Expert analyzes the rise of impeachment as a weapon of partisan politics

House Republicans are pressing ahead with efforts to impeach both President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas. Only one cabinet official has ever been impeached, in 1876. Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University, joins John Yang to discuss whether what was intended to be a check on presidential power has become a modern-day political weapon.

What happened during the first hearing of the Biden impeachment inquiry

House Republicans held their first impeachment hearing into President Biden. The Republicans argue there is a real concern about the Biden family, but Democrats say it's an attempt to distract from the criminal charges against former President Trump. Amna Nawaz discussed the hearing and the legal basis for the impeachment inquiry with Frank Bowman.

Brooks and Capehart on Biden’s impeachment inquiry and tensions among House Republicans

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart join Geoff Bennett to discuss the week in politics, including rising tensions in the House as lawmakers launch an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

What led to Hunter Biden’s indictment on firearms charges and the legal battle ahead

Hunter Biden was indicted Thursday on gun charges, setting up a high-profile legal battle ahead of his father's reelection campaign. The indictment comes days after House Republicans opened an impeachment inquiry into the president and his family's business dealings. A plea deal for Hunter Biden collapsed in federal court in July. Amna Nawaz discussed the latest developments with Devlin Barrett.

White House responds to House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry against Biden

After House Speaker Kevin McCarthy directed Republicans to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, the White House is urging a more aggressive pushback to the GOP and is dismissing the effort as "extreme politics at its worst." That description came from Ian Sams, a White House advisor working on congressional investigations. Sams joined Amna Nawaz to discuss the inquiry.

What McCarthy and House Republicans hope to accomplish with Biden impeachment inquiry

Months of Republican allegations and investigations into President Biden have led to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives launching an impeachment inquiry. Republicans have lobbed unsubstantiated allegations against Biden since taking over the House, but have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing so far. Laura Barrón-López discussed the developments with Heather Caygle of Punchbowl News.

Rand Paul warns Republicans against falling into impeachment ‘trap’

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is warning Republicans against falling into the “trap” of impeachment after Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) signaled earlier this week that the House could move forward with an impeachment inquiry against President Biden. 

“It’s not good for the republic to keep impeaching presidents and indicting presidents,” Paul said in an interview on Fox Business Network's “Mornings with Maria.”

“All this stuff is destructive,” he added. 

In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday night, McCarthy said the House GOP’s investigations into the Biden family’s foreign business activities are “rising to the level of impeachment inquiry,” but clarified no decision had been made. 

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Paul pushed back on that idea.

“The other side [Democrats] says, ‘Oh they want to, they’re for preserving democracy.’ They’re pitting everyone against each other and they’re destroying the fabric of our republic, so I think we have to be careful not to fall into the same trap,” Paul said. 

Former President Trump was impeached twice by a majority-Democratic House during his four-year term. Republicans in the Senate acquitted Trump in both instances. 

Paul is among several Republican lawmakers who have pushed back against McCarthy’s comments. That group also includes Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who called the remarks “impeachment theater” meant to distract from budget negotiations, and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), who told reporters, “No one is seriously talking about impeachment.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks to a reporters as he arrives to the Capitol for a procedural vote regarding a nomination on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. (Greg Nash)

In a statement exclusively obtained by The Hill, the White House said McCarthy’s suggestion is “a ridiculous, baseless stunt, intended to attack the President at a time when House Republicans should instead be joining the President to focus on the important issues facing the American people.” 

In his interview with Hannity, McCarthy accused Biden of using the “weaponization of government to benefit his family and deny Congress the ability to have oversight.”

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Republican skepticism over the Biden family’s foreign business activities was boosted last week when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) released an FBI form containing unverified allegations of corruption connected to Hunter Biden’s business with Ukrainian energy company Burisma. 

The White House has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the matter, and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated Monday that Biden was never in business with his son.

Morning Consult poll conducted June 22-24 found 30 percent of register voters believe it should be a “top priority” for Congress to investigate whether Biden should be impeached, including 11 percent of Democrats, 24 percent of independents and 55 percent of Republicans.

Updated at 2:40 p.m. 

Trump and DeSantis debut dueling military policies

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign and former President Trump this week rolled out dueling plans for the U.S. military, with both GOP candidates' proposals light on details and heavy on gripes over Biden administration efforts. 

While DeSantis’s proposition took aim at Pentagon diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, recruiting woes and policies impacting transgender service members, Trump’s plan focused largely on seeking reimbursements for U.S. aid to Ukraine, lambasting Europe for what he decried as only a “tiny fraction” of what Washington had contributed. 

But as both candidates strive to stand apart from each other’s messaging, choosing to focus on different aspects of national security, experts say there appears to be little difference between the two proposals.   

“There doesn't seem to be very much daylight between the two of them on a couple of different fronts,” said Katherine Kuzminski, an armed forces expert and society at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, D.C., think tank. 

Former President Trump pumps his fist as he departs after speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, on Saturday, March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“I think there's a real focus on bringing resources back to the U.S. and not extending American leadership abroad. And then, certainly, when it comes to the domestic politics, the pushes for reform within the Department of Defense when it comes to DEI policies and transgender policy,” she said.

“There isn't really a debate between the two of them on these specific issues ... When you look at their policies, they're not actually all that different,” Kuzminski said.

Here are both candidate’s messages on the U.S. military and national security: 

DeSantis’s culture war complaints 

DeSantis’s plan, unveiled at a brief news conference last Tuesday in South Carolina, doubled down on past campaign promises to “rip the woke” out of the U.S. military and overhaul the institution.  

The “Mission First” proposal includes potential six-month performance reviews for all four-star generals and admirals, and possible dismissals should anyone be found to have “promoted policies to the detriment of readiness and warfighting.” 

He also pledged to rescind Biden’s executive order that allows transgender individuals to serve under their preferred sex, rip out DEI initiatives in the services or military academies, end Pentagon efforts to combat extremism in the ranks and reinstate personnel who were dismissed for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine as well as give them backpay.  

In addition, he promised to end programs meant to prepare military installations and troops for future climate change, bashing the Pentagon for shifting, in part, to electric vehicles. 

In an interview with CNN the evening after the press conference, DeSantis claimed his policy targets Pentagon efforts that hinder recruitment and said the military is currently suffering from America’s loss in confidence in the institution. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rolls out his military policy proposal during an event for his 2024 presidential campaign on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, in West Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

“At this level, everybody has acknowledged these recruiting levels are at a crisis. ... I think it’s because people see the military losing its way, not focusing on the mission and focusing on a lot of these other things,” DeSantis said. 

DeSantis isn’t straying far from his policy proposals already enacted as Florida governor.

While head of the state, he has banned higher education institutions from putting dollars toward diversity and inclusion programs, forbade the use of federal resources to teach students about sexual activity, sexual orientation or gender identity, and prohibited some teachings about race and U.S. history. 

But Michael O'Hanlon, a security fellow at the Brookings Institution, called DeSantis’s stance a “missed opportunity” for the former Navy officer, who served in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps in Iraq. 

“Cleary DeSantis is fighting the culture wars and he’s sort of staying true to his M.O.,” O'Hanlon told The Hill.  

“I think it’s probably a missed opportunity for him. … He should be trying to show he is actually capable of developing serious views on the big strategic issues of the day, which are fundamentally not about diversity, equity and inclusion within the armed forces,” he said. “I think he ought to be engaging on China and Russia, how to solve the Ukraine, how to prevent war over Taiwan.” 

And Kuzminski said there’s a misperception that the Florida governor is capitalizing on “wokeness” as a recruiting challenge in the U.S. military,  

“That is the perception of some who may have served a long time ago, but the reality of military service is that it needs to reflect the population from which it's drawn,” she said. “That's a challenge that I think a President Trump 2.0 or President DeSantis is going to run ... into if they were to win the election.” 

On Ukraine, Desantis has offered tentative comments on the conflict, insisting it wasn't a U.S. national security priority and downplaying the Russian invasion. 

“While the U.S. has many vital national interests [such as] securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese Communist Party, becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis said in March. 

He has since walked back his comments on the war being a “territorial dispute.” 

A firefighter walks with of a resident through smoke coming from a house on fire, after cluster rockets hit a residential area, in Konstantinovka, eastern Ukraine, on Saturday, July 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Trump’s Ukraine-Russia War focus 

Trump, meanwhile, has long made pledges to cut back U.S. involvement in foreign wars, starting with campaign promises ahead of the 2016 presidential election.  

Trump coasted through the 2016 GOP primaries under his so-called “America First” foreign policy, intended to diminish Washington’s role on the world stage and focus more dollars at home than overseas.  

During his presidency, he continued that line of thinking, calling for a reduction in service members serving abroad and criticizing the U.S. foreign intervention as being too expensive and ineffective. 

Trump seems to be doubling down on that track with his plan for “Rebuilding America’s Depleted Military,” also released last week. 

In a prerecorded video put out by his campaign, the former president focuses largely on foreign policy, repeating criticisms over Biden’s handling Russia’s war on Ukraine. 

If reelected, he claimed, he would demand Europe pay the U.S. to rebuild its weapons stockpiles — which have pulled from heavily since February 2022 to help bolster Kyiv in its fight.  

“Less than three years ago, I’d fully rebuilt the United States military and steered America into such a strong global position,” Trump boasted. 

“Twenty-nine months later, the arsenals are empty, the stockpiles are bare, the Treasury is drained, the ranks are being hollowed out, our country has been totally humiliated, and we have a corrupt, compromised president, crooked Joe Biden, who is dragging us into World War III,” he said. 

Trump also claimed Washington’s European allies were only giving a “tiny fraction” of the assistance to Ukraine compared to the United States, and suggested Biden was “too weak and too disrespected to even ask” for reimbursement.  

Trump also said in a recent interview that he could end the war in 24 hours, a claim many found dubious. 

O’Hanlon, who called Trump’s assertions on lagging European assistance to Ukraine “incorrect,” said he appears to be banking on his past arguments on making America first. 

Kuzminski agreed that Trump’s campaign looks to be “hitting harder on making Ukraine repay us,” and “doubling down" on those statements.

While Trump hasn’t been as vocal on culture war issues in the military this time around, he has a well-documented history when it comes to his stance on transgender service members in the military.

In July 2017, he announced on Twitter, apparently out of the blue, that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed “to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” 

That ban was eventually rescinded by Biden via executive order shortly after he entered the White House in January 2021. 

Biden Disapproval Rating Reaches New High

By Casey Harper (The Center Square)

President Joe Biden is kicking off his second year in office with his highest disapproval rating to date.

A new CNBC/Change Research poll found 56% of voters disapprove of Biden’s job as president, the worst disapproval numbers the president has seen since taking office.

The economy and COVID-19 are major factors in voters’ sentiments, with 60% disapproving of Biden’s job on the economy and 55% disapproving of his work on COVID-19. Biden had previously seen poor economic numbers but better approval numbers on his handling of the pandemic.

The drop in COVID-related ratings comes amid a flurry of vaccine mandates and a surge in omicron cases around the nation. This week, the U.S. is reporting one million new cases of COVID-19 daily.

RELATED: Ted Cruz: Biden Impeachment Likely If Republicans Win Back The House

Polling from December showed voters do not approve of Biden’s vaccine mandates.

Convention of States Action, in conjunction with Trafalgar group, released polling data last month reporting that the majority of Americans oppose new vaccine mandates to counter omicron.

The poll found 69.4% of Americans said “no new mandates or restrictions are required” in response to the COVID variant, while 30.6% said the opposite.

“Unlike government health officials in Washington, DC, Americans have already figured out that mandates and lockdowns are not the way we will beat the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mark Meckler, president of Convention of States Action.

RELATED: Poll: Voters Unhappy With Biden Administration’s Handling Of Supply Chain Crisis

“As we’ve seen in our polls repeatedly, the American people are tired of all this and are ready to get on with their lives. The U.S. Senate finally recognized this reality … with the bipartisan passage of the bill to block President Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate, and we’re going to see more of this as we get closer to 2022 and elected officials fight to save their jobs.”

Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.

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