The Proper Way to Impeach: Why Steve Bannon was Right for the Wrong Reason

Below is my column in The Messenger on my response to Steve Bannon and others who were upset that I testified this week that, while there is ample evidence to launch the impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Joe Biden, I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment. That is the purpose of the inquiry in establishing a full record for such articles of impeachment. By withholding judgment and building a record, the Republicans are restoring a regular order to this constitutional process.

Here is the column:

Yesterday, I spent a very long day testifying in the first hearing of the House impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden. Not unexpectedly, my testimony angered many on both the left and the right. As I mentioned in my testimony, there is little tolerance for opposing views in this age of rage.

Today, caution is considered cowardice and impartiality is viewed as chicanery. Yet our Constitution demands more of each of us at these moments. We can rise to that challenge, as the Framers hoped we would, or we can continue our national descent into rage and ruin.

It is the difference between laying the groundwork for a real impeachment or for just another political hit-job.

I was asked to testify on whether the threshold had been met for an impeachment inquiry and what the best practices would be in the investigation of President Biden. I testified that the existing evidence was more than ample to warrant an impeachment inquiry and that these allegations, if proven, would constitute impeachable conduct.

That was not enough for many. One of those was Steve Bannon, who went on social media to criticize House Republicans for not selecting someone who would testify, at the very start of an inquiry, that the case already was made for actual articles of impeachment.

Bannon suggested that I should have been placed on the “maybe list” if I was not willing to say that the committee had the basis to vote out articles of impeachment on the first day of inquiry. That, however, would be akin to calling a special grand jury and demanding an indictment before any witnesses or evidence are presented.

Bannon’s criticism is emblematic of much of what I cautioned against in my testimony. I implored the Republicans not to replicate the last two impeachments, which I believe did considerable damage to this constitutional process. In the first Trump impeachment, I appeared as the only Republican witness in the only hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee. House Democrats then just cut to the chase and impeached Donald Trump on a thin, undeveloped record.

In the second impeachment, they skipped the formalities entirely and went straight to the articles of impeachment in what I called a “snap impeachment.”

Republicans rightly criticized those prior impeachments, and their leadership has tried to return to the more principled approach used in prior inquiries like those of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. They have spent months developing a record on what is now a clear influence-peddling scheme operated by Hunter Biden, James Biden, and their associates. Even some past critics now recognize that this was a corrupt influence-peddling operation, but most insist that Hunter was simply selling the “illusion” of influence.

As I asked the committee this week, how do we know? The point of an inquiry is whether it was just an illusion and whether the president knew or fostered such corrupt practices. Even if Hunter Biden and his associates treated this as an illusion, it was influence-peddling and turned then-Vice President Biden’s office into a commodity for corruption.

This investigation has gradually tightened the circle around the president, including disclosures this week that payments from China — which the president previously denied categorically — went to Hunter Biden using the president’s Delaware home address. As I laid out in my testimony, there are ten facts that alone justify an impeachment inquiry. However, these remain allegations that must be proven or disproven in the course of the inquiry.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) could have launched an impeachment inquiry at any point in the prior year. He waited until the committees had acquired bank and other records showing millions of dollars flowing to Biden family members and communications from Hunter and others referencing access to Joe Biden for foreign clients.

That is how an impeachment inquiry should begin. The House now has credible, compelling evidence that the president may have committed high crimes and misdemeanors. It is a substantive case for an impeachment inquiry rather than just another snap judgment.

So why not just declare the president guilty? Because we do not know.

This is a constitutional process, not just some trash-talking cable show (although, admittedly, it was hard to tell at moments in the hearing).

According to polls, a majority of citizens want these questions investigated and believe that President Biden has acted improperly. Roughly half favor an impeachment inquiry. Indeed, according to a poll from ABC News and the Washington Post this week, 58 percent believe that President Biden is being “held accountable under the law like any other president” in this inquiry.

Putting aside the still undeveloped record linking the president to this money, we should not rush to declaring impeachable conduct with a plurality or mere majority of citizens. This is one of the most weighty and consequential decisions for a nation. We should only declare impeachable conduct when the record is complete and compelling.

There will continue to be tensions over how we proceed in this process.

Speaker McCarthy has been criticized by Democrats for launching the impeachment inquiry without a floor vote. That was a curious moment, since that is precisely what House Democrats did when then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared an impeachment inquiry of Trump — and many of these same Democratic members defended her authority to do so.

In reality, there is no constitutional requirement for a resolution to launch an inquiry. Indeed, when this matter previously went to court, a federal judge held that even “in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry.”

I have previously said that such a vote is a best practice that should be followed in these cases, and a vote still could occur as House Democrats did. However, this inquiry began in the same way as past impeachments and would be considered constitutionally valid even without a resolution.

That brings us back to the Bannon criticism. Ironically, I have been critical of the Hunter Biden team in replicating the Bannon model by refusing to supply information to Congress. Now that obstruction is likely to be addressed quickly by the House. As I told the committee yesterday, “the Constitution is now on your side, the calendar is not.” They will likely move quickly in pursuing critical linkages to the president.

In reality, my views on impeachment were well-known and public before my testimony. There was no lack of what Bannon referenced as staff work. The House Republicans want to return to regular order on impeachments and were not calling the first hearing of an impeachment inquiry to declare impeachment articles.

Indeed, my analysis was consistent with the testimony that I gave as an expert witness in both the Clinton and the Trump impeachments. The best practices that I have laid out would benefit President Biden — just as they would have benefited President Trump if followed. That is as it should be. As I said in all three impeachment hearings, a sitting president warrants basic presumptions and protections in this constitutional process.

Frankly, Steve Bannon is right about one thing: I was appropriately on the “maybe list” — but not in the sense that he meant it. President Biden may be guilty of impeachable conduct, but that constitutional finding must be based on evidence, not impulse.

Jonathan Turley, an attorney, constitutional law scholar and legal analyst, is the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at The George Washington University Law School.

73 thoughts on “The Proper Way to Impeach: Why Steve Bannon was Right for the Wrong Reason”

  1. according to a poll from ABC News and the Washington Post this week, 58 percent believe that President Biden is being “held accountable under the law like any other president” . . .

    When the liberal media’s polls reflect that kind of statistic, “Joe Biden” is in deep doo-doo. Many Dems realize that, and also can see with their own eyes that he has advanced dementia. Hence the push for an alternative candidate, which ordinarily would never happen with a POTUS incumbent running for re-election.

    https://ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2023/09/07/two-thirds-of-democratic-voters-want-nominee-besides-biden–poll-shows

  2. Jonathan: It’s not just me, Steve Bannon, the Dems and the mainstream media saying Comer’s Thursday hearing was an “unmitigated disaster”. It’s also coming from Fox News hosts where you work. Neil Cavuto said: “Where there was smoke, today we got more smoke… James Comer, the Oversight committee Chairman, said there would be presented a mountain of evidence against Mr. Biden. But none of the expert witnesses today presented, yet, any proof for impeachment…But when you begin to trumpet what you have as the beginning of an expensive inquiry into the President of the United States to potentially remove him from office, you think you’d bring your A-game”.

    When a Fox host, who apparently reflects the views of management, says the emperor has no clothes you know you have lost the argument.

    1. I thought the hearing went fine. Rep. Mace was really great, she did a great job explaining the extent of the Biden family corruption. Democrats keep claiming no “smoking gun” – not yet there isn’t – but that will come, I predict. The Biden’s were pretty sloppy with thier influence peddling, as shown by a Red Chinese check going to Joe Biden’s resdience. The big losers in the opening hearing? The progressive left wing members of Congress. They have teamed up to “defend” Biden family corruption! You have to wonder what it is these progressives believe in. Progressives have supported funding the Russia-Ukraine war – 120 billion spent so far with no end in sight. Progressive are enthusistically supporting open borders – which is costing US taxpayers untold billions, while putting billions into the pockets of the cartels. Progressives are also fine with rising crime in the cities, which they are encouriging with no bail laws. Progessive also don’t seem to have a problem with inflation, and rising energy prices, which are the result of failed Democratic policies. Progressive are making a strong case we need fewer progressive in Congress, they support bad policies, and they aren’t even offended by the corruption of the Biden family, as all Americans should be.

      1. Dennis and Gigi are two of the finest fiction writers that I have ever come across. Independent Bob.

    2. How many times has the media made firm declarations that have turned out to be completely wrong?

  3. It’s tough being the only adult in the room, the only person who respects the Constitution, and the only one who still believes in the democratic process. But hats off to Turley for not wavering from his convictions. I just wish the Democrats had a few.

  4. The evidence deniers will be on this story like white on rice. Some have already shown up.

    With that said, there is not a single non-GOP senator that will vote to convict, so this is largely theater. Even GOP senators will be glad of that because Kamala. I suspect its real purpose is to expose the undeniable corruption of “Joe Biden” for purposes of the poll to be taken in November 2024.

  5. Jonathan: Boy, you are getting it from all sides. Even Steve Bannon criticized you for not saying there was sufficient evidence to support articles of impeachment against Joe Biden. You complain about personal attacks by Dem members of the House Committee. It was another “Debbie Wasserman Shultz” moment at Thursday’s hearing. You should be used to it now. But I can sympathize. You should take time to look at some of the comments on this blog. When I express opposing views I am attacked with all sorts of personal, vile and hateful responses. Doesn’t stop me. So you need to develop a thicker skin.

    That said, what is remarkable is that at the Thursday hearing there were no FACT witnesses. The Dems asked that Devon Archer, Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas be called to testify because they could offer relevant testimony relating to the allegations. Jim Comer refused. That alone showed this is not a serious investigation.

    Now you have compared a House impeachment inquiry to a grand jury proceeding. In the first DJT impeachment 17 FACT witnesses were called to testify. In the Jan. 6 House Special Committee investigation 1,200 witnesses were interviewed and dozens testified in open hearings. If you say the investigation of Joe Biden should establish a “full record” why didn’t you support the Dem call for Archer, Giuliani and Parnas to testify? You have yet to do that.

    You claim there are 10 “facts” that justify an impeachment inquiry. In your column yesterday you argued in number nine of “facts” this: “At least two transfers of funds to Hunter in 2019 from a Chinese source listed the President’s home in Delaware where Hunter sometimes lived and conducted business”. Let’s try to parse your claim.

    In 2019 Hunter and his dad were private citizens. Joe was not the “President” at the time. While living in his dad’s house there is some evidence Hunter paid for repairs to the house. There isn’t even any evidence Hunter used the money he got from China to make those repairs. But if he did so what? Joe Biden did receive an indirect benefit from his son’s largesse but this couldn’t be “corruption” because Biden held no public office at the time. All we have here is a son, who made money from his overseas businesses, repaying his dad for allowing him to live his home. Yet, you bizarrely claim the aforementioned is “credible compelling evidence that the president committed high crimes and misdemeanors”. Really? I don’t think a reasonable person would conclude such evidence proves what you claim it does.

    Finally, as you did in the prior impeachments, you testified on Thursday as an “expert witness”. Expert in what? You were not a FACT witness. All you offered were opinions based only on the public record–not based on any particularized expertise or knowledge of the facts. At this point I can only conclude there is no evidence to justify an impeachment inquiry. Comer’s Committee is just a fishing expedition that will eventually implode under its own weight. And you will have egg on your face for participating in that charade. No wonder your reputation is in tatters!

    1. When I express opposing views I am attacked with all sorts of personal, vile and hateful responses.

      When you LIE, you are attacked for lying

      You never address your lies, only repeat them.

    2. Can any of you ridiculous apologists explain to us what the 20 companies most (or all) of whom provided no known services were doing besides pumping the bribe money through the spiderwebs to the Bidens ?

      Personally I can’t get past that fact. I have searched for hours and found not a single demoncrat with an explanation, at all. It has been entirely avoided, apparently because it is a smoking gun. Please, feel free to disabuse me of my conclusion – and outline the services the 20 companies provided.

    3. “In 2019 Hunter and his dad were private citizens.” . . .

      . . . continuing a bribery scheme they initiated *while JB was VP*.

      Now your statement’s accurate.

  6. Can Biden plead insanity? Dr. Jill can testify in his behalf. I mean the poor man can’t be responcible for his behavior. I dependent Bob.

  7. Speaking of Bannon: I think what might be motivating some of the impatient Bannon types out there (and there are a LOT of them) is the suspicion that Fake President Joetard might do something rash or half baked to short circuit the impeachment hearing(s) and maybe even preempt the prosecution of his wayward son, What’s-his-name, like maybe start a war with Russian — oops, I mean of course that maybe Russia will start a war with us (if only we can figure out a way to make them start it) — and then we could put all of these embarrassing investigations behind us and get on with the important business of fighting the REAL fake enemy according to script.

    That might have seemed like a farfetched idea just two or three years ago, prepandemic, but curiously, ever since it was proven by (of all people) Attorney General Robert Mueller and his pack of rabid democrat prosecutors that Trump-Russia Collusion was a Hillary HOAX — inside and out, top to bottom, beginning to end — instead of fading away, the ridiculous debunct notion of Trump-Russia Collusion has lingered — maybe simmered is a better word — or FESTERED (there’s the word) within the likes of Adam Schiff and a host of other democrats that once upon a time could have sworn they heard the prison gate slamming shut on Trump — which I suspect they STILL hear — echoing — echoing — echoing — like the memory of things that might have been but weren’t to be (or not to be).

    And though unspoken (out loud where others can hear), the Russia Hoax is no doubt also a burning ember in the empty cranial cavities of more than a few RINOs — which is to say at least half of the republican party — who are still perturbed that the Hoax didn’t succeed in ridding them of this pesky Trump. After all, if the Hoax HAD succeeded, it would have returned contol of the republican party — which is to say the republican money-making machine — to the RINOs, and all would be well again in Mudville — if only mighty Mueller hadn’t struck out.

    So I’m just speculating (from lack of sleep — could you tell?) that there’s still a big bunch of Russia-gate gunk coagulated in the feeble “minds” (for lack of a better word) of Congress on “both” sides of the one-sided UniParty aisle — lurking in the background of their thoughts, and like the ghost of Hamlet’s father whispering for “revenge” — not on Joetard but on Trump, for not going away according to script.

  8. The purposeful failure to secure our border should be sufficient to impeach. The money and fraud issues should be handled as the Dems have done through state and local prosecutors for months and years.

    Let them live by their own rules.

  9. This is how a REAL impeachment inquiry should proceed (kind of like a Preliminary Hearing if you will). Not the drive-thru-window impeachment that Nancy Pelosi did of President Trump. The decibel level of Democrat’s screams will increase as the evidence piles up in the House Oversight Committee hearing and will strain Democrat’s frantic search for more “innocent” excuses. Thank you, Jonathan, for an excellent article.

  10. Since we are using YouTube to express our thoughts….I suggest we enjoy a light moment based upon what the Left is pedaling these days.

  11. “As I mentioned in my testimony, there is little tolerance for opposing views in this age of rage.”

    Not to be impertinent, but I’m getting a little tired of living in the age of the age of the age of rage. Shakespeare, of course, famously wrote “To be, or not to be.” but he only used it ONCE. He didn’t work it into every Act of every play.

    That might sound cruel or rude, but I mean it as friendly, constructive criticism.

    If I read “the age of rage” one more time, I might fly into a rage for the ages. Might I suggest “Rumble in the Jungle” next time, or “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” I think those have passed into the public domain by now.

    1. Back in my acting days, one director chastised me for “cherishing” my lines over-much. And I hadn’t even come up with them (in my defense, Oscar Wilde had).

      I think Professor Turley has become too enamored of his catch-phrase. It was clever the first time; tedious the fifth, and it’s nails-on-blackboard now.

      1. Yeah — I was attempting to be a bit more diplomatic (convenient euphemism) than that, but your direct approach reminds me of architecture school and the thick skin one had to develop when it came time for professors to critique our projects. It was made abundantly clear early on that a harsh crit is the most valuable if your intention is to improve — and theoretically, that WAS the point of a crit. It’s also a sign of respect. Nibbling around the edges with a namby pamby critique is kind of an insult.

        “Age of rage” makes me think of how theory instructor Dr. Martynuk would stomp toward a model that someone had carefully crafted for weeks, and in the time it took to glance at it, he’d reach out his muscular paw and snap off chuncks of the model the way that Godzilla might devour Tokyo, by way of brutally demonstrating that less is more — more or less — especially if the part of the model that got snapped off sucked, and the part that’s left afterward was worthy of salvation.

        The point being that there’s no real kindness in a kind critique. Thanks for reminding me. It’s a great catch phrase, but so is To be, or not to be — when used sparingly. Once is great, but you gotta have a great reason to use it twice.

        1. Ralph & Ellen: Indeed, how preposterous it is to employ a phrase repeatedly to represent a “real world” epoch. It’s a true shame current events commentators aren’t as good at figuring out this stuff of reality – unlike Messrs. Shakespeare and Wilde with their prodigious non-fiction pros. And its not new; its sad our betters didn’t “nip in the bud” (oops sorry) such oft repeated and tiresome jargon as, for example: stone age, copper age and iron age – curses on those damn “ages.” And lest we not forget, there’s the real biggies. Thos relatively modern newfangled terms we need to fully expunge from language denoting historical periods: age of steam, industrial age, computer age, communications age, nuclear age, internet age. Oh my, I can’t go on enumerating these soul-sucking catch-phrases. Won’t someone please save us from “the age of rage”?

          1. But we should thank our lucky stars, and even a few that are not so lucky, for the “space age.” Just imagine how crowded the world must have been BEFORE the space age when there was no space at all, or very little — everyone crowded together “elbow to elbow” — and I don’t wanna even THINK about the other body parts smushed up against each other before the age when we had space.

            And a lot of that time prior to the age of space overlaps with the age before deoderant. The mind boggles, to say nothing of the nose, with all of those overlapping odors. And prior to the space age, the Cartesiian Coordintate System would have been worthless, for all practical purposes. So like it or not, it’s good to have a “space age” or an “age of space” if one prefers.

  12. Brilliant Rebuttal Jonathan
    The Question now is: 𝐖𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐯𝐞 𝐁𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐧 𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐞𝐱𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐇𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧?
    He does not strike me as an ‘apologist’. That said, So much for the Pundit Peanut Gallery.

  13. Multiple avenues of approach to these times will be welcomed. All efforts with the goal of representative government in these united States a paramount focal point in which alternate means of achieving that goal must be considered. Our standard means of public participation are inadequate to today’s troubles. Wisdom in addressing these troubles by new methods not considered is called for. For the People to not understand their inherent rights, engage those rights, forcefully in peaceful ways would be a faltering of their duty to themselves, and hence to their fellow citizens and posterity.

  14. Well said professor.
    This is what a proper, Constitutional inquiry looks like.
    An impressive contrast to the previous two impeachments by the Democrats.

    1. It would have been a better process to have a hearing to determine whether there is sufficient basis to launch an impeachment inquiry (that took place on 9/28) before making a decision to actually launch the inquiry through direction by the Speaker.(that took place on 9/12).

  15. I frankly cannot come up with a substantial list of things Nancy Pelosi did in her decades of Congressional experience which were good for the country.
    The snap impeachment drove a stake into the heart of the country —
    The passing of a 1.2 trillion dollar bill in December before the Republicans took control of the House was emblematic of Pelosi — not good for the country as a whole — just good for Nancy and her followers —

  16. Well said. Professor…..and any criticism of what you had said while writing of Presidential Impeachment, have testified before Congresss, and in your many writings about the subject are quite well reasoned and show an unbiased view.

    That you are caught “in the middle” between the many parties, persons, and participants in the current process as well as the Trump Impeachments is dead certain proof of that.

    The Leftists shall continue their attacks upon. you unabated but will only indict themselves by doing so.

    That, as you pointed out about the antics of some during the Congressional Hearing just serves to confirm that even at the highest levels of our government…..there are those that scoff at civility, reason, and decorum…..and our Constitution and their own Oath of Office. They certainly need to learn the lesson you offered during your testimony….the one that was seen by those watching your testimony where you responded to the attacks upon your professional and personal reputation. You remained the Gentleman and Jurist you are and defended yourself in a dignified manner making the attackers look like the buffoons they are.

  17. Mr. Turkey,
    The important detail that escapes your understanding at these terrible times is that we are at war.
    We are under fire, our enemies, the enemies of America the Beautiful, have been trying to kill us, and destroy America, for the past decade. The time for reasoning is long gone. We need to defend ourselves, or we are going to be killed, and the dream that America was it’s going to die, too.
    Some time ago it was: Give me liberty or give me death!
    Today our battle cry is: Trump or death!

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