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Fox News host summarizes the GOP’s shaky impeachment push against Biden

Every once in a while, “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy rejects the right-wing orthodoxy that otherwise pervades Fox News. He did so Tuesday morning, casting doubt on the predicate for a possible impeachment of President Biden.

And then, soon afterward, he made an equally telling comment about why an impeachment inquiry might move forward anyway.

The predicate for the conversation was the raising the possibility of an inquiry Monday by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program. Questions about Biden — and, more often, Biden’s son Hunter — were “rising to the level of impeachment inquiry,” McCarthy said, “which provides Congress the strongest power to get the rest of the knowledge and information needed.”

Asked about the issue Tuesday, McCarthy clarified that he was simply suggesting that an inquiry might help uncover evidence.

“You’ve got IRS whistleblowers saying something when it comes to government treating the Bidens different. You’ve got an informant claiming that the Biden family had been bribed,” he said. “Should you ignore that? Or should you investigate that? The only way you can investigate that is through an impeachment inquiry, so the committee would have the power to get all the documents that they would need.”

This is an odd claim, certainly, given that multiple Republican-led House committees are already investigating these things. That the “bribery” allegation has been a subject of attention by the House Oversight Committee since early May without being validated may be a function of the committee’s not having enough power — or it may reflect that the allegation is baseless.

You’ll remember that this particular allegation made its way to Republicans on Capitol Hill by way of a leaked FBI interview. A trusted informant for the bureau reported having spoken with Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, on more than one occasion before 2020. Zlochevsky made comments about having to make payments to more than one member of the Biden family — presumably but not explicitly identified as Joe and Hunter Biden — and having recordings of conversations with both Bidens. This allegation was recorded on a form FD-1023 that was made public by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) last week.

Since the existence of this interview was first revealed by Grassley and Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) on May 3, no other corroborating evidence has emerged. There has been some reported corroboration of the informant’s having traveled to the places where that person claimed the conversations took place, but that corroborates the informant, not Zlochevsky. Despite the Oversight Committee’s scrutiny of Hunter Biden’s finances, though, no evidence of a $5 million bribe to him has been produced. It’s still just Zlochevsky telling the informant — although, speaking to an ally of Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani at another point, he also denied talking to the Bidens at all.

This was Doocy’s point.

“I’ve heard from members of Congress on the Republican side, they are going to — they’re going to do the I-word of Joe Biden,” he said Wednesday morning. “ … And they’re going to use the 1023 form as the basis for everything.

“Here’s the problem,” he continued, “ … the 1023 form makes a damning case against the Bidens, but it’s completely unverified. And in fact, there are certain critical parts of the story that have been refuted by the people in the story. So — so it’s problematic.” He then tried to right the ship a little, noting that “that’s why Kevin McCarthy says we need other stuff, more documents.”

You’ll notice, by the way, that this is a more nuanced assessment than McCarthy himself gave. The House speaker stated that “an informant [was] claiming that the Biden family had been bribed,” which isn’t true.

Doocy isn’t alone here. A number of Republicans — including, remarkably, both Grassley and Comer — have noted that the allegations aren’t supported by any available evidence or that it’s not clear that the purported recordings actually exist. In fact, the 1023 itself notes that the informant “is not able to provide any further opinion as to the veracity of Zlochevsky’s aforementioned statements.” We do know that the FBI assessed the claims during the last year of Trump’s presidency, without opening an investigation (as Oversight Democrats have noted) although they apparently shared the information with the U.S. attorney in Delaware (as Oversight Republicans point out).

Soon after Doocy pointed out the flimsiness of the predicate here, he made obvious in another conversation why that didn’t mean an impeachment inquiry wouldn’t move forward.

He and his co-hosts welcomed Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Tex.) to discuss the issue. Hunt wasted little time in endorsing McCarthy’s idea of an impeachment inquiry — and what it’s likely to produce.

“We can literally track $10 million being funneled through the Biden family from Burisma,” Hunt said, although no evidence supporting this claim has been made public. “And we have the evidence of this,” he added, although there’s no public evidence of this either.

“If we do impeach Biden, it’s only going to rally the troops around him politically,” he said later. “It may not be the best move, but in my opinion, he leaves us no choice. And if articles of impeachment are brought forward, Wesley Hunt will be a yes.”

What charges? Doesn’t matter. Hunt is a yes.

Co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked why impeachment was important, to which Hunt replied that “we’ve seen this two-tiered justice system play out over the course of the past few years,” with Americans seeing “how President Trump was treated and the juxtaposition between how he was treated and between Biden today is clear to the American people.”

“And to your point, remember,” Doocy responded, “it wasn’t that long ago Donald Trump was once impeached over a phone call.”

Donald Trump was never “impeached over a phone call.” An impeachment inquiry was announced in September 2019 after news reports indicated that Trump had withheld aid to Ukraine and after it was alleged that this had been part of an effort to get Ukraine to target Joe Biden. There was a whistleblower complaint made by a government employee detailing the breadth of the effort, including Trump’s July 2019 call with Ukraine’s president — but it was being withheld from Congress by an administration official. That triggered the probe which did, in fact, uncover evidence demonstrating Trump’s actions.

Perhaps a similar inquiry would uncover evidence that Joe Biden had put his presidential ambitions and legacy at risk by accepting a $5 million bribe from Burisma. But it doesn’t change the fact that Doocy’s assessment of the current evidence as thin was accurate.

That Doocy and certainly most Republicans think that the 2019 impeachment inquiry targeting Trump also was thin — it was over a phone call! — is likely to mean that this thinness won’t prove an obstacle.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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