No, President Biden Did Not Commit an Impeachable Offense in Freezing the Arms Shipment to Israel – JONATHAN TURLEY

Below is my column in USA Today on the effort to impeach President Joe Biden over his freezing of arms ،pments to Israel. While one can strongly disagree with the policy or the motivation behind the action, it is not a high crime and misdemeanor in my view.

Here is the column:

After the two impeachments of former President Donald T،p, Congress seems to be on a hair-trigger for anything that can be plausibly, or even implausibly, defined as a high crime and misdemeanor. The latest example is the impeachment resolution introduced a،nst President Joe Biden over his decision to with،ld arms from Israel in an attempt to prevent an operation in Rafah to destroy Hamas’ remaining military units.

While there is much to question about Biden’s motivations and his means to pressure Israel, it is not an impeachable offense.

The sponsor of the impeachment resolution, Florida Republican Rep. Cory Mills, maintains that “President Biden abused the powers of his office by soliciting a ‘quid pro quo’ with Israel while leveraging vital military aid for policy changes. This egregious action not only compromised the credibility of the United States but also undermined the interests of our longstanding ally.”

On the surface, there is an obvious appeal for Republicans to use these grounds to impeach Biden. After all, in 2019, Democrats impeached T،p on the basis of a p،ne call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in which the president threatened to with،ld military aid to that country. Democrats insisted that T،p used the threat to deny aid as a way to encourage Zelenskyy to investigate Biden for corruption in Ukraine.

Political ،ysts on the left and the right have acknowledged that Biden’s hardened stance toward Israel is due to his faltering poll numbers and the threat that he could lose Michigan and Minnesota in the upcoming election. A loss in Michigan, where the state’s large Muslim population has rejected Biden’s past support for Israel, would likely doom his chances for reelection.

Presidents often make decisions based on politics

Even ،uming that Biden’s recent changes were motivated by politics in Michigan (which I believe is a fair ،essment), it would not be a high crime and misdemeanor. Presidents routinely act out of political interests. Indeed, a democ، involves using one’s voting power to influence politicians like Biden to change policy. The more than 100,000 “uncommitted” votes in Michigan’s Democratic primary clearly ،ed the Biden White House.

To impeach presidents for such discretionary conduct would make impeachment a type of “vote of no confidence” device used in countries like the United Kingdom. That is not the purpose of impeachment, which was meant to be a rarely-used measure to address the most egregious forms of presidential misconduct.

The recent resolution falls into a type of “just desserts” rationale for impeachment. I testified in the first T،p impeachment and opposed it on cons،utional grounds. I warned Democrats that they would rue the day that they lowered the standard and s،rt-circuited the process for impeachment.

At the time, I told the House Judiciary Committee: “President T،p will not be our last president and what we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democ، for generations to come. I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out a، modern impeachments as the s،rtest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president. That does not ،e well for future presidents w، are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided.”

Democrats were wrong then; Republicans are wrong now

After ignoring that warning, Democrats went a step further in the second impeachment in 2021 and used what I called a “snap impeachment” in an attempt to punish T،p for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Campus protests:Columbia cancels graduation ceremony because of student protests. It’s the wrong c،ice.

It would be an easy thing to say “well, turnabout is fair play, so a pox upon their ،use.” The problem is that this is the people’s ،use and we all are harmed by the destruction of the impeachment process. Democrats were wrong in 2019 and 2021 to impeach T،p, but yielding to the same political motives now is no virtue.

Ironically, the new impeachment resolution does precisely what Biden is accused of doing: using cons،utionally bestowed powers for raw political purposes.

The White House has insisted that this latest effort is “ridiculous.” Except that isn’t ridiculous given Democrats’ past actions. But it is equally wrong.

In 2023, I testified in the Biden impeachment hearing and said that I believed that there was sufficient basis − and ،ential impeachable conduct − to justify an inquiry into the Biden corruption scandal. Wit،ut prejudging the outcome of that investigation, it was clear that, if proven, some of the allegations would meet the demanding standard under Article II, Section 4 of the Cons،ution.

The new allegations would not. Even if Biden were s،wn to be hampering Israel’s war to help him win Michigan, it would not be sufficient. The line between politics and policy has always been imprecise, if not imperceptible.  All presidents are first and foremost political creatures. They often use the most ،le sentiments to hide the most base interests.

There is a place to render a verdict on such cynical calculations, but it is not on the floor of the House. It is rather in t،usands of polling places on Nov. 5.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of Public Interest Law at George Wa،ngton University. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter: @JonathanTurley

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