The Southern Baptist speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is leading an effort to impeach President Joe Biden with no evidence of wrongdoing, and religious leaders are largely silent about this turn of events 11 months before the next election.
Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, and his MAGA-supporting tribe are notoriously open about their religious beliefs and how their Christian faith guides their policy decisions. Johnson and his allies have said they believe God placed him in the speaker’s chair “for such a time as this,” quoting the Old Testament book of Esther.
Johnson has been called the most extreme Christian nationalist to hold high office in the federal government. He believes Donald Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election, even though he did not. And he believes America was founded as a “Christian nation,” which most scholars of U.S. history say is false.
Despite Biden being Public Enemy No. 1 for most conservative evangelical leaders in America, news of the U.S. House approving a formal impeachment inquiry against Biden did not elicit immediate comment from the foremost evangelical leaders or ministries.
Nothing from Alliance Defending Freedom. Nothing from Focus on the Family. Nothing from Robert Jeffress. Nothing from Franklin Graham. Nothing from the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Nothing from Al Mohler.
The only apparent same-day reaction from a religious leader came from Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, president of Interfaith Alliance, who opposes the effort to impeach the president.
“It is disheartening to hear of today’s planned House impeachment vote, which is a frivolous political maneuver that seems more focused on scoring points than upholding its members’ duty as our elected representatives,” he said before the vote was taken. “The unfortunate reality is that many of our representatives seem willing to abuse the Constitution for short-term gains, eroding the very foundation that holds our democracy together.
“Rather than succumbing to partisan theatrics, Congress should redirect its focus to fighting our nation’s pressing challenges — the historic rise in hate that threatens the fabric of our society and passing critical federal spending bills to ensure the functioning of our democracy and safeguard the health and safety of our communities.
“Across diverse faiths and philosophies, Interfaith Alliance members remain united by a shared and unwavering faith in the U.S. Constitution and the democratic system of government it represents. As we witness today’s political maneuvering, let us remember the principles that bind us — the values of democracy, justice, and a commitment to the common good.”
Meanwhile, a veteran Republican senator, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, told CNN his party’s impeachment inquiry into Biden hasn’t produced any facts pointing to wrongdoing on the president’s part.
“I have no evidence of it,” he said hours before the 221-212 party-line vote that put the entire House Republican conference on record in support of an impeachment process. “I’m just going to follow the facts where they are, and the facts haven’t taken me to that point where I can say the president is guilty of anything.”
Another Republican senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, also said there’s no point to this political exercise: “President Biden’s son, Hunter, has obviously been a very unsavory person and has had some extremely damaging personal foibles. … That’s not President Biden, and we’re not gonna impeach someone because of the sins of their kids. … If I were in the House, I’d vote against it.”
Speaker Johnson sees things differently. He wrote an op-ed for USAToday explaining why he believes the impeachment inquiry is necessary.
He spoke of the “alleged influence-peddling schemes of (Biden’s) family and associates, the orchestration of which reaped millions of dollars in payments from America’s foreign adversaries.” He also raised suspicions about the president’s “knowledge and involvement in those schemes and the role his administration might have played in covering up alleged wrongdoing.”
Johnson spoke of “evidence mounting against President Biden” that “cannot be ignored.” He then listed eight general accusations for which no previous evidence has been given.
Johnson said his House Republicans will be more honorable investigators of Biden than their Democratic colleagues were of former President Donald Trump, who was twice impeached by the House but never convicted by the Senate — the second time for his role in inciting the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which Johnson says wasn’t all that bad after all.
“I served on the impeachment defense team of former President Donald Trump on both occasions when House Democrats abused the process,” he wrote. “Their efforts in 2019 employed the shortest proceedings, compiled the thinnest evidentiary record and used the narrowest grounds ever to impeach a president.
“Many of the Democrats who voted to bring impeachment charges ran congressional campaigns with a premeditated plan to impeach Donald Trump. In doing so, they cheapened that solemn power and further eroded trust in our nation’s institutions.
“House Republicans have taken the opposite approach. We will not prejudge this investigation; we will depose witnesses, gather evidence, establish a thorough record and present Articles of Impeachment only if the evidentiary record dictates such action.”
Further, this action is necessary to “rebuild Americans’ trust in the Congress,” he added. “As we have done all along, House Republicans will continue to follow the facts where they lead.”
“As we have done all along, House Republicans will continue to follow the facts where they lead.”
Back in 2019, when the House was heading toward its first impeachment of Trump, Rep. Johnson declared an effort to impeach the president 11 months before an election would erase the will of the people. This is not how a republic operates, he said.
Now, Johnson’s effort to impeach Biden is happening 11 months before an election.
Fox News put a spin on this story by reporting “the support for a possible House impeachment inquiry against President Biden is growing among the American public, with nearly a quarter of Democrats saying they would back such a move, a new poll has found.”
The conservative news outlet then quoted an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll showing 49% of U.S. adults say they would support the House of Representatives launching an impeachment inquiry into Biden compared to 48% who would not. The number who support that inquiry has grown only two points since October.
What the poll actually found is that only 24% of Democrats support the House impeachment inquiry compared to 78% of Republicans. White evangelicals (69%) and those who voted for Trump in 2020 (82%) were the most likely to say they approve of the House inquiry.
For his part, Biden issued a statement from the White House addressing the “baseless House Republican impeachment stunt.”
“I wake up every day focused on the issues facing the American people — real issues that impact their lives, and the strength and security of our country and the world,” he said. “Unfortunately, House Republicans are not joining me. Instead of doing anything to help make Americans’ lives better, they are focused on attacking me with lies. Instead of doing their job on the urgent work that needs to be done, they are choosing to waste time on this baseless political stunt that even Republicans in Congress admit is not supported by facts.”
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