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Trump Is the Big Loser as the GOP’s Impeachment Farce Implodes

The case against Trump is based on things that actually happened, while the case against Biden is based largely on inventions.

Donald Trump speaks at a mic and makes a very weird face. A U.S. flag is behind him.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Trump addresses a campaign rally on March 9, in Georgia.

The House GOP’s effort to impeach President Biden appears to be in deep trouble. Republicans are privately admitting that their case against Biden has fizzled. Moderate GOP lawmakers are signaling dread of any impeachment vote. GOP leaders are pathetically concocting an alternative to impeachment in hopes of keeping the MAGA base happy.

But as we watch all this unfold, let’s not lose sight of one critical piece of the story: If the impeachment push has devolved into a farce, it isn’t just because the case against Biden is so weak. It’s also because the parallel case against Donald Trump is so strong.

That might seem counterintuitive. What does Trump’s culpability have to do with the case against Biden? Yet step back a bit and the dynamic becomes clear: The GOP arguments for impeaching Biden are revealed at their most absurd when the two cases are laid side by side.

What’s more, when the GOP’s game is fully exposed—that it’s not just about hatching fake evidence of crimes by Biden but also about muddying the waters around evidence of crimes by Trump that is very real—that’s when the GOP posture becomes most indefensible.

Signs of this dynamic are everywhere. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing that purported to grill Robert Hur, the special counsel who recently released a report exonerating Biden that also contained damning but gratuitous claims about his age and memory.

The Hur hearing was an opportunity for Republicans to highlight the damaging stuff in the report, which, in addition to faulting Biden’s memory, detailed evidence that Biden did willfully retain classified documents. Hur recommended against criminal charges because he couldn’t find evidence that Biden did this with corrupt intent despite searching high and low for many months.

But the hearing was largely a bust for Republicans. The savvy observers at Politico’s Playbook called it a “dud” and reported that it has prompted Republicans to look for an “off ramp” from their impeachment push, which turns on a separate set of claims about the Biden family’s business dealings that have also largely collapsed.

“Republicans of all ideological persuasions are increasingly admitting that they pulled the trigger on Biden’s impeachment too soon and that the effort has been hobbled by embarrassing setbacks,” Playbook concluded, noting that this comes after the GOP’s much-advertised “FBI informant” was indicted for fabricating a story that’s central to the GOP case.

The Hur hearing helped demonstrate why all this is happening. Some of the biggest moments featured Republicans raging at Hur for failing to recommend criminal charges. Inside the MAGA universe, this is a no-brainer: Of course Hur was supposed to recommend charges, and of course the failure to do so can only have been supreme dereliction of duty. But outside that information space, what’s become unavoidably obvious is that Republicans are demanding that Biden be charged with crimes no matter what the evidence actually shows.

Meanwhile, many of the hearing’s other breakthrough moments came when Democrats managed to make the proceedings about the former president:

As you’ll note, in this exchange, California Representative Ted Lieu recited a litany of things that Trump did with regard to classified documents, and he asked puckishly whether Biden had done them, to which Hur was forced to answer in the negative. Importantly, Liu was drawing on Hur’s own report, which explicitly compares Trump’s handling of documents to Biden’s, demonstrating why the former merited criminal charges while the latter did not.

The Democratic strategy in this hearing was to draw out this contrast. As one House Democratic aide told me, the goal was largely to stick “to attacking Trump rather than Hur,” because Democrats wanted to draw Republicans “into a conversation about Trump.”

This led to some ripe moments. After the hearing, CNN’s Laura Coates grilled Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, the Judiciary chair, by pointing out the contrast in the two presidents’ handling of documents. Coates asked Jordan if Trump would have been indicted if he’d done what Biden did—turn over documents and cooperate with investigators. Jordan haplessly answered with a yes, but he could only sputter aimlessly when Coates noted that Hur was originally a Trump appointee.

Underscoring the absurdity of all this, ABC News now reports that Republicans may send referrals to the Justice Department recommending prosecutions related to their findings, as an “exit strategy” from impeachment. While it’s very possible Republicans will ultimately impeach Biden, the case for it has imploded, and this would plainly be the consolation prize thrown to Trump and the MAGA base if it doesn’t happen.

Yet that too only reveals the core absurdity of the GOP game. Republicans won’t even name which Biden family members would be the target of such referrals, and they know the current Justice Department wouldn’t prosecute them anyway. But Representative James Comer, chair of the Oversight Committee, recently told Fox News that such referrals would lay the groundwork for prosecution under a victorious Trump, who has vowed to prosecute the “Biden crime family” without cause.

Incredibly, the Republican message here is basically this: OK, we can’t find any evidence of Biden crimes, but just wait until the guy who promises to prosecute Biden regardless of what the facts show is back in charge! Then we’ll get justice! The GOP scam exposes itself.

Trump doesn’t bother trying to hide the corrupt nature of all of this. He openly declares that he will prosecute the Biden family as revenge, i.e., because of what was done to him, not because of anything the Bidens actually did. Similarly, he is calling on Republicans to impeach Biden primarily as retributionright out in the open, as an applause line at political rallies.

For Trump, all this is perfectly natural: Impeachment and prosecutions can’t ever be legitimately predicated; all is tit for tat; everything is political all the way down. By contrast, Republicans like Jordan and Comer want to retain the thinnest veneer of legitimacy to these proceedings.

Yet that’s become impossible. At the most fundamental level, the Republican project here is to use all the levers of power at the party’s disposal to erase a reality that cannot be erased: The case against Trump is based on things that actually happened, while the case against Biden is based largely on inventions. This project utterly collapses at precisely the moments when the two cases are compared side by side most unflinchingly. And given that this juxtaposition derives its ultimate force from the damning evidence of Trump’s transgressions, Republicans have no one to blame for this fiasco but Trump himself.