House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is edging ever closer to an impeachment inquiry of President Biden, saying Tuesday that the House will launch one next month if its document requests aren’t satisfied.
Such an inquiry would surely break ground in the politicization of impeachment; GOP theories about Biden’s proximity to Hunter Biden’s legal problems — most notably via a supposed “bribery scheme” — have borne little fruit, and evidence has also contradicted some of their central claims.
McCarthy has been careful to specify that this would merely be an inquiry rather than a full-on impeachment vote, the suggestion being that Republicans are actually seeking the truth behind their theories. But such a step would surely be momentous and might set the House on an irreversible course.
As for how Americans feel about all of this, we can say a few things:
They’ve taken a dim view both of Hunter Biden’s actions and of the fairness of the Justice Department’s investigation of him, believing he might be getting special treatment.They don’t necessarily see much of a link to the president.There appears to be significantly less support for this impeachment inquiry than there was for those involving Donald Trump.
Let’s take each individually.
In a new Fox News poll last week, 50 percent of Americans said they viewed Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and China as being “illegal,” and more than 8 in 10 regarded them as at least “unethical.”
Those are striking figures — higher than they were for virtually all of Trump’s controversies until recently. (Trump’s “illegal” numbers are now similar in some cases.)
Clear majorities of Americans also disagree with how the case against Hunter Biden has been handled. They say the plea deal that has now fallen apart was not tough enough (55 percent), and that the deal was mainly driven by politics rather than the law (58 percent to 36 percent).
An ABC News/Ipsos poll last week also showed that Americans lacked confidence that the investigation, which now includes special counsel status for U.S. Attorney David Weiss, would be handled fairly. Just 32 percent were at least somewhat confident it would be, while 48 percent were not too confident.
And in earlier Reuters/Ipsos polling, Americans said, 50 percent to 30 percent, that they believed Hunter Biden was receiving preferential treatment because he’s the president’s son. Included in those saying that: 33 percent of Democrats.
An impeachment inquiry, of course, would be about President Biden and not his son — or even the Justice Department’s handling of the case.
And many Americans who see something unsavory in Hunter Biden’s actions or are skeptical of the DOJ’s conduct see that distinction.
In the Reuters/Ipsos poll, Americans agreed, 51 percent to 33 percent, that Hunter Biden’s legal troubles were “independent of and unrelated to” Biden’s service as president. Independents said that by a 2-1 margin, and even 32 percent of Republicans agreed.
And while half of Americans in the Fox News poll saw something illegal in Hunter Biden’s actions, 38 percent said the same of the president’s supposed connection to “his son’s business dealings.”
That 38 percent is overwhelmingly Republican, with just 33 percent of independents seeing something illegal in the president’s actions.
The polls suggest that Americans are significantly less in favor of a potential Biden impeachment than they were of Trump’s impeachments — most likely because of that perceived lack of connection between Biden and his son’s problems.
The 38 percent of Americans who believe Biden did something illegal is actually similar to what was seen in early polls on the Ukraine scandal that touched off Trump’s first impeachment.
But polling also shows that far fewer Americans see a Biden impeachment inquiry as being warranted.
We don’t have extensive polling on this, but Ipsos early this month showed Americans split on a potential Biden inquiry, with 39 percent in favor and 38 percent against.
By contrast, majorities of Americans and sometimes nearly 6 in 10 supported the two Trump impeachment efforts early on.
Trump’s Jan. 6 impeachment moved quickly, so we didn’t get polling specifically on the initial inquiry. But Quinnipiac University, Monmouth University and Public Religion Research Institute polling showed between 55 percent and 59 percent of Americans supported actually impeaching Trump.
The slower-moving Ukraine impeachment in late 2019 and early 2020, which included more of an inquiry phase, provides a more direct comparison.
Shortly after the House launched its inquiry, polls generally showed half or more of Americans supported it. In a Washington Post-Schar School poll, Americans said 58 percent to 38 percent that the House was correct in its decision — a 20-point margin, compared to the current nearly even split on a Biden inquiry.
That poll also showed that 57 percent of independents supported the Trump inquiry, compared to 33 percent for Biden today. And even 28 percent of Republicans supported an inquiry of Trump, compared to 11 percent of Democrats who support one of Biden now.
Clearly, the consensus just isn’t there for a Biden impeachment inquiry in the way it was for Trump. But that doesn’t mean Republicans won’t try to force the issue.