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ROUNDUP: First Mayorkas Hearing “Falls Flat”

Jan 11, 2024

Yesterday, MAGA House Republicans took the next step in their baseless effort to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and subvert our democracy’s constitutional procedures. This impeachment hearing was yet another predetermined political stunt played out by extreme MAGA Republicans, fulfilling Homeland Security Committee chair Mark Green’s promise to donors that he would impeach the secretary back in April 2023. With a MAGA-fueled government shutdown looming, instead of addressing the issues most important to the American people, Republicans invited a slate of three MAGA attorneys general – representing states thousands of miles from the southern border – who have all joined in on MAGA court efforts supporting former President Trump and have used their positions to score partisan points by attacking the Biden administration. 

House Republicans continue to pursue baseless, extreme, and harmful impeachment charades that threaten our country’s democratic norms, showing they’re more interested in playing politics rather than solving real problems. Despite a year’s worth of investigations, MAGA House Republicans have not been able to turn up a single shred of evidence worthy of impeaching the Secretary. 


Council on National Security and Immigration: National Security Leaders: The Southern Border Needs Legislative Solutions — Not Impeachment Proceedings. Impeaching Secretary Mayorkas would go against century-old norms and establish a dangerous precedent, with no actual effect on the underlying issues that have led us to the current situation. By misdirecting their efforts and leaving a vacancy at the top of the Department of Homeland Security, Congress would signal vulnerability to the international community, further jeopardizing our national security. In order to tackle the border crisis, it is imperative for Republicans and Democrats to collaborate on genuine and impactful reforms. The ongoing supplemental funding discussion provides a great opportunity to move the needle and enact legislative policies that will have a tangible effect on our southern border and national security.” [Council on National Security and Immigration, 1/10/24]

UnidosUS: UnidosUS Stands with Secretary Mayorkas Against Baseless Impeachment Effort. “We stand firmly against the baseless, unwarranted and unfair impeachment hearing against Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas scheduled by House Republicans in the Homeland Security Committee today. It’s clear that what House Republicans object to are simply the immigration policies of the Biden administration, which Secretary Mayorkas is faithfully carrying out as is his duty. Policy differences are not a valid basis for impeachment, and this hearing is nothing more than partisan theater. If House Republicans were serious about securing the border or reforming our broken immigration system into one that is humane, effective and functional, they would be working across the aisle toward bipartisan solutions.” [UnidosUS, 1/10/24]

Just Security: Constitutional Law Scholars on the Impeachment Proceedings Against Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. “As scholars of the Constitution, considering the facts currently known and the charges publicly described, we hereby express our view that an impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas would be utterly unjustified as a matter of constitutional law. […] When the Framers designed the Constitution’s impeachment provisions, they made a conscious choice not to allow impeachment for mere ‘maladministration’—in other words, for incompetence, poor judgment, or bad policy. Instead, they provided that impeachment could be justified only by truly extraordinary misconduct: ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.’ U.S. Const., art. II, § 4. Thus, as Charles L. Black, Jr. noted in his influential handbook, impeachment is not permitted for ‘mere inefficient administration, or administration that [does] not accord with Congress’s view of good policy.’ Simply put, the Constitution forbids impeachment based on policy disagreements between the House and the Executive Branch, no matter how intense or high stakes those differences of opinion.” [Just Security, 1/10/24]


Punchbowl News: Homeland’s First Mayorkas Impeachment Hearing Falls Flat. “The Homeland Security Committee officially launched its impeachment proceedings into DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this morning. Surprisingly, many of Mayorkas’ key GOP detractors weren’t even there… Other members who engaged with witnesses were tame in their questioning. Witnesses for the hearing included the Oklahoma, Missouri and Montana attorneys general and a law professor from the University of Missouri. Committee Democrats repeated much of Thompson’s argument, saying Mayorkas hasn’t committed a high crime or misdemeanor. They also accused Republicans of weaponizing impeachment to score political points.” [Punchbowl News, 1/10/24]

The New York Times: G.O.P. Opens Mayorkas Impeachment Push With No Evidence of High Crimes. “House Republicans on Wednesday kicked off formal impeachment hearings against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, accusing him of willfully failing to enforce immigration laws even as leading constitutional experts said there was no basis to do so. The G.O.P. drive to impeach Mr. Mayorkas is the latest escalation in the party’s effort to attack the Biden administration on immigration, a politically potent issue that has long animated the hard-right Republican base and has become a liability for President Biden in recent months as migration has surged across the U.S.-Mexico border. But Republicans have struggled to make the case that their policy complaints are enough to support charges of high crimes and misdemeanors. […] Democrats noted that Republicans had failed to present any specific evidence against Mr. Mayorkas and accused them of rebranding their political attacks on Mr. Biden’s immigration policy as an impeachment effort. ‘It’s the same hearing we’ve had 10, 12 times,’ said Representative Dan Goldman, Democrat of New York, who led the prosecution during Mr. Trump’s first impeachment. ‘Same pig, different lipstick, because we’re now going to call it an impeachment hearing.’” [The New York Times, 1/10/24]

Time: Experts Blast Mayorkas Impeachment Probe for Lack of Evidence. “But the push to impeach the embattled Cabinet member has sparked a fierce debate over the constitutional grounds for such a proceeding, with constitutional law experts, Democrats, and even some Republicans raising concerns that an impeachment isn’t warranted and would degrade the seriousness of the process. […] Even some Republicans have expressed reservations about the proceedings, acknowledging the need for more concrete evidence or legal justification before pursuing such a significant action. ‘Secretary Mayorkas did not commit an impeachable offense,’ Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado wrote on X.” [Time, 1/10/24]

Mother Jones: Republicans Are Grasping for a Reason to Impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “On Wednesday, House Republicans renewed their plan to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. It is part of a long attempt to pin the failures—both real and imagined—of the immigration system in the United States on supposed Democratic incompetence by warring against Mayorkas. And it would be an extraordinary step. No cabinet secretary has been impeached in 150 years. […] Almost since the moment Mayorkas, a career public servant with extensive experience as a federal prosecutor and head of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), began the job as head of DHS, Republicans have made him a target. They say that Mayorkas has willfully violated his oath of office by refusing to do his job of securing the border. Republicans claim Mayorkas has abused his office’s authority when using a discretionary parole program to allow certain groups to lawfully enter the country and has lied to Congress about having ‘operational control’ of the border—an impossible, congressionally defined standard that requires ‘the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States.’ As with previous congressional hearings and public attacks against the DHS secretary, the first official impeachment inquiry into Mayorkas once again exposed how legally weak Republicans’ case is. ‘They are angry that this administration won’t take babies from their moms or put kids in cages like the previous administration,’ Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said, adding the ‘impeachment sham’ wasn’t about facts or the law, but about politics. ‘You cannot impeach a cabinet secretary because you don’t like the president’s policies,’ he continued. To emphasize that point, Thompson recalled how Rep. Green once told a room full of donors to ‘get the popcorn—Alejandro Mayorkas comes before our committee, and it’s going to be fun.’” [Mother Jones, 1/10/24]

The Washington Post (Opinion): Why Impeaching Mayorkas Would Violate The Constitution. “Whatever the wisdom of Mayorkas’s policy decisions, the claim that he should be impeached is indefensible as a matter of constitutional law. In designing the U.S. Constitution, the framers adapted the impeachment power from England, but made several key changes. Parliament had historically impeached royal ministers for ‘maladministration’ — for bad policy or poor performance in office. The framers rejected that vision. For impeachments of ‘the President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States,’ they instead required proof of egregious malfeasance: ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.’ This decision was fundamental to the separation of powers. Congress has many tools it can use to shape public policy and express disagreement with the executive. Impeachment, however, is not one of them. To ensure that the president could govern — and that he could select a Cabinet to execute his vision — the framers forbade impeachment over policy disagreements, no matter how fierce or consequential.” [The Washington Post (Opinion), 1/9/24]

The Orange County Register Editorial Board: House GOP Push To Impeach Mayorkas Is An Obvious Distraction. [I]t’s a stretch to say he’s guilty of ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,’ as impeachment is intended to remedy. Last year, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, brought up the idea of impeaching Mayorkas on the grounds that he ‘has willfully abandoned his duty to secure the border and protect States against invasion.’ There are many words to describe the ongoing influx of migrants at the southern border, but ‘invasion’ is not a term that should be so casually thrown around. An example of an invasion is Russia invading Ukraine, for example. It is not when desperate migrants from impoverished countries and failed states like Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela attempt to seek refuge in the United States. […] impeaching Mayorkas won’t solve anything. It might give Republicans running for office something to point to their constituents to show how serious they take the border issue. It’s all just theatrics, though.” [The Orange County Register, Editorial Board, 1/10/24]

ABC News: Republicans Rehash Familiar Talking Points In The DHS Secretary Mayorkas Impeachment Hearing. “Even still, Republicans have not identified a specific high crime or misdemeanor that Mayorkas committed. Chairman Green appeared to acknowledge as much. […] Mayorkas has long been a target of Republican ire over the border. The House GOP effort to oust him would be the first potential impeachment of a Cabinet official since Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876, though it’s unlikely Mayorkas would be convicted in a trial in the Democrat-led Senate.” [ABC News, 1/10/24]

New York Daily News Editorial Board: Impeach crumble: GOP Effort Against Mayorkas Is A Farce. “Yesterday, Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee held an impeachment hearing for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who’s been in his position since shortly after President Biden took office. There was a lot of bluster and meaningless political phrases like ‘open borders,’ but ultimately the GOP legislators couldn’t point to any single ‘high crime or misdemeanor’ that Mayorkas had committed, or any particular shirking of duty, beyond a general dissatisfaction with Biden administration immigration policies. Such political disagreements are now, apparently, grounds for removal from office. The same Republicans who are so concerned about supposed political interference in the department and Mayorkas’ unsubstantiated supposed refusal to follow laws seemed to have been perfectly fine with Donald Trump having two successive acting homeland security secretaries, leaving the department without a Senate-confirmed leader for nearly two years, with neither of the two actually serving lawfully. Like much of Trump’s tenure, the specifics of this fiasco have been memory-holed in the broader cloud of scandal and mismanagement.” [New York Daily News, Editorial Board, 1/11/24]

The Washington Post: Another GOP Impeachment Push. Another Struggle To Isolate An Offense. “The fireworks in Congress on Wednesday took place in a House Oversight Committee hearing that featured a cameo from Hunter Biden — who figures heavily into the Republicans’ impeachment investigation into his father — and lots of shouting. But the more significant developments might have come elsewhere in the Capitol, where House Republicans teed up what could be their first actual Biden administration impeachment, of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Not only would an impeachment of Mayorkas be only the second of a Cabinet member in history, but Republicans have presented an unusual justification […] Indeed, the subject of the hearing wasn’t a specific alleged high crime or misdemeanor — the standard set by the Constitution for impeachment…” [The Washington Post, 1/10/24]

The Hill: Legal Scholars Warn Against Mayorkas Impeachment. “A group of legal scholars issued an open letter to House GOP leaders Wednesday conveying their concerns with the impeachment proceedings against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, arguing his impeachment would be ‘utterly unjustified as a matter of constitutional law.’ In the letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and House Homeland Security Committee chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.), more than two dozen legal scholars claimed House Republicans’ pursuit of an impeachment does not meet the constitutional threshold for impeachment. […] The legal scholars argued the framers of the Constitution made a ‘conscious choice’ to not designate impeachment ‘for mere ‘maladministration,’ which they describe as incompetence, bad judgement or poor policy. They noted impeachment is supposed to be only justified ‘by truly extraordinary misconduct.’ ‘Simply put, the Constitution forbids impeachment based on policy disagreements between the House and the Executive Branch, no matter how intense or high stakes those differences of opinion,’ the scholars wrote. ‘Yet that is exactly what House Republicans appear poised to undertake.’” [The Hill, 1/10/24]

Law360: Impeachment Expert Chills GOP Push To Oust Mayorkas. “An impeachment scholar threw cold water Wednesday on a Republican effort to oust U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, saying that mere policy disagreements with the Biden cabinet secretary won’t fly as a constitutional basis for impeachment.” [Law360, 1/11/24]

NBC News: Republicans And Democrats Spar Over Grounds For Mayorkas Impeachment. “But a constitutional lawyer called as a witness by Democrats, emeritus professor Frank Bowman of the University of Missouri School of Law, said he saw no evidence that would permit Mayorkas to be charged with ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ which has historically been grounds for impeachment. He also cautioned the committee against using impeachment as a political weapon. ‘Put simply, on one hand, even if successfully impeaching and removing a Cabinet officer could change the policy of a presidential administration, using impeachment for that purpose would be contrary to America’s constitutional design. On the other hand, given that removing a Cabinet secretary is profoundly unlikely to change policy, such an impeachment would almost certainly be futile,’ Bowman said. Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, who previously chaired the committee and is now its ranking member, said the impeachment hearings for Mayorkas are ‘a shame’ and ‘the height of hypocrisy’ from Republicans.” [NBC News, 1/10/24]

The Hill: GOP Witness In Biden Probe Says Mayorkas Conduct Not Impeachable. Jonathan Turley, a conservative commentator and legal scholar, argued the GOP does not have sufficient evidence for impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, undercutting the effort the day before Republicans are set to kick off a series of hearings to remove him from office. […] The comments from Turley, a regular GOP witness on congressional proceedings, come after he similarly cast doubt on the investigation into President Biden’s family, telling lawmakers he did not see sufficient evidence at the time of the September hearing to back an impeachment vote.” [The Hill, 1/9/24]

The Daily Beast: Homeland Security Chief Alejandro Mayorkas’ Failures Are Not Impeachable. “In history, there has only been one cabinet member impeached. That was Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876. That alone should concentrate the mind of members. Despite decades of controversial cabinet members accused of flaunting the law or abusing their positions, Congress has only crossed this Rubicon once. There has existed a certain detente between the parties; an understanding that policy-based impeachments could open up endless tit-for-tat impeachment politics. […] 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. […] What has not been shown is conduct by the secretary that could be viewed as criminal or impeachable. […] During the Constitutional Convention, there was a debate over the grounds for impeachment with George Mason arguing for a broad scope of offenses that could ‘subvert the Constitution.’ His view was rejected. Most notably, there was a rejection of ‘maladministration’ as a basis for impeachment.” [The Daily Beast, 1/9/24]

Politico: House GOP Eyes New ‘Gross Incompetence’ Threshold For Mayorkas Impeachment. “House Republicans kicked off their push to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday with a new proposed standard for recommending the ouster of a Cabinet official: ‘gross incompetence.’ Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee claim that surging migration on the U.S.-Mexico border shows Mayorkas is in ‘dereliction of duty,’ pointing to record-high crossings in recent months. Democrats have dismissed their effort as a political attack that misuses a congressional tool designed to punish egregious behavior such as criminal activity […] The GOP’s move to impeach Mayorkas without evidence of criminal or other improper activity beyond its policy dispute with him is unprecedented.” [Politico, 1/10/24]

The Washington Post: House GOP Pivots To Impeach Mayorkas As Talks Over Border Security Languish. Neither [House Republicans] nor their witnesses have provided evidence of impeachable offenses. […] Immigration experts who testified before Congress over the past year have also poked holes in the GOP’s thesis that Mayorkas has committed high crimes and misdemeanors by failing to uphold the law, arguing that insufficient resources at DHS have historically prevented any administration from completely executing some laws pertaining to immigration and the border.” [The Washington Post, 1/10/24]

Associated Press: As House GOP Launches Effort To Impeach Mayorkas, Senators Want To Strike A Border Deal With Him. “Marching ahead with multiple impeachment plans, House Republicans set their sights Wednesday on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who they intend to prove is ‘derelict in his duty’ over handling the surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. The chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Mark Green, launched Mayorkas impeachment proceedings at a peculiar political moment: On one side of the Capitol, a bipartisan group of senators has been engaged in almost daily negotiations with Mayorkas over a landmark border security package. On the other, the House wants to remove him from office. But impeaching a Cabinet secretary is rare, having only happened once before in the nation’s history when the House impeached Defense Secretary William Belknap in 1876 over kickbacks in government contracts. Going after an official for a policy dispute, in this instance over the claim that Mayorkas is not upholding immigration laws, is unprecedented.” [AP News, 1/10/24]

USA Today: Takeaways From House Republicans’ First Impeachment Hearing Into Mayorkas. “‘This is not a legitimate impeachment,’ the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in the hearing, deriding the impeachment as a stunt and a play to throw ‘red meat to their base.’… The Department of Homeland Security circulated a memo Wednesday morning dismissing the impeachment effort as a ‘baseless political attack’ and argued that House Republicans have already decided to impeach Mayorkas far ahead of the hearing, noting a report that Green promised donors last year he would impeach the secretary and Greene saying impeachment was ‘guaranteed’ to her by leadership after her failed effort to force a vote. Among other points, the department argues impeachment ‘undercuts’ efforts to address the migrant crisis at the border.” [USA Today, 1/10/24]

HuffPost: GOP AGs Urging Impeachment Of Secretary Mayorkas Squirm When Asked About Trump. “​​House Republicans brought in three GOP state attorneys general to testify in a hearing in support of impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Republicans, who have been blaming President Joe Biden for a record surge in migration at the U.S.-Mexico border, are now refocusing on Mayorkas in their efforts to make the border crisis a major political issue heading into the 2024 elections. The hearing itself was a stunt. The standard for impeachment, per the Constitution, is committing ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ like treason or bribery. Mayorkas, a cabinet secretary charged with carrying out immigration laws, as broken as they may be, has not been accused of any such crimes.” [HuffPost, 1/10/24]

The Messenger: Democrats Blast ‘Sham’ Impeachment of Homeland Security Chief. “[C]ommittee Democrats told a group of reporters Tuesday night that Republicans are seeking to impeach Mayorkas for political gain in 2024. ‘What is going on tomorrow is an embarrassment to the impeachment clause of the Constitution,’ Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., said. ‘And the Republicans are trying to abuse their power and the Constitution to convert what is simply a disagreement into somehow, someway, a high crime and misdemeanor.’ […] The Biden administration’s Homeland Security Department also distributed talking points highlighting a politically-motivated’ attack. ‘Instead of working in a bipartisan way to fix our broken immigration laws, the House Majority is wasting time on baseless and pointless political attacks by trying to impeach Secretary Mayorkas,’ the memo reads. The DHS memo underlines work the cabinet secretary has done to address the ongoing surge in migrants at the southern border. The document also charges Republicans with conducting an impeachment investigation with a ‘pre-determined’ outcome. The department pointed to a statement from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who said in November that she had been ‘guaranteed’ that the impeachment investigation would move forward through the Homeland Security Committee.” [The Messenger, 1/10/24]