By the Time Kevin McCarthy Rolled Out an Impeachment Inquiry, the FBI Had Already Debunked a Key Premise

Yesterday morning, in a desperate bid to keep his gavel, Speaker McCarthy directed three committees, including the House Judiciary Committee, to begin an impeachment query.

As Philip Bump laid out, only one of McCarthy’s justifications for impeachment — that Biden knew more about his son’s business than he stated publicly (but not under oath) — has been substantiated; several of the rest have no basis in fact.

More importantly, just one relates to Biden’s current term as President: the allegation that his Administration has interfered in the investigation into his son. When Bump wrote his column, he noted that David Weiss — the Trump appointed US Attorney whom Biden retained precisely to give independence to the investigation — had disputed the claim.

“Finally, despite these serious allegations,” McCarthy continued, “it appears that the president’s family has been offered special treatment by Biden’s own administration, treatment that not otherwise would have received if they were not related to the president.”

This allegation does have one advantage over the preceding four: It’s actually related to Biden’s time in office as president.

The suggestion here is that the handling of Hunter Biden’s tax and gun case was unfairly lenient, thanks to pressure from the Justice Department. This was alleged by whistleblowers from the IRS who offered testimony in front of Congress. The U.S. attorney leading the Hunter Biden investigation, David Weiss, disputed the allegations.

Only, according to a report from the WaPo, by the time McCarthy made this allegation, it had been even further debunked.

Last Thursday, FBI’s Baltimore Special Agent in Charge Thomas Sobocinski appeared before the House Judiciary Committee. He testified that his memory of a key October 7 meeting conflicts with claims that purported whistleblower Gary Shapley made about the meeting.

Shapley said Weiss told FBI and IRS agents during that meeting that Weiss was not the “deciding official on whether charges are filed.” But Sobocinski, who was also there, said he did not hear Weiss say that and “never felt that [Weiss] needed approval” to bring charges.

Sobocinski, who is the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore field office, noted there was “bureaucratic administrative process” Weiss had to work through to bring charges outside Delaware but that his understanding was “that [Weiss] had the authority to bring whatever he needed to do.”

“I never thought that anybody was there above David Weiss to say no,” he said.

Pressed again on the issue later in the interview, he said, “I went into that meeting believing he had the authority, and I have left that meeting believing he had the authority to bring charges.”

Gary Shapley’s claims of politicization have been debunked twice now. The key claim of favoritism at the core of impeachment keeps crumbling.

Jim Jordan, at least, knew all this before McCarthy’s impeachment decision.

And yet McCarthy went forward anyway, with even less basis for the inquiry.

57 replies
  1. BRUCE F COLE says:

    Smoke and mirrors, except the mirrors are one-way with the electorate and history watching them self-incriminate as in a precinct interview room, and the smoke is coming out their ears.

    • John Lehman says:

      You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

      Most often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but this is disputed.

      • BRUCE F COLE says:

        That aphorism seems to be in jeopardy of being proved true, at least in part: “Some of the (fooled) people” are slap-facedly encountering the enevitable historical brevity of “some of the time,” even as we blog.

      • ExRacerX says:

        The source for the closely related “There’s a sucker born every minute,” is similarly unclear, despite claims it was P.T. Barnum.

  2. John B. says:

    Gum up the works, false equivalency, he said she said, get the media to report your accusations like they have some merit, keep it in the news from here until the election, make the average voter think both parties are guilty and corrupt as hell and that Joe Biden is as corrupt as TFG, etc…wash, rinse, repeat.

  3. bawiggans says:

    The fact that Donald Trump was impeached (twice) has had the predictable effect of establishing a new branch in the logic of defining the operative predicate in the House for presidential impeachment investigations. In the special case of Republicans constituting the majority in the House and the President not being a Republican, the predicate shall be: whatever.

  4. Lisboeta says:

    Isn’t this whole exercise a political sham? Republicans say ‘our’ president was impeached, so now we’ll impeach your president. Last time, there was ample evidence, but the votes were lacking. This time around, there’s no evidence — but the R’s say they’ve got the votes.

    • Scott_in_MI says:

      It seems to be an open question whether they’ve got the votes. Presumably McCarthy would have stuck to his recent commitment to initiate an investigation with a full House vote if he thought he could pull it off.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Specifically, Trump said “They did it to us,” in his semi-official order to McCarthy to take this step. Democrats did not, in fact, do it to Republicans; they impeached Trump himself. This remains all about him, and his hold over McCarthy’s speakership.

    • scroogemcduck says:

      Yes, yes it is. And they don’t have the votes. The very last thing Rs in swing districts want is to be on the record in an impeachment vote on the House floor, particularly an impeachment vote based on a load of total bull.

    • bmaz says:

      How is it any worse than the sham “impeachments” Nancy Pelosi presided over? But this is what happens when you cut corners, do things sloppily, for purely political purposes.

      • Lisboeta says:

        Forgive me. My knowledge is second-hand: I’m not a US citizen. What “sham impeachments” did Nancy Pelosi preside over?

        • Rayne says:

          bmaz offered his personal opinion about the impeachments of Donald Trump which occurred during Pelosi’s leadership of the House during the 117th Congress.

          Now here’s my opinion: Marcy’s post is about McCarthy’s shoddy House leadership and a poorly-rationalized effort to impeach Biden under the 119th Congress, not about the successful impeachments of Trump during the 117th. We don’t need to relitigate Trump’s abuse of office or Pelosi’s leadership when there’s plenty to discuss about McCarthy’s pathetic attempt to play to the GOP’s fascists while generating anti-Biden propaganda going into 2024.

          We don’t really need to create more propaganda for the fascists to use against us because we can’t focus.

        • BRUCE F COLE says:

          And don’t bother asking for his forgiveness. It’s not necessary or forthcoming.

          It is a sham, Lisboeta, and comparing it to what Pelosi’s House pulled off — it beggars belief.

        • Rayne says:

          I really don’t want this thread to ziggurat over an unrelated topic, in case that wasn’t clear.

          McCarthy needs to be hammered on his weakness as a House leader, and the House GOP caucus for their incompetence at governance. Everything they do is agitprop, nothing of substance which will improve Americans’ lives.

        • BRUCE F COLE says:

          At the risk of being banned, I gotta say that this is totally related: bmaz elevated what McCarthy is capitulating to, by comparing this POS abomination of a Leadership implosion with the historically critical two impeachments and Senate trials that Pelosi’s House executed. It’s a comment that deserves more than a passing WTF.

        • bmaz says:

          You are not going to get banned, just identified as a dope. Maybe, instead, you ought to ask what could have been accomplished had Pelosi allowed proper impeachment inquiries and hearings, which she never did. Your “historically critical” is historically laughable.

        • Cheez Whiz says:

          You have to remember that bmaz has a very detailed and technical view of The Law, built over a lifetime of experience, and “legal actions” that don’t line up with it will usually be dismissed with extreme predjudice. He has no time for the larger political or social goals of those actions, and sees them as destructive abuse of The Law. In the end, it’s just his opinion, though it should carry some weight.

        • Tim Benson says:

          The Senate voted to CONVICT Trump in the second impeachment by a margin of 57-43 meaning the VAST MAJORITY of the Senate thought he was guilty as charged. The Constitution calls for 66. That is certainly not evidence of a “sham.” Also, the Republican leaders of the Senate and the House were both taped saying Trump bore responsibility for J6, but they were against impeaching him because the matter was best left to criminal courts. The matter is NOW in criminal courts. Hooray. But they also thought Trump was guilty as charged proved by their remarks.

        • bmaz says:

          Lol, so if 7 out of 12 jurors vote to convict on a capital murder case, you think the defendant is guilty? Should said defendant be put to death?

        • Just Some Guy says:

          Jury trials aren’t Senate impeachment trials, nor are they meant to be. They have different rules and stipulations. Continuing to “what about” the two impeachments of Trump doesn’t make any sense, nor does comparing them to criminal trials especially since they have vastly different rules and outcomes. If Trump had been convicted by the Senate, for instance, he wasn’t going to prison, obviously. Impeachments are inherently political events.

        • bmaz says:

          No, it is the same garbage from you. You think there was a conviction where there was not. By the way, I kind of understand what trials are, do you?

        • Just Some Guy says:

          That’s funny, because I didn’t use the word “conviction.” Because Trump wasn’t convicted, by the Senate’s rules for conviction in impeachment. Which I have respect for.

          Much like how I have respect for criminal trial juries’ votes having to be unanimous to convict!

          They’re different rules and different venues. And no matter how many times you want to try to put intentions on other people’s comments, their words show otherwise. The continuous desk-pounding is not persuasive, not remotely, at all.

        • bmaz says:

          Thanks, I am pretty clear on “the rules”. I was in court this morning on one set of them. You have made your own statements, live with it, as will I and mine. Beyond that, please STFU.

        • BRUCE F COLE says:

          Good example. Your comparison fails
          completely right there, at the jury selection portion (among others, but that’s the kicker): that’s the most glaring of many differences between the USC vs the House rules for Impeachment/Senate rules for trying one.

          I’m not a fan of Pelosi by a long stretch, but comparing what she did with Mark Meadows’ & the Hole in the Head Gang’s nascent strip poker game, and even asking what the MAGA has done so far in that toxic farago that was worse than what she did calling a criminal POTUS to account under Constitutionally dire circumstances, well you’ve lost me completely.

      • scroogemcduck says:

        Yes, evidence of trying to steal an election and evidence of trying to use withholding of foreign aid to extort the Government of Ukraine are exactly comparable with… no evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever.

        • bmaz says:

          I’m sorry, where was said “evidence” entered on the record at a “trial”? Please be specific! Because, yes, it matters.

        • scroogemcduck says:

          In the Senate, where the impeachment trials took place. And since we’re talking about opening an impeachment inquiry in the House at this point, it would be more logical (in my view) to compare apples with apples by looking at what the evidence of possible wrongdoing is to prompt each investigation, not the evidence presented at a (much) later trial.

        • ButteredToast says:

          This. I don’t think very highly of how the impeachments of Trump were handled. But McCarthy opening an impeachment inquiry with no evidence (using the colloquial sense of the word) of wrongdoing by Joe Biden is not at all akin to opening an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump based on the whistleblower report/summary of his call with Zelensky, much less January 6. No doubt we’ll hear plenty of this lazy false equivalence from McCarthy, Jordan, etc. in the months to come, however.

        • HarryLeadbelly says:

          Oh I think they can do better than false equivalencies. Feeble old Uncle Joe will become the most dangerous president in history.

          Trump taught them well, and they learned gleefully: Keep throwing shit everywhere until average people believe everyone’s equally shitty. Have no shame, it doesn’t matter. Disgust for politics is to their advantage anyway, since they want to drown government in a bathtub.

          Impeachments are chiefly political procedures, so Congress is a much more receptive playing field for shitters than the courts; and that’s about the only argument I can imagine for conflating the righteous, serious, integrity-driven efforts behind the Trump impeachments with the cynical, bankrupt, lies from the current House adventures. But it would be like comparing a bowl of dirty toilet water to the Amazon.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          I think it’s worth remembering that Mitch McConnell shut down the possibility of witness testimony in the senate, which would have comprised much of the evidence. So, bmaz, you’re right. As a trial, the first impeachment failed to qualify. The second was rushed and arguably slapdash (by necessity of circumstances) and in retrospect may have done more harm than good.

          Pelosi resisted her caucus’s calls for impeachment for a long time before the “perfect call” made it impossible, politically, for her not to. Barr’s torpedoing of the Mueller report had led to a level of frustration she couldn’t contain. As I recall it, she did not relish taking the impeachment step but did so in response to her caucus’s overwhelming demands.

  5. jdmckay8 says:

    And yet McCarthy went forward anyway, with even less basis for the inquiry.

    Yes. Therefore, impeachment inquiry is “the next logical step”.

  6. scroogemcduck says:

    They’re not even being subtle about how corrupt this entire thing is:

    Just two days ahead of McCarthy’s announcement, Trump met with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. Greene said in an interview with The Times that she told Trump that she wanted the impeachment inquiry to be “long and excruciatingly painful” for Biden.

    “I did brief him on the strategy that I want to see laid out with impeachment,” she said.

    • sunflore says:

      I wish this meeting was being discussed more. While kinda OT, my concern is there seems to be a shadow government, perhaps due to The Speaker’s political weaknesses.

      • scroogemcduck says:

        Not OT, in my view.

        Elected representatives are sent to Congress to represent their districts and uphold their oaths of office. When they start taking instructions from unelected partisans (Donald Trump) and launching impeachment inquiries against the President based on zero evidence of treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors, they are abusing their offices and not doing their jobs.

        Marge is openly saying that the point of the inquiry is a fishing expedition designed to persecute the President’s family, keep “Joe Biden impeachment inquiry” in the headlines and give Fox News something to salivate over between now and November 2024. Elise Stefanik is saying she’s meeting with Florida Man Trump ALL THE TIME to discuss what she’s doing in her role as Representative of … New York’s 21st district. When she’s not taking notes on how the House should be impeaching Trump’s political opponent, she’s busy defending actual alleged criminal George Santos and trying to expunge Trump’s two impeachments.

        This is just the 2023 version of Trump’s previous playbook. In Ukraine, trying to get Zeleskyy to just open an investigation into Biden. In 2020, pressuring Barr to just announce an investigation into Biden’s election victory. Now, it’s just open an impeachment inquiry and keep it open as long as possible. Never mind if you find anything just leave it to Fox News and OAN to do the rest.

        These people are just the absolute worst.

  7. Upisdown says:

    Claims that Biden lied about his knowledge of Hunter’s business dealings do not hold up. Even Devon Archer testified the two never talked about Hunter’s business. The MAGAverse relies on non-specific anecdotes of phone calls and dinners to allege Joe was deeply involved in his son’s business dealings and lied when stating the two never discussed Hunter’s business. They cannot, however, produce any conversations between the two which could document a lie.

    “Discussed” is the new “collusion”. The right latched onto another catch-all word and defines the term to suit their agenda.

  8. Norske23 says:

    Seems to me a Democrat should move to vacate the chair. McCarthy is awful by any measure, and any replacement will also be terrible, but my bet is that replacement will be even less effective than McCarthy. And the ensuing chaos would throw sand in the gears of the outrage machine. Sure, it could spell doom for getting the appropriations bills passed any time soon but it’s not like we haven’t been down that road before, and the delay in passing them is going to happen anyway.
    The Republicans made the one vote rule for vacating thinking only a nut job Freedom Caucus Republican would use it. Oops.

  9. Adam SanFran says:

    “As Philip Bump laid out, only one of McCarthy’s justifications for impeachment — that Biden knew more about his son’s business than he stated publicly (but not under oath) — has been substantiated”

    I read the article and the linked House committee “15 lies” release, and learned only that Joe Biden has been on speakerphone, played golf, and eaten dinners in the presence of Hunter’s business associates—one of whom (Archer) explicitly denied under oath ever discussing said business with JB. All of this, Bump presents in a skeptical tone as predicated on “subjectivity”.

    If we discover that my dear grandma called me to say hello during business meetings and came to my organization’s Christmas party, yet denies knowing about my work (and incorrectly claims I have no Chinese clients), have we substantiated that she’s been disingenuous? Or merely ignorant of my affairs, as she says?

    You’re doing yeoman’s work deconstructing this travesty of a sham of a GOP nothingburger. Here, it looks like Kevin and the crazies are batting exactly .000, so I don’t understand crediting them with even a token bloop single.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username and email address each time you comment so that community members get to know you. Your first comment was published under a different username, “AdamSanFran.” The space makes a difference. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Upisdown says:

      Your post reminded me of the Christmas gatherings where family members would ask me what I did for a living and not listen to my answer. By the time it takes to tell them my job title, I could tell by their face they were a hundred miles away and wondering when the food was coming out.

  10. Oldtulsadude says:

    I have no special knowledge but it appears that the goal of the GOP is to gaslight America into accepting Putin’s propaganda as valid, that the USA is totally compromised by corruption.

  11. Rayne says:

    Pathetic when the only thing the GOP has to offer the public is bashing a loving father.

    GOP = utterly incapable of governance

  12. Bobster33 says:

    One the plus side, John Roberts breaks the record for presiding over the most presidential impeachment trials of any Justice.

  13. Scott_in_MI says:

    OT: Judge Cannon has issued a protective order for classified info in the Floriday documents case. https: //www.washingtonpost. com/national-security/2023/09/13/trump-classified-scif-mar-a-lago-cannon/

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