Below is my column in The Hill on moving forward with the Biden impeachment inquiry. The column discusses four possible impeachment articles that could be brought by the House and what the House would need to prove.
Here is the column:
With the commencement of the impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Joe Biden, three House committees will now pursue key linkages between the president and the massive influence peddling operation run by his son Hunter and brother James.
The impeachment inquiry should allow the House to finally acquire long-sought records of Hunter, James, and Joe Biden, as well as to pursue witnesses involved in their dealings.
I testified this week at the first hearing of the impeachment inquiry on the constitutional standards and practices in moving forward in the investigation. In my view, there is ample justification for an impeachment inquiry. If these allegations are established, they would clearly constitute impeachable offenses. I listed ten of those facts in my testimony that alone were sufficient to move forward with this inquiry.
I was criticized by both the left and the right for the testimony. Steven Bannon and others were upset that I did not believe that the basis for impeachment had already been established in the first hearing of the inquiry. Others were angry that I supported the House efforts to resolve these questions of public corruption.
Without prejudging that evidence, there are four obvious potential articles of impeachment that have been raised in recent disclosures and sworn statements: bribery, conspiracy, obstruction, and abuse of power.
Bribery is the second impeachable act listed under Article II. The allegation that the President received a bribe worth millions was documented on a FD-1023 form by a trusted FBI source who was paid a significant amount of money by the government. There remain many details that would have to be confirmed in order to turn such an allegation into an article of impeachment.
Yet three facts are now unassailable. First, Biden has lied about key facts related to these foreign dealings, including false statements flagged by the Washington Post. Second, the president was indeed the focus of a corrupt multimillion-dollar influence peddling scheme. Third, Biden may have benefitted from this corruption through millions of dollars sent to his family as well as more direct benefit to Joe and Jill Biden.
What must be established is the President’s knowledge of or participation in this corrupt scheme. The House now has confirmed over 20 calls made to meetings and dinners with these foreign clients. It has confirmation of visits to the White House and dinners and events attended by Joe Biden. It also has confirmation of trips on Air Force II by Hunter to facilitate these deals, as well as payments where the President’s Delaware home address was used as late as 2019 for transfers from China.
The most serious allegations concern reported Washington calls or meetings by Hunter at the behest of these foreign figures. At least one of those calls concerned the removal or isolation of a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating Burisma, an energy company paying Hunter as a board member. A few days later, Biden withheld a billion dollars in an approved loan to Ukrainian in order to force the firing of the prosecutor.
The House will need to strengthen the nexus with the president in seeking firsthand accounts of these meetings, calls, and transfers.
However, there is one thing that the House does not have to do. While there are references to Joe Biden receiving money from Hunter and other benefits (including a proposed ten percent from one of these foreign deals), he has already been shown to have benefited from these transfers.
There is a false narrative being pushed by both politicians and pundits that there is no basis for an inquiry, let alone an impeachment, unless a direct payment or gift can be shown to Joe Biden. That would certainly strengthen the case politically, but it is not essential legally. Even in criminal cases subject to the highest standard, payments to family members can be treated as benefits to a principal actor. Direct benefits can further strengthen articles of impeachment, but they would not be a prerequisite for such an action.
For example, in Ryan v. United States, the Seventh Circuit US Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of George Ryan, formerly Secretary of State and then governor of Illinois, partly on account of benefits paid to his family, including the hiring of a band at his daughter’s wedding and other “undisclosed financial benefits to him and his family and to his friends.” Criminal cases can indeed be built on a “stream of benefits” running to the politician in question, his family, or his friends.
That is also true of past impeachments. I served as lead counsel in the last judicial impeachment tried before the Senate. My client, Judge G. Thomas Porteous, had been impeached by the House for, among other things, benefits received by his children, including gifts related to a wedding.
One of the jurors in the trial was Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who voted to convict and remove Porteous. Menendez is now charged with accepting gifts of vastly greater value in the recent corruption indictment.
The similarities between the Menendez and Biden controversies are noteworthy, in everything from the types of gifts to the counsel representing the accused. The Menendez indictment includes conspiracy charges for honest services fraud, the use of office to serve personal rather the public interests. It also includes extortion under color of official right under 18 USC. 1951. (The Hobbs Act allows for a charge of extortion without a threat of violence but rather the use of official authority.)
Courts have held that conspiracy charges do not require the defendant to be involved in all (or even most) aspects of the planning for a bribe or denial of honest services. Thus, a conspirator does not have to participate “in every overt act or know all the details to be charged as a member of the conspiracy.”
Menendez’s case shows that the Biden Administration is prosecuting individuals under the same type of public corruption that this impeachment inquiry is supposed to prove. The US has long declared influence peddling to be a form of public corruption and signed international conventions to combat precisely this type of corruption around the world.
This impeachment inquiry is going forward. The House just issued subpoenas on Friday for the financial records of both Hunter and James Biden. The public could soon have answers to some of these questions. Madison called impeachment “indispensable…for defending the community” against such corruption. The inquiry itself is an assurance that, wherever this evidence may lead, the House can now follow.
Reprinted with permission from JonathanTurley.org.