The impeachment proceedings might strengthen President Donald J. Trump by emboldening his lies, enraging and enlivening his sycophantic base and smearing Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. A vote by the Senate not to convict — which would certainly follow an impeachment by the House — might persuade uncertain voters that Trump has been the victim of a witch hunt, as he claims.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is nevertheless doing the right thing. There are times in the history of the republic when standing up for justice, for the Constitution and for democratic values is the only righteous course. This is one of those times.
The founders of this republic set aside one remedy for what the Constitution describes as “high crimes and misdemeanors.” They left it to Congress and to the American people to determine what misdeeds and malfeasance fit the bill. But there is no doubt in this case: Even with the evidence currently in view, it’s clear that Trump has endangered national security, sold out the national interest and extorted the leader of a weak foreign country for personal political gain. Those are the very definitions of “high crimes.” If there have ever been reasons to impeach (and remove) a president from office, Trump has provided more than enough.
He invited foreign interference in an American election — for the second time! During his 2016 campaign, he publicly encouraged the Russian government to continue hacking the emails of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. In his now-notorious phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump wanted the Biden family investigated. Trump has never cared about corruption — his own or anyone else’s. He views Biden as his strongest opponent, and he wants Ukraine’s help to weaken his political rival.
Don’t be fooled by the equivocating Trump-pleasers who insist that the president didn’t explicitly threaten to withhold military aid, according to notes of the telephone conversation. In legal terms, that hardly matters. Countless mobsters and politicians have been convicted and sentenced to prison for much less.
Moreover, Trump’s corrupt minions in high places tried to cover up his malfeasance, according to the whistleblower’s complaint. “In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all the records of the phone call,” said the whistleblower, an unidentified intelligence official.
If Congress doesn’t at least attempt to remove Trump, the Oval Office will no longer stand as the platform for the leader of the free world but rather as a debased playground for the morally impaired. It would invite any degenerate autocrat more interested in personal enrichment than democratic leadership.
Even before the ugly episode with the Ukrainian president was revealed, Trump had courted impeachment. Despite the president’s claims that he was fully exonerated by the report that followed the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller, he wasn’t. The report gave ample evidence of Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice.
Then there are the many, many instances of clear corruption and perhaps even treason to which we have become inured. Trump has violated national security by giving security clearances to his family members over the objections of intelligence officials. He has given classified information, apparently, to at least one of our foreign adversaries. He has used the Oval Office to enrich himself and his family, advising foreign guests and Cabinet members to stay in Trump-owned properties. And he has presided over one of the most corrupt administrations in presidential history, with numerous Cabinet officials credibly accused of using their offices for personal gain.
For months, Pelosi resisted starting impeachment proceedings, and I believed she was correct to do so. She believed that some of her more vulnerable caucus members — those elected from right-leaning districts — might lose re-election in 2020, costing Democrats the House. But several of those same Democrats have stepped forward now to say that they want those proceedings to begin. They know that trying to save the Constitution is more important than saving their political careers.
These proceedings won’t lead to Trump’s removal from office. The Republican Party that persuaded Richard Nixon to resign is long dead. But American democracy isn’t — not yet, anyway. Impeachment proceedings could help save it.