“It’s still in the holster,” he said. “Yes, it’s been degraded in this poll-driven way of raising money, but it’s not inconceivable that you’ll have a president who really will do something that is down the center stripe of the law. It’s not enough to say that impeachment is so changed now that it’s just one more tool of character assassination. It is that. But it’s not just that.”
Michael J. Gerhardt, an impeachment scholar at the University of North Carolina, said Republicans were using impeachment not for accountability but for political damage. “The pushes to impeach President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas are plainly attempts to make impeachment just another weapon in the partisan warfare of Washington,” he said.
“Nonetheless, impeachment still stings,” he added. Impeachment will still be a useful constitutional tool because of the scarlet letter that presidents perceive in being impeached, Mr. Gerhardt said, citing Mr. Clinton and Mr. Trump. “Presidents care about their legacies, and impeachments taint them for all time.”
Indeed, it is that sting that may be driving Mr. Trump, who has made no secret of his desire to impeach Mr. Biden and his team as revenge for his own impeachments. “They did it to me,” he said in a radio interview last fall. “Had they not done it to me,” he added, “perhaps you wouldn’t have it being done to them.”
The proliferation of impeachment resolutions covers a gamut of supposed offenses, but as in the case of Mr. Mayorkas they mainly stem from Republican criticism of the way officials do their jobs. In Mr. Mayorkas’s case, Republicans fault him for releasing illegal immigrants pending court dates rather than detaining them, but Congress has not provided enough detention facilities to actually hold all of the migrants coming across the border.