|Mike Johnson does intellectual battle with a reporter -- and loses
During a press conference on Capitol Hill this week, U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson unintentionally revealed the weakness of the GOP's impeachment claims against Joe Biden by failing to defend a central allegation in the matter, according to a report from The New Republic (TNR). Johnson's blunder also helped reveal that the GOP inquiry is based partly on alleged actions Biden took while vice president under Barack Obama -- even though Constitutional scholar Garrett Epps says, "The process requires that a president be impeached only for offenses committed while serving as president. There can be no violation of the constitutional duties of the presidential office until one becomes president."
In other words, the GOP's impeachment case already was filled with holes, and Johnson's missteps only made matters worse, according to TNR's Tori Otten. Under the headline "Mike Johnson Just Blew a Hole in the GOP's Biden Impeachment Inquiry" (The sub-headline -- "An awkward exchange between the speaker and a Capitol Hill reporter highlighted the weakness of the case against the president" -- also tells a big part of the story.), Otten writes:
Mike Johnson accidentally revealed just how weak the Republican impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden is, when he failed to actually defend one of the central accusations against the president on the merits.
Johnson held a Tuesday press conference with Representatives Jim Jordan and James Comer, who have spearheaded the investigation into Biden, to discuss the ongoing impeachment inquiry. Although Republicans have been levying various accusations against Biden for the past few months, making multiple allegations of political corruption, they have yet to produce any actual evidence demonstrating that their charges have merit.
This was the same press conference where Johnson, an avowed Trump supporter, declared the GOP "stands for the rule of law." I'm surprised reporters didn't break out in laughter at that one.
How did Johnson wind up in deep doo-doo? Otten traces his steps, writing:
One matter that Republicans have repeatedly harped on is their claim that Biden, while serving as vice president, said the U.S. would withhold aid money to Ukraine unless Kyiv fired Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Republicans allege that Shokin had been investigating Burisma, the Ukrainian oil company for which Biden’s son Hunter served as a board member. This claim has been repeatedly debunked by U.S. intelligence, the former Ukrainian president, and the owner of Burisma.
During Tuesday's press conference, HuffPost reporter Arthur Delaney asked Johnson why the GOP continues to bring up Shokin’s firing. Delaney pointed out that during Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, “a lot of State Department officials … came in and said, ‘This wasn’t Joe Biden’s policy, this was our policy. He didn’t do this to benefit his son, he did this because we wanted him to do it.’”
U.S. foreign aid is often given on the condition that the receiving country takes an official action that Washington considers important. In Ukraine, it was eliminating corruption in the government.
“So did they all commit perjury, or are you going to bring them back for more interviews?” Delaney asked. “Why are Republicans just ignoring all that testimony?”
“No one’s ignoring testimony,” Johnson said brusquely, before pivoting to listing foreign payments that the Bidens allegedly received.
Johnson also told Delaney he was “not going to answer outside questions about this,” despite the testimony clearly being directly relevant to a central pillar of the current impeachment inquiry.
Yep, Mike Johnson is a profile in courage, to go along with his strong (and amusing) convictions about the "rule of law." Why were Arthur Delaney's questions so important -- and penetrating. For one, he unmasked Mike Johnson, who is second in line to the U.S. presidency, as an intellectually vacant fraud and con man. TNR's Tori Otten provides more background on the importance of the Shokin question:
Shokin was fired in 2016 for corruption. Three years later, Trump and Rudy Giuliani started a conspiracy theory that the Biden family accepted a $10- million bribe to remove Shokin to stop a probe into Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma. This claim has been repeatedly debunked by the owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas, and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
The mention of Trump reminds us that this question hangs in the air: The press conference left no doubt that Mike Johnson is not a serious speaker of the House, is not fit for the job, and is nothing more than a typical GOP con man. So, how big a con man is Johnson? We can answer that question by going back to this nugget from the eighth paragraph above:
Delaney pointed out that during Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, “a lot of State Department officials …came in and said, ‘This wasn’t Joe Biden’s policy, this was our policy. He didn’t do this to benefit his son, he did this because we wanted him to do it.’”
In other words, Shokin's firing was not Joe Biden's idea, it was Donald Trump's policy. And now, Mike Johnson is trying to use that incident as a key component of his party's effort to impeach Biden.
It takes a pretty big con man to even think of something that underhanded. But Mike Johnson has shown that is how he operates.