There’s been a bit of fuss made over this, but it’s important to put it in context so that’s what we’ll do. Yes, it’s absolutely true: According to a binding opinion issued by the Justice Department, House impeachment inquiries are invalid unless the House votes to authorize them, meaning the Biden administration can take whatever subpoenas come from House Republicans in the next few weeks and summarily trash them. Sorry, none of it counts! Come back when you’ve taken a vote, Kevin.
That binding opinion was issued by Donald J. Trump’s gloriously crooked Justice Department, and specifically by DOJ Office of Legal Counsel head Steven Engel. It was one of the many Trump administration efforts to dodge House subpoenas during the impeachment investigation that stemmed from Trump’s move to block military aid to Ukraine until the Ukrainian president agreed to announce a sham investigation of Trump’s political opponents, including President Joe Biden. It came after Trump’s team tried a great many other dodgy things to cover up Trump’s extortion attempt, such as improperly classifying the phone call in which Trump did it, but technically, it’s still on the books and Justice is currently obliged to tell Reps. James Comer, Jim Jordan, and the others to pound sand.
But, you know, legally pound sand. This would be the kind of invitation to pound sand that comes under a really nice letterhead, one that greatly details how the sand should be pounded and why, with a big ol’ signature or two at the end of it. You can’t tell me they’re not selling raffle tickets inside Justice right now to decide who gets to put their name on that letter. Here’s a suggestion: Consider using a glitter pen.
Aside from its sublime trolling opportunities, however, this isn’t a particularly useful little tidbit. House Republicans who once thought OLC opinions to be sacrosanct when they were written to protect Dear Leader’s constant crookery will now declare the same legal stances to be communism if a not-Republican tries to follow them. Nobody among House Republicans gives a damn what their own supposed deeply held principles were a few years back, and a party that both attempted and is still conspiring to block investigations of an attempted coup really, really does not give a damn about what the lawyers have to say.
Remember, Jordan himself gleefully defied the authorized subpoenas of his own Congress demanding he testify about his role in Jan. 6, 2021. Nobody has ever claimed the former wrestling coach cares about what’s legal and what’s not, and nobody ever will. These are seditionists, not scholars.
A Biden administration attempt to troll Republicans with Engel’s own binding legal opinion is also easily worked around, in theory. After launching the initial impeachment probe into Trump without a full House vote in 2019, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought the matter to the House floor and got official authorization about five weeks later, on Oct. 31. It wasn’t until the following January that a stonewalling Trump administration announced that they still didn’t have to respond to any subpoenas issued before that vote because they weren’t “authorized,” and that’s the stance they and Senate Republicans went into Trump’s first impeachment trial with.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy could, in theory, set up a similar authorization vote whenever he wants. He’s not doing that right now, because Republicans in non-hard-right districts do not want to take that vote and do not think they can win reelection after supporting an impeachment premised solely on the party’s revenge fantasies, so impeachment backers simply don’t have the votes. But it’s possible McCarthy could somehow develop actual leadership skills at some point, coming up with a trade that would goad them into it.
In the end, though, none of this particularly matters because House Republicans—and specifically the coup supporters in the caucus—don’t have any “evidence” they want or need to find to begin with. The impeachment probe was announced after House Republicans pursued the same conspiracy theories pushed by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to discredit the Ukrainian government and give Trump possible blackmail fodder that would help him win reelection. Republican investigators found not one damn thing, because there was nothing to find to begin with. Republicans can issue subpoenas as an extended fishing expedition, looking for any unreturned library books or unpaid parking tickets that they can spin into new frothing theories, but an “impeachment inquiry” so brazenly premised on retaliation rather than evidence will struggle to even define what information they’re supposedly demanding.
None of this matters, in other words. It’s political theater, and all the House coup-backers care about is that they can keep it alive, Giuliani-style, long enough to benefit indicted seditious crapsack Trump in his bid to win back power. Republicans need to claim Biden is corrupt precisely because Trump has been indicted in four separate venues. The evidence against Trump is so clear in each case that Trump could well be found guilty in all four of them, and the only defense House Republicans have for propping up a potential jailbird as president is by claiming that Actually, he’s no more crooked than anyone else in Washington, D.C., so you might as well elect the felon you know.
Joe Biden’s son claimed to be more of a bigshot than he was. Ooooh, what a scandal. Surely, there’s never been a Republican failson to ever be caught doing that.
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Kerry talks with Drew Linzer, director of the online polling company Civiqs. Drew tells us what the polls say about voters’ feelings toward President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and what the results would be if the two men were to, say … run against each other for president in 2024. Oh yeah, Drew polled to find out who thinks Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes he’s been indicted for, and whether or not he should see the inside of a jail cell.