Similarities and differences observed between Biden impeachment inquiry and Clinton impeachment 25 years ago

 December 20, 2023

In December 1998, Democratic President Bill Clinton was formally impeached by the Republican-controlled House, though later acquitted by the Senate, on charges of lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice related to his prior denials of an extramarital affair with a White House intern.

Now 25 years later, Democratic President Joe Biden is facing similar prospects of being impeached by the GOP-controlled House but likely acquitted by the Senate, according to the Washington Examiner.

Yet, per one of the former Republican House managers of the Clinton impeachment, there are more disparities than similarities between the two cases, chief among them being actual evidence of alleged criminal behavior that rises to the level of an impeachable offense.

Once-rare impeachment tool now wielded by both sides as "a political hammer"

Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), who represented House Republicans in the Senate impeachment trial of former President Clinton, told the Examiner, "The whole process of impeachment in recent years, going back to the Trump impeachments, has become so degraded that it has become nothing more than a political hammer."

He insisted that the Clinton impeachment he managed had been based on "very clear evidence that he had violated federal criminal law," including obstruction of justice and perjury, that haven't been similarly present in the two prior impeachments of former President Donald Trump or the current impeachment inquiry aimed against President Biden.

Recall that Trump was first impeached over his alleged threat to withhold U.S. aid to Ukraine unless that nation openly investigated alleged Biden family corruption -- which is the primary focus of the current ongoing Biden inquiry -- while the second Trump impeachment was about Trump's alleged behavior in connection to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot of 2021.

The former impeachment manager told the outlet, "There was never any clear evidence of a connection between Trump's behavior as president and a violation of the law, and now here we are with a Biden impeachment, and, to me, the Republicans have not made a sufficiently strong case linking Biden to violations of federal laws."

Is impeachment based on evidence of crimes or simply politics?

In his remarks to the Examiner, former Rep. Barr said generally of the inherently political presidential impeachment process, "If you base your case on evidence that the person has violated criminal laws, it gives you the imprimatur that it's not just about politics."

"I haven't seen the Republicans come forward with anything other than just generalities," he continued. "To me, Republicans or Democrats, whoever it is seeking to impeach a president, if they do it during an election year, it makes it extremely difficult to avoid charges that it is simply about politics.

"I'm just not sure that the Republicans haven't just waited too long and talked too much about it without showing where's the beef?" Barr added.

House Republicans pressing forward with Biden impeachment inquiry

In a timeline that is remarkably similar to that of House Democrats versus then-President Trump four years ago, House Republicans began calling for President Biden's impeachment as soon as he entered office but failed to get the ball rolling on such a move until late in the president's third year in office, setting the stage for an election year impeachment.

And, despite ongoing GOP-led House committee investigations aimed at Biden that began immediately in January of this year, it wasn't until mid-December, according to the Associated Press, that House Republicans got around to holding a floor vote to fully authorize a formal impeachment inquiry against Biden.

Unfortunately for Republicans, as former Rep. Barr alluded to, the House investigations thus far have yet to uncover concrete evidence linking Biden to any actual crimes, though there is an abundance of especially damning circumstantial evidence that strongly suggests his involvement in shady and unethical, if not also illegal, foreign business dealings and overt influence-peddling conducted by members of the president's family.

What that means is that unless solid evidence of criminal activity by Biden himself is brought to light -- and even then conviction is far from guaranteed in the Democrat-controlled Senate -- an impeachment trial of Biden in an election year is more likely to backfire and politically harm the GOP than it is to result in Biden being ousted from the White House.

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