. This indicates that he did not have enough support among Republicans to get the requisite votes to open the inquiry. Now that he has taken this step, if Republicans don't end up having the votes to pursue actual articles of impeachment, it will be touted by Biden as a full exoneration.
If they do manage to impeach Biden, the Democratic Senate would never vote to convict him. And the recent experience with failed impeachments is that they are dismissed by voters as partisan exercises. This was true when Republicans impeached Bill Clinton and when Democrats impeached Trump the first time.
There is evidence that thanks to the methodical approach Republicans have been pursuing so far, and no thanks to the media, the Hunter Biden scandal is breaking through with the public. Now that the issue has entered the realm of impeachment, it will be much easier for Democrats to sweep the charges away as mere retribution for the impeachments and indictments of Trump, and the details could be lost.
In announcing the move, McCarthy noted that to date, "House Republicans have uncovered serious, credible, allegations into President Biden's conduct." This is true, and a tribute to the GOP investigation, but all of it has happened through a vigorous oversight process that has operated outside of impeachment. The speaker argues that having an open impeachment inquiry will provide more power to investigators to get more answers, but it also creates more pressure to produce a smoking gun and, potentially, to proceed further down the impeachment track regardless.