As Congress’s lengthy August vacation nears its end, attention is turning toward a seemingly inevitable bit of business: The launch of an impeachment investigation into President Biden.
If you are worried that, perhaps similarly distracted by a vacation of your own, you are not sure why such a probe would be launched, fret not. You haven’t missed anything. In an interview last week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested that an investigation would, in essence, be a conduit for collecting documents that might be used to argue for impeachment. All Biden has to do to avert such a probe, he said, is to prove he didn’t do anything wrong, a bit of argumentation that inverts our usual understanding of burdens of proof.
Perhaps understandably, Americans are skeptical of launching an impeachment probe. New polling from Yahoo News, conducted by YouGov, offers a bit of consolation to McCarthy and his allies: Biden and his family are now viewed as corrupt by only a slightly smaller portion of the public than are Donald Trump and his family.
The idea that Biden is corrupt is largely rooted in the actions of his son, Hunter. Hunter Biden worked as a consultant for a period that overlapped with Joe Biden’s service as vice president, work that included foreign companies and interests. Since taking the majority in the House in January, Republicans have been digging into Hunter Biden’s finances with an eye toward linking his business activity directly to the president. So far, they’ve been unsuccessful.
Regardless, most Americans — including nearly a third of Democrats — see the investigations into Hunter Biden as at least somewhat important. Among Republicans, more than three-quarters do.
After all, there has been some apparent admission of wrongdoing by the president’s son. Earlier this month, he went to court to finalize a plea agreement centered on his failure to pay taxes, though that agreement crumbled, leaving his legal status in limbo.
Likely as a result of coverage of that agreement, most Americans — and half of Democrats — think Hunter Biden failed to meet tax filing deadlines. About 6 in 10 Americans also think that Hunter Biden traded on his family name and proximity to power to line up multimillion-dollar business deals. More Republicans think Hunter Biden traded on his name than think he failed to pay taxes on time; among Democrats, fewer do.
Most remarkably, more than 8 in 10 Republicans think that Hunter Biden “funneled millions of dollars to his father in a long-running scheme to help Joe Biden profit off his position” — the fervent implication of Republican rhetoric about Hunter Biden, but also the claim that remains entirely unproven. Yet Republicans are more likely to believe this than that Hunter Biden didn’t pay his taxes.
Overall, 44 percent of Americans think Biden definitely or probably did something illegal with regard to his son. Among Republicans, more than 8 in 10 do.
Having Americans see Biden as corrupt, fairly or not, is obviously one of the intentions of chatter about impeachment. Even to talk about impeachment as a necessary response to the investigation is to elevate the perceived seriousness of the allegations … whatever those allegations end up being.
The same poll found that Americans were more likely to see Trump as fit for office than Biden, though majorities said neither was fit to serve in that office. Americans were more likely to say that Trump’s lack of fitness was because of corruption, thanks in part to 7 percent of Republicans indicating that they viewed Trump as corrupt. (No Democrats cited corruption as a reason Biden wasn’t fit for office.)
When asked to evaluate whether the Biden or Trump families were corrupt, a majority said that the Trump clan was. Just under half of Americans said the same of the Bidens, though among independents the figures were about even.
Asked to compare the corruption levels of the two families, the Trumps were given a slight edge over the Bidens, with a familiar partisan divide.
This is a remarkable achievement for opponents of Biden. Some of this is unquestionably rooted in general American skepticism about politicians and in the specific skepticism of having family members of politicians leveraging those relationships for profit. But that Biden is so often looped into his son’s work by poll respondents shows the success of the ceaseless effort House Republicans have made since the beginning of the year.
McCarthy once infamously suggested that the investigation into Hillary Clinton over the Benghazi terrorist attacks in 2012 were paying off not because new evidence of wrongdoing had been found but because her poll numbers were sinking. In that sense, the Hunter Biden probe is paying off, too — even if, as with the Benghazi investigation, the central thesis of wrongdoing remains unsubstantiated.