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H.Res. 608: Impeaching Antony John Blinken, Secretary of State, for high crimes and misdemeanors.


He would be the first Cabinet secretary impeached in 145 years.

Context

A recent Washington Post article has called recent years, but particularly 2021, the “era of perpetual impeachment.”

In recent months, GovTrack Insider has covered attempts by Republicans in the House of Representatives to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas for failure to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, and to impeach President Joe Biden — on his first full day in office, no less — for pursuing formal U.S. foreign policy goals with respect to Ukraine when he was vice president.

Since then, additional resolutions to impeach Biden — on other charges that have arisen since his inauguration — have been introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH7) with three Republican cosponsorsby Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX14) with two Republican cosponsorsby Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO3) with five Republican cosponsors, and by Rep. Marjorie Greene (R-GA14) again and again and again.

What the resolution does

Now another resolution seeks to impeach another Biden administration figure: Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The resolution accuses Blinken of violating several laws.

With the recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, many American personnel in the country found themselves unable or stymied in their attempts to leave for a time, including a terrorist attack that killed 12 Americans. The resolution argues Blinken violated a law requiring the Secretary of State to “provide for the safe and efficient evacuation of United States Government personnel, dependents, and private United States citizens when their lives are endangered.”

(The impeachment resolution omits the preceding sentence of the law: “The Secretary of State shall develop and implement policies and programs to provide for the safe and efficient evacuation of United States Government personnel.” Blinken could argue that he did indeed develop and implement such policies, it’s just the situation on the ground fell apart so rapidly that they were inadequate.)

The impeachment resolution also argues that on August 25 when Blinken gave his first press conference since the Afghanistan collapse, he violated a law for the State Department to keep both the House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees “fully and currently informed” of events within their jurisdiction. Blinken subsequently testified before the House committee on September 13 and the Senate committee on September 14.

The resolution was introduced in the House on August 27 as H.Res. 608, by Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC5).

What supporters say

Supporters argue that Blinken’s actions contributed to unnecessary deaths of servicemembers, a foreign nation in chaos, and what even many members of the president’s own party acknowledge is one of the biggest foreign policy debacles in decades.

“The recent events in Afghanistan were entirely preventable,” Rep. Norman said in a press release. “The actions undertaken by this administration, but more specifically Secretary Blinken, were irresponsible and have placed countless American lives in harm’s way, resulting in the deadliest attack on American soldiers in the last decade.”

“He’s secretary of state. On January 26, he took an oath to defend the Constitution and to protect the American people,” Rep. Norman added in a Fox News interview. “He failed in every respect.”

What opponents say

GovTrack Insider was unable to locate any explicit statements from Blinken or the State Department against the specific charges in the impeachment resolution, likely because they don’t wish to add oxygen to the Republicans’ attempt. But opponents would likely counter that Blinken did the best he could in what was essentially an unwinnable situation.

“When President Biden took office in January, he inherited an agreement that his predecessor had reached with the Taliban to remove all remaining forces from Afghanistan by May 1st of this year,” Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in testimony. “As a result, upon taking office, President Biden immediately faced the choice between ending the war or escalating it.”

“Had he not followed through on his predecessor’s commitment, attacks on our forces and those of our allies would have resumed and the Taliban’s nationwide assault on Afghanistan’s major cities would have commenced,” Blinken continued. “That would have required sending substantially more U.S. forces into Afghanistan to defend ourselves and prevent a Taliban takeover, taking casualties — and with at best the prospect of restoring a stalemate and remaining stuck in Afghanistan, under fire, indefinitely.”

“There is no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining,” Blinken concluded. “If 20 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in support, equipment, and training did not suffice, why would another year, another five, another ten?”

Odds of passage

Impeachment requires a majority vote in the House, which kicks off a Senate trial requiring a two-thirds vote for conviction and removal from office. This impeachment resolution has attracted 14 cosponsors, all Republicans, and awaits a potential vote in the House Judiciary Committee.

Odds of passage are low in the Democratic-controlled chamber, not to mention the higher two-thirds threshold requires for the Senate as well. While of course most Democrats and Blinken himself would oppose impeachment, some Republicans would as well.

“It’s too early,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE2) told Politico. “When I think about impeachment, you know, it’s high crimes and misdemeanors. What I see is gross incompetence and weakness. So we’re gonna have to work our way through what that means.”

A Cabinet official has been impeached just once in U.S. history: President Grant’s Secretary of War William W. Belknap in 1876, on charges of corruption. Though the House unanimously impeached him, the Senate later acquitted, approving the conviction on all five charges by majority votes but shy of the two-thirds threshold required. (Belknap had already resigned the office anyway, so the vote was “for show” more than an actual determinant of his ability to remain in office.)

Last updated Oct 5, 2021. View all GovTrack summaries.

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