Steve Doocy, Nudes And A Ford Raptor: The Year In Impeachment

The most important ups and downs of the effort to investigate and impeach President Joe Biden for corruption.

Nothing that happened in Washington this year better encapsulates the modern Republican Party than the impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden.

And nothing will better symbolize former President Donald Trump’s control over the party than if the GOP goes through with it in 2024.

Republicans have used their quest for dirt on the Biden family to jockey among themselves for power in Washington and to gratify Trump by writing an alternate history of his presidency while casting Biden as corrupt.

The material Republicans are working with, however, isn’t the evidence of corruption they keep saying it is. Their own expert witnesses even said at a hearing in September that Republicans hadn’t uncovered any high crimes or misdemeanors.

It doesn’t matter. The impeachment inquiry is gaining momentum. It’s an exercise in raw political power, potentially culminating in a final vote to impeach Biden next year as the House Republicans most aligned with Trump mold the conference into a tool of the former president.

Here are some of the most notable episodes of the impeachment inquiry so far.

The ‘Judgment Day’ Faceplant

Republicans began hyping their investigation of the Biden family as soon as they won control of the House in November 2022, and in May of this year, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said newly uncovered bank records spelled “Judgment Day” for Biden.

But the material merely documented payments to the president’s son, Hunter Biden, as well as other family members, and fell short of implicating Joe Biden — setting a pattern of buildups and letdowns that prevailed for the rest of the year.

“I know the Republicans said that the smoking gun were these financial records that you were able to subpoena and got your hands on,” Fox News host Steve Doocy said in an interview with Comer the next day. “But that’s just your suggestion ― you actually don’t have any facts to that point.”

This was the moment Doocy, the affable co-anchor of the “Fox & Friends” morning show, became Comer’s most formidable media nemesis.

The Rudy Giuliani Leftovers

Next, Republicans said the FBI possessed a document reflecting a tip from a trusted informant, who spoke to a Ukrainian oligarch, who claimed to have paid Joe Biden a $5 million bribe. What’s more, the oligarch claimed he had made recordings of conversations with Joe Biden coercing the payment.

As Republicans fought with the FBI about making the document public, it became clear that the bribery allegation was from Mykola Zlochevsky, head of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, which had paid Hunter Biden millions to sit on its board from 2014 to 2019.

In other words, it became clear that Republicans this year have been pursuing essentially the same corruption allegations against Joe Biden that Donald Trump pursued in 2019. Using Rudy Giuliani as a go-between, Trump tried to make the Ukrainian government announce an investigation of the Bidens, alleging when Joe Biden was vice president, he pushed for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor in order to protect his son’s employer.

When Democrats impeached Trump for extorting Ukraine, State Department officials said Hunter Biden’s Burisma gig might have looked like a conflict of interest, but Joe Biden was only carrying out U.S. policy by ousting a corrupt prosecutor.

Comer insisted that he was not working with the material that Giuliani had fished out of Ukraine, but Giuliani himself has repeatedly taken credit, including for the Zlochevsky tip.

“That document was discovered because it was at least one FBI agent that went out and tried to corroborate what I gave them,” Giuliani said on Newsmax in June.

Amid their early hype of the document, a telling caveat emerged: Several Republicans warned conservative media there might not be any tapes of conversations between Zlochevsky and Joe Biden, as Zlochevsky claimed. (According to multiple people who’ve dealt with him, Zlochevsky doesn’t speak much English.)

“We don’t know for sure if these tapes exist,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said in June.

When Republicans finally obtained and released the document, it turned out the informant had cautioned his FBI handler that Zlochevsky might have been bluffing. And yet the not-so-compelling document is probably still the most compelling evidence of Joe Biden’s corruption Republicans have made public so far.

Hunter Biden talks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 13 in Washington, D.C. He defied a subpoena from Congress to testify behind closed doors ahead of a House vote on an impeachment inquiry against his father.
Hunter Biden talks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 13 in Washington, D.C. He defied a subpoena from Congress to testify behind closed doors ahead of a House vote on an impeachment inquiry against his father.
Drew Angerer via Getty Images

The Nudes

At a hearing in July, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) displayed nude photos of Hunter Biden apparently enjoying the company of a sex worker. The photos were taken from his laptop, which Republicans say he forfeited to a computer repair shop. Greene said the photos were evidence Hunter Biden had violated a federal law against transporting prostitutes across state lines — not exactly hard evidence against the man who is the actual target of an impeachment inquiry.

Hunter Biden cited the photos when he defied a subpoena for his private testimony this month, instead coming to the Capitol and offering to speak in a public hearing. He said Republicans had ridiculed his past addiction to drugs and alcohol in order to destroy his father and that he didn’t trust them with a transcript from a private deposition.

“No matter how many times it is debunked, they continue to insist that my father’s support of Ukraine against Russia is the result of a non-existent bribe,” Biden said. “They displayed naked photos of me during an oversight hearing, and they have taken the light of my dad’s love for me and presented it as darkness. They have no shame.”

The Star Witness

Devon Archer, a former business partner of Hunter Biden’s, told Republicans in July that over the course of their decadelong work relationship, he witnessed the younger Biden put his dad on speakerphone with their clients on many occasions. Republicans have trumpeted Archer’s testimony as slam-dunk evidence that Joe Biden lied when he said he never talked business with his son or spoke to his associates.

But Archer also said, repeatedly, the conversations were brief and they were not about business ― bolstering the president’s denials.

“It was, you know, just general niceties and, you know, conversation in general, you know, about the geography, about the weather, whatever it may be,” Archer recalled.

The Truck

Using subpoenas, Republicans have obtained thousands of pages of Hunter Biden’s bank records, and earlier this month Comer announced they’d discovered recurring monthly payments from son to father.

In his press release, Comer didn’t mention the sums involved, but it turned out to be four payments worth $1,380 each in 2018. Previously reported summaries of Hunter Biden’s financial situation at the time, which had been obtained from his laptop, showed that he was paying his dad back for helping him buy a truck.

“The truth is Hunter’s father helped him when he was struggling financially due to his addiction and could not secure credit to finance a truck,” Hunter Biden’s attorney said in a statement. “When Hunter was able to, he paid his father back and took over the payments himself.”

The owner of the car dealership confirmed Joe Biden had signed for the truck, a Ford F-150 Raptor, and the Wall Street Journal even published a photo of the three men in front of the vehicle. No Ukrainian oligarchs were part of the picture.

Comer is totally undeterred. He insisted the payments were evidence of corruption, saying you’d have to be “financially illiterate” to believe the Bidens’ story, and that any money that passed through Hunter Biden’s hands was tainted anyway.

The Vote

In September, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House Speaker at the time, declared that the House committees investigating the Bidens represented an impeachment inquiry. It’s better to launch an impeachment inquiry with a House vote, but it was clear then that not enough Republicans were willing to go along with the effort.

This month, new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) finally held the authorizing vote, and no Republicans opposed it. The vote has little practical significance, because the investigation was already happening, but it showed remarkable unity among Republicans, who’ve had a hard time agreeing among themselves this year.

Several House GOPers have told HuffPost they would not necessarily support an impeachment vote against Biden, but this month’s roll call authorizing the inquiry shows how momentum can shift.

Commenting on the vote, Doocy, the Fox morning show host, said Republicans still don’t have anything on the president.

“They’ve got a lot of ledgers and spreadsheets, but they have not connected the dots,” he said.

The next day, Comer told a Newsmax host that he doesn’t go on “Fox & Friends” anymore because of Doocy’s harsh words.

But he comforted himself. Comer has repeatedly pointed to polling that shows most people think there’s something fishy about the Biden family business.

“I don’t think the average viewer of Fox News agrees with Doocy one bit,” Comer told Newsmax.

He’s probably right.

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