Menendez, Biden and the GOP’s impeachment challenge
One of the first things they teach you in trial advocacy class in law school is that there’s no “Perry Mason” moment in court.
Some Americans who have spent the better part of the last 60 years watching courtroom dramas on television have come to believe that justice should be a neat and tidy process that can be wrapped up in about 48 minutes. After all the drama and suspense, someone takes the stand and confesses, or new evidence presents a plot twist. Turns out it was the cook who murdered the maid all along.
That’s a perception that House Republicans are running up against as they begin their impeachment investigation of President Biden.
Bribery and other crimes that the Bidens could be accused of are complex. They take years of forensic accounting to unravel under the best of circumstances. Republicans will have only grudging assistance from federal agencies and other sources of information. Absent a federal prosecution, full discovery may not even be possible.
The past will haunt the lawmakers as well. After two sham impeachments during the Trump years and the failed impeachment of President Bill Clinton that the public also didn’t support, the deck is stacked against the Republicans this time, no matter how legitimate the accusations or voluminous the current evidence.
Americans are sick of congressional hearings, and unless there is truly damning new evidence delivered in sound-bite form, the case against the Biden family must be made cogently in another format or venue for it to resonate.
Polling data shows that Americans realize Mr. Biden repeatedly lied about his involvement in his family’s business dealings. What they’re not convinced of is that he committed a crime or should be impeached.
Republicans will have to create a “Perry Mason” moment at some point in a closing argument that puts the pieces together, leading Americans down a clear path to Mr. Biden‘s criminality. How they will do that is yet to be seen.
Republicans are also up against the perception that bribery involves everyone involved in the scheme receiving cash payments in exchange for their affirmative steps to further the crime. Here is where Mr. Biden’s acolytes are happy to throw newly indicted Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey under the bus.
Mr. Biden has long held that no one can find the alleged cut to the “Big Guy” or any other direct payments that were siphoned off his son’s foreign business dealings. He even joked about it when pressed by reporters in June.
Mr. Biden has no problem reinforcing the legal falsehood that such evidence is necessary to indict or even convict him of being part of a bribery scheme.
Mr. Menendez’s indictment helps the president reinforce that flawed notion. Photos released by federal officials show piles of cash allegedly stuffed into Mr. Menendez’s jacket, along with gold bars in his house and a Mercedes-Benz driven by his wife. Those visuals associate direct payments with the crime alleged.
The Republicans have no such splashy artwork to accompany their allegations. Unless the audio recordings hinted at by Sen. Chuck Grassley are produced, they may never have it. That doesn’t mean Mr. Biden didn’t participate in a long-standing criminal conspiracy to use his office to enrich himself and his family.
This week, hundreds of pages of documents related to the IRS and FBI investigations of Hunter Biden’s tax fraud and gun charges revealed a previously unseen WhatsApp message to Hunter from the president’s brother James Biden. In an apparent reference to a business deal, James Biden wrote: “I can work with your father alone!! We as usual just need several months of his help for this to work.”
GOP lawmakers have 150 suspicious activity reports from the Treasury Department, a reliable FBI informant’s report about now-President Biden and the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, and thousands of emails in which Mr. Biden used an alias.
They also have nearly two dozen shell companies and questionable payments to Biden family members, including grandchildren. We now know that Hunter Biden even took a payment from a Chinese source using his father’s home address.
Three IRS officials now have said that the White House interfered in Hunter’s prosecution to avoid full disclosure in court proceedings of the family business dealings.
But that’s not a Menendez-style smoking gun.
A Pew Research study released last week showed that more than 60% of those polled believe that Washington politicians run for office to get rich rather than serve the people. That could be Republicans’ biggest perception challenge.
If people believe what Mr. Biden did is systemic, they may think it doesn’t matter. One thing is for sure: All of this will take far more time than your favorite episode of “Law & Order.”
• Tom Basile is the host of “America Right Now” on Newsmax and the author of “Tough Sell: Fighting the Media War in Iraq.”