Fishing for a reason to impeach President Biden is bad for America

By Chicago 7 Min Read

The Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ explore critical issues facing our democracy. The series is in partnership with the University of Chicago’s Center for Effective Government.

A day doesn’t go by in the Cook County courts when lawyers on one side don’t accuse those on the other of going on a “fishing trip.”

By that, they mean the opposing lawyers have such a weak case they are demanding all kinds of evidence be turned over to them so they can rifle through it and perhaps reel in something that seems incriminating or, at the very least, embarrassing.

Any competent judge will say no to that.

But in Congress, some House Republicans want to go on a fishing expedition of unprecedented proportions by impeaching President Joe Biden. They don’t pretend they have evidence that would justify such a move. Instead, as U.S. Nancy Mace, R-S.C. said, “That’s what the inquiry is for … to get more evidence.”



Let’s see if we have this right. Until now, Republican investigations have turned up nothing beyond unfounded allegations made by such people as U.S. Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Iowa.

So that means, according to their sights, the next logical step is to hold an impeachment inquiry to see if that helps.

On Tuesday, Republican U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy fell for the idea hook, line and sinker. McCarthy said he had directed the U.S. House to open an impeachment inquiry into Biden. McCarthy, whose hold on his speakership is tenuous, was under pressure from the right-wing fringe of his caucus to do so, though it appears he doesn’t have the votes at the moment to actually pass articles of impeachment.

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Former President Donald Trump has been goading House Republicans to start impeachment proceedings against Biden. On his social network earlier this summer he wrote, in part, “Either IMPEACH the BUM, or fade into OBLIVION. THEY DID IT TO US!”

Trump obviously wants Biden impeached to lessen the stain of Trump’s two impeachments. But an impeachment without evidence could do far-reaching damage to the federal government. Should Biden be impeached, even if he is not convicted in the Senate, impeachment by political rivals is one big step closer to being viewed as a partisan rebuke, rather than what it should remain in the public’s eyes: A serious condemnation of a president’s actions.

Just as Trump wanted the Ukrainian government to declare an investigation into Biden without any reason to believe it would go anywhere, Trump doesn’t care if an impeachment effort in the House turns up any evidence. He is just after an invented story with which he can regale his supporters and criticize Biden, even if in the end he is telling nothing more than another fishing story: “You should have seen the big one that got away.”

More politics, instead of averting a government shut-down

To see the trend in how the GOP’s right-wing ultra-partisans view impeachment, just look to Wisconsin, where some Republicans are talking about impeaching recently elected Democrat-supported Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz, for what appears to be no better reason than they don’t want to lose control of mapping the state’s political districts to their advantage. Moreover, the state’s Republican-controlled senate on Thursday voted to fire Wisconsin’s top elections official, who has been the target of conspiracy theories and threats from people who falsely accused her of being part of a plan to rig the state’s 2020 vote. The official, Meagan Wolfe, sued to keep her job.

The Constitution states that a president should be impeached only for “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” But so far, no matter how far Republicans have cast their nets, they have pulled in nothing more than the evidentiary equivalent of discarded plastic bottles and other jetsam.

On Thursday, federal prosecutors charged Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, with buying a gun in 2018 while lying about his drug use. But that’s the son, who holds no federal office, not the president. It is not grounds for impeachment.

We wish Congress was busy figuring out how to avoid a government shutdown and how to address the critical issues Americans see as important. That would be a far better use of its members’ time than something likely to wind up as — excuse the translingual pun — a fin de debacle.

For all its flaws and unkept promises, American democracy has been a source of hope for people in many other countries, who dream of a future in which individual rights are the norm everywhere.

Partisans who treat the institutions and practices of America’s government with blatant disrespect create an alarming — and dangerous — setback for those aspirations.

This editorial is part of “The Democracy Solutions Project,” a partnership among the Chicago Sun-Times, WBEZ and the University of Chicago’s Center for Effective Government. Together, we’re examining critical issues facing our democracy in the run-up to the 2024 elections.

The Sun-Times welcomes letters to the editor and op-eds. See our guidelines.

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