Mayorkas Impeachment Hampers Bipartisan Immigration Deal
Plus: Nikki Haley gets America’s most famous judge in her corner.
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As a bipartisan working group in the Senate continues to gradually—perhaps hopelessly—pursue a compromise deal that will pair increased border security and stricter immigration policies with a supplemental foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, the House is running at full steam into their impeachment process for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Unfortunately for Republicans in the upper chamber, Mayorkas is one of the key negotiators for the compromise deal on the Biden administration side.
If it doesn’t seem very tactically advantageous for Republicans in one chamber to initiate the censure and firing of one of their colleagues’ negotiating partners mid-negotiation in the other chamber, that’s because it isn’t. It’s alienating and conveys a lack of seriousness. It also doesn’t help that House Republicans’ case for the impeachment centers on Mayorkas’s implementation of the Biden administration’s policies. In light of all this, a mood of frustration and impatience has settled over Republicans in the Senate, including some who are eager to accomplish something meaningful on immigration policy.1 I spoke to a handful of Senate Republicans to gauge their enthusiasm for what their counterparts in the House are up to this week. Here’s what they told me.
“I’m a jurist and I'm not going to make any presupposition of guilt,” Sen. Chuck Grassley said, referring to the responsibility of senators to act as a jury in impeachment trials sent over from the House.
His colleague Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is similarly waiting to be convinced that the broad accusations against Mayorkas amount to impeachable offenses.
“I have not heard yet of evidence that would meet the constitutional standard for impeachment,” he said. “But if they find that evidence, why obviously they’ll have to consider it and send it our way.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the top Republican negotiator in the ongoing Senate discussions, said on Fox News Sunday that any blame for failure on Mayorkas’s part ultimately lies with President Joe Biden.
The problem that Secretary Mayorkas has is that he’s working for the president of the United States, and these are the president’s policies. President Trump had a consistent set of policies, but he had, I think, four different secretaries of Homeland Security, but the policy was consistent on the border, regardless of who the secretary of Homeland Security was, because he had a set of policies. These are the Biden policies. So the problem is President Biden’s policies on the border, not Mayorkas and the way he’s carrying [them] out.
Other Republican senators were more open to what the House is doing. When I asked Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) what he made of the impeachment, he initially said, “I try to maintain some sense of neutrality in these things and try to actually look at the evidence as you should,” adding, “There is no official within the Biden administration who has done a worse job performing his duties. It’s actually kind of shocking how little the guy seems interested in doing the fundamental function of his job, which is enforcing the American southern border.”
Since the Constitution reserves impeachment for cases of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” I followed up by asking Vance if simply being bad at your job is an impeachable offense. His reply:
Well, impeachment is fundamentally a political solution and a political tool. If you’re not doing your job, I think at a certain level, it does rise to an impeachable offense. It’s ultimately up to the House whether that’s true in this case.
More aggressive and in line with the House’s approach to the issue were Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.). Scott told me he believes one of the impeachable offenses is that Mayorkas lied to Congress:
I think what they're doing is they’re going through a process to see if it’s [an] impeachable offense. But clearly the guy has lied to Congress. He lied to me. He said the border was secure. That’s a complete lie. I think what he’s done to this country, with allowing millions of people in here unvetted, is unconscionable.
In November 2021, Scott posted a letter to Mayorkas in which he gave a detailed account of the DHS secretary’s allegedly lying under oath. His example stems from a hearing earlier that year; the alleged falsehoods Mayorkas told lawmakers include statements that the border was “closed,” that “DHS continues enforcing our immigration laws and responsibly managing our border,” and that “the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to stemming the flow of irregular migration and comprehensively addressing the long-standing challenges that drive this migration.”
Apart from the claim that the border is “closed,” these statements by Mayorkas reflect differences of opinion, not deliberate perjury. But even the former statement is hard to interpret the way Scott does. Only someone acting in bad faith would take Mayorkas saying the border is “closed” to entail a claim that the 3,000 mile stretch of land is fully closed with not a single thing passing through it. And as for Scott’s reference to “stemming the flow of irregular migration,” DHS under Trump was more likely to release border arrestees into the country than under Biden and Mayorkas.
Sen. Marshall offered the usual talking points about Mayorkas—“he’s supposed to secure the border, and he’s broken his oath of office to protect us from enemies, both foreign and domestic” and so on—but also added a little bit of news: Senate Republicans plan to offer a unanimous consent request to both express solidarity with the House’s impeachment effort and signal a “vote of no confidence” in Mayorkas. This is a gesture, mostly, and it will be rejected by any Democrat in the chamber when it comes up. But it will also be documented on the C-SPAN cameras and receive an entry in the Congressional Record that will remain for the rest of our country’s time on this earth. The unanimous consent request will also provide just a little bit of content for the participating senators’ social media accounts. I’m guessing that’s the real goal here.
Even Republicans’ favorite expert witness for some of their most nakedly political hearings has dismissed the impeachment effort. In an op-ed for the Daily Beast, George Washington Law Professor Jonathan Turley wrote:
There is no jurisdictional question for Mayorkas, but there is also no current evidence that he is corrupt or committed an impeachable offense. He can be legitimately accused of effectuating an open border policy, but that is a disagreement on policy that is traced to the President.
While an immigration deal is still out of reach in the Senate, any compromise would face a bleak challenge in the House, whose majority members seem to have a much greater interest in pursuing impeachments than in actually getting policy changes signed into law.
The Hypocritic Oath
The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger reports that House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) has a shell company that’s been shut down twice:
A review of dozens of tax, real estate, and business filings in Kentucky and Tennessee indicate that Comer’s own personal “books and records” are opaque at best—and improper at worst.
Those records include the dealings of Comer’s shell company, Farm Team Properties LLC, which the state of Kentucky has dissolved twice for failure to file annual reports—first in 2020, then again in 2022.
Kentucky law states that an administratively dissolved business “continues its existence but shall not carry on any business except that necessary to wind up and liquidate its business and affairs.” An official with the Kentucky Department of Revenue told The Daily Beast that a company in administrative dissolution may not legally conduct business in the state—such as executing deals and leases, securing loans, or collecting rent as an LLC.
Comer has targeted the Biden family for their various LLCs in his pursuit of something—anything—that will stick to make articles of impeachment palatable for the majority of House Republicans before Election Day. But he has dismissed criticisms that his own companies acted in similarly suspicious ways as political attacks made by people mired in financial illiteracy.
Just as the 2024 election season officially begins, with the Iowa caucuses happening next week and the New Hampshire primary the week after, Nikki Haley has scored an endorsement from a judge famous enough to go by one name: TV’s Judge Judy.
The Honorable Judy Sheindlin said in a Fox News exclusive Tuesday morning that she is backing Haley “because she is whip smart, has executive credentials, and was a superb governor.”
“She has international gravitas as ambassador to the United Nations,” Sheindlin added. “She is principled, measured, and has that elusive quality of real common sense. I truly think she can restore America and believe she is the future of this great nation.”
While Haley now has at least one judge pulling for her this campaign cycle, Trump still has her beat, even before any judges weigh in on his various cases. (Regardless of how they rule, I doubt any of them will leave us with a line as quotable as one of Judge Judy’s classics.)
Read the whole thing, and remember the judge’s wisdom: If you never tell a lie, you never have to remember anything.
Whether you agree with what’s being proposed or not, immigration policy changes from Congress are exceptionally rare. Reaching a deal that ultimately becomes law would be a major accomplishment.