Obeying their Master Trump, GOP forces evidence-free impeachment inquiry
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., ranking member of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, speaks during a news conference on Republicans' impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. | Jose Luis Magana/AP

The House voted Wednesday on purely partisan lines to officially begin an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, continuing a 12-month sham investigation that has failed to unearth a single piece of evidence of any wrongdoing by the president. Democrats have declared the entire MAGA-led fiasco to be nothing more than a fishing expedition but one that could have dangerous implications for the nation.

For months the MAGA forces were held back by GOP lawmakers in competitive districts who were fearful of backlash from voters. As they have often done when pushed by the extreme right, they collapsed entirely yesterday and voted for the inquiry.

This week the Supreme Court indicated they would decide quickly whether to hear the case, ordering Trump’s lawyers to respond by Dec. 20 to the Special Counsel’s claim that former president Trump is not immune from prosecution for crimes committed while he was president.

A federal judge ruled the case could go forward, but Trump said he would ask the federal appeals court in Washington to reverse that outcome. Smith would be bypassing the appeals court if the Supreme Court takes up the case before the appeals court rules.

“This case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: whether a former President is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office or is constitutionally protected from federal prosecution when he has been impeached but not convicted before the criminal proceedings begin,” prosecutors wrote.

Trump’s goal, of course, is to delay as much as possible so that if he wins the election he can have his Justice Department drop the case against him and perhaps even pardon himself.

When defendants are not guilty they can only benefit from a quick trial. With Trump, of course, this is not the case so he wants a delay. “There is absolutely no reason to rush this sham to trial except to injure President Trump and tens of millions of his supporters. President Trump will continue to fight for Justice and oppose these authoritarian tactics,” his campaign said in a statement.

The court is next scheduled to convene in private on Jan. 5, 2024. It’s unclear, however, whether the justices will convene sooner to take up Smith’s request.

Underscoring the urgency for prosecutors in securing a quick resolution that can push the case forward, Smith and his team wrote: “It is of imperative public importance that respondent’s claims of immunity be resolved by this Court and that respondent’s trial proceed as promptly as possible if his claim of immunity is rejected.”

At issue is a Dec. 1 ruling from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan that rejected arguments by Trump’s lawyers that he was immune from federal prosecution. In her order, Chutkan, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, wrote that the office of the president “does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass.”

Meanwhile, back in impeachment La-La Land, the House Republicans focused on Hunter Biden, barely mentioning his father, adding wild charges to their lack of evidence. In an unusual move, Hunter Biden freely admitted his troubled past in an open press conference on Capitol Hill. He’s been indicted in California on multiple counts of tax evasion—even though he’s paid the back taxes in full—and in Delaware on three firearms counts.

Demanded open hearing

Hunter Biden demanded an open hearing with the congressional committees investigating him, so he could refute their charges in public. The Republicans refuse, which commentators said shows the flimsiness of their case. Indeed, one absurd GOP charge is that the indictments cover up unnamed and even bigger crimes involving Hunter Biden and—they declare—his father.

The entire scenario, of course, is right out of Trump’s playbook. On the campaign trail, he’s been calling the Bidens criminals, just as, in his first race for the White House, Trump led his baying mobs in chants of “Lock her up” against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—and never specified why.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Special Counsel Smith told the justices the unique importance of Trump’s trial on depriving voters of their rights to have their ballots cast and counted fairly due to the January 6 insurrection, justifies fast action to let that case go forward.

Trump has argued he has absolute presidential immunity from criminal prosecution and hopes to use that stand to “run out the clock” on the federal trials against him in D.C. and Florida, by winning next year’s likely rerun against Joe Biden and then ordering his Justice Department stuffed with sycophants to drop the cases.

The federal trial judge in D.C., Tanya Chutkan, has already soundly rebuffed Trump’s immunity argument, and Smith agrees. But she acknowledged the immunity issue could delay the start of her trial, now scheduled for March 4, 2024, the day before Super Tuesday in the presidential primary season.

But Chutkan noted the delay does not bar her from enforcing her limited gag order against Trump to “safeguard the integrity of these proceedings,” and setting his conditions of release.

“Whatever immunities a sitting president may enjoy, the United States has only one Chief Executive at a time, and that position does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass, Former presidents enjoy no special conditions on their federal criminal liability,” she wrote before.

“If a criminal defendant could bypass those critical safeguards merely by asserting immunity and then appealing its denial, then during the appeal’s pendency, the defendant could irreparably harm any future proceedings and their participants,” she wrote.

All this led Smith to leapfrog appellate courts and directly ask the Supreme Court to decide the immunity issue. His move was reminiscent of Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski’s request 50 years ago: He asked the justices to immediately take the Watergate tapes case and decide if U.S. District Judge John Sirica could listen to them. Within two months, the justices unanimously agreed.

That ruling led directly to then-President Richard Nixon’s resignation because Sirica also ordered Nixon and his attorneys to listen to the tapes Jaworski demanded—-and they found the “smoking gun” of the Nixon-ordered Watergate coverup.

Smith’s prosecution team told the justices “The public had a strong interest in a swift resolution of the immunity question and that the lawyers and the courts were capable of handling weighty constitutional issues on a tight schedule…Fast and final answers on these important legal issues take precedence over personal scheduling issues,” such as the presidential campaign or Christmas holidays.

Trump “is simply using every avenue possible to disrupt the case in the hopes of punting the matter beyond the 2024 election,” analysts said.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.