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How strong is Republicans' impeachment inquiry into President Biden?

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

To impeach and remove a U.S. president, the Constitution says what must be proved is, quote, "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors," unquote. So to get a sense of the merits of this case against President Biden, we're joined by former federal prosecutor and legal commentator Renato Mariotti. Good morning, Renato. Thanks for being on the program.

RENATO MARIOTTI: Good morning.

FADEL: So as we heard there from NPR's Susan Davis just now, Republicans in the House have been investigating Biden for months. No concrete evidence of wrongdoing so far. So is there a case here for impeaching President Biden?

MARIOTTI: It's hard to see one. Right now, it's actually hard to understand exactly what the allegations against the president are. There's a lot of innuendo. But in terms of specific allegations - in other words, specific allegations that he engaged in specific acts of wrongdoing rather than just broad terms, like corruption - are really few and far between.

FADEL: Now, I mean, I think the claim or the implication is that - or what needs to be proved is that President Biden used his office and the overseas business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden. In that case, what must be proved to show that he misused his office?

MARIOTTI: Well, generally speaking, when we're talking about corruption, you're talking about the use of trading an official act for something that - of value - so for example, you know, using his office to try to obtain money or property for himself or his son. What I think is missing here are any specifics about how that has allegedly been done, one way or the other.

FADEL: And how do you see this case against Joe Biden compared with those that have been brought before against Presidents Clinton and Trump?

MARIOTTI: I think it really stands alone. So when we look at, for example, you know, President Clinton, that impeachment inquiry, whether you agree with it or not, was conducted after a long investigation by an independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, who had very specific allegations. There's no question about what President Clinton was alleged to have done or not done. The question was really whether or not that merited his impeachment or removal from office. Similarly, there is really no, I think, question about what President Trump was alleged to have done - whether it was regarding the alleged extortion of Ukraine or the events of January 6 - the insurrection there.

So here, what I think makes this stand alone is I think there's an admission, at least by many Republicans in the House, that there hasn't been evidence of wrongdoing, and this is really a tool being used to try to obtain evidence that is not yet there.

FADEL: In your view, how much of this congressional impeachment inquiry is about law, and how much of this is, as the White House puts it, extreme politics?

MARIOTTI: Well, you know, it is certainly a lot about politics. To be fair, impeachment is a political exercise under our Constitution. I really think the only legal aspect here is purely that, if the House does go to a court, the fact that they're holding an impeachment inquiry may give them more weight with a court that - when they're trying to seek additional information from the White House. But I really don't think that's what's driving things here.

FADEL: Former federal prosecutor and legal commentator Renato Mariotti, thank you so much for your insights, as always. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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