Welcome back to the sixth edition of our weekly recaps, where we keep you updated on everything you need to know ahead of the upcoming 2024 US presidential election. If you haven’t been following along so far, simply check out the previous recaps, and you’ll be good to go.
This week, we’ll delve into the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, which was formally voted on Thursday 14 December 2023. We’ll also examine the accusations made by the Republicans against Biden. Last but not least, we’ll discuss the Supreme Court’s decision last year to eliminate the nationwide right to abortion and how it will play a significant role in the 2024 elections.
Since regaining control of the lower chamber in the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans have vowed to launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. Why? Well, despite lacking evidence, they accuse Biden and his family of personally profiting from his former role as Vice President under Barack Obama.
Formally authorised after an informal start three months ago, the inquiry is seen by Republicans as a strategy to compel White House cooperation.
This means that Biden is currently facing a potential impeachment—the ultimate penalty for a president. This comes at a time when Biden is preparing for an election rematch with Donald Trump, who was the first president in US history to be impeached twice and is currently preparing for four criminal trials.
Republicans have zeroed in on Biden’s only surviving son, the controversial Hunter Biden, who had business ventures in Ukraine and China during his father’s time as Vice President. Congressional investigators have obtained nearly 40,000 pages of bank records and dozens of hours of testimony from key witnesses, but while investigations have raised some questions, no evidence has emerged that Biden himself acted corruptly or accepted bribes, whether that’s in his current or previous role.
In July of this year, one of Hunter Biden’s former business associates, Devon Archer, gave sworn testimony to congressional investigators that Hunter had sold his foreign clients “an illusion of access to his father,” which is where things get tricky for the current president. Archer recounted how Hunter would put his father on speakerphone to impress clients and business associates. That being said, he also stated that Joe Biden was never directly involved in their financial dealings.
Republicans have also pointed to a couple of falsehoods in Biden’s public statements about his son’s business dealings, aiming to tarnish the president’s reputation. For example, during the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden said that his son had never made any money off business transactions in China. That was later contradicted by Hunter Biden himself.
What’s interesting is that, at a high-profile impeachment hearing in September, all three Republican expert witnesses who testified admitted that they did not have first-hand knowledge of any criminal activity by Biden. In other words, they don’t actually care about being right about this, their goal is to cast doubt on Biden’s trustworthiness among voters.
So what happens next? The months-long impeachment inquiry is set to extend into 2024, posing a significant challenge for the president during an election year. This move grants the three Republican-controlled House committees leading the inquiry increased authority to subpoena documents and testimony.
Should the committees opt for impeachment, the full House of Representatives will cast a vote, and a majority in favour would result in Biden’s impeachment. Subsequently, the Senate will conduct a trial and vote on the president’s removal from office. While three past presidents have faced impeachment in the House, none have been removed from office by the Senate.
Of the four presidents who have faced inquiries, three—Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Trump—have ended up being impeached. The fourth, Richard Nixon, only escaped the reprimand by resigning before the vote took place.
Nearly two dozen Republican-controlled states have leveraged recent rulings to impose new abortion restrictions, significantly limiting access for millions of women. However, this stance has proven to be a political challenge for Republicans. Backlash from voters played a pivotal role in curbing Republican gains in the 2022 midterms and contributed to Democratic victories in Virginia and Kentucky in November 2023.
Republican presidential candidates, including Trump, are grappling with the delicate balance of satisfying both their critical evangelical Christian base and swing voters who support accessible abortion. In contrast, Biden’s re-election campaign and Democratic-aligned groups are strategically placing abortion rights at the forefront of the upcoming White House contest. Democratic states like New York, California, and Maryland have fortified reproductive rights since the ruling, while Republican-dominated states, particularly in the South, have enforced abortion bans or limitations.
Recent research from the pro-reproductive rights Guttmacher Institute reveals a doubling in the number of patients travelling across state lines for abortion since 2020, now constituting nearly one in five cases. While it’s premature to determine abortion’s exact ranking among voters’ top issues, a Reuters/Ipsos poll from December 2023 indicates that around 70 per cent of Americans consider protecting abortion access in their state a crucial factor in their November 2024 voting decisions.