The way we answer the call for Donald Trump’s impeachment will reveal whether we want America to continue as an exceptional democracy or to become an ordinary dictatorship.
The House Judiciary Committee is debating two articles of impeachment, namely obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. If, as expected, the articles of impeachment pass the committee, they’ll move on to the House.
It’s very possible that, before Christmas, Donald Trump will be the third president to be impeached in American history.
For the next while, and in the New Year, we will be inundated with stunts and spin competing with the very simple facts that provide a solid basis to impeach Donald Trump.
Republicans will try to convince us that Trump’s threat to feed Ukraine to the Russian bear if he doesn’t get what he wants isn’t an impeachable offense.
We really don’t need more information to know that Trump did it, that it was wrong and that it is an impeachable offense.
Trump’s own readout of his phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky said he wanted the new president to investigate alleged corruption by Joe and Hunter Biden. Ambassador Sondland clarified that Trump was actually more interested in a mere announcement of an investigation rather than undertaking one. Failure to do so be punished by denial of military aid. That punishment amounts to feeding Ukraine to the Russian bear.
Trump’s staunchest defenders will deny this happened, despite the fact that Trump’s own readout provides the proof. Some of them will tell us the lie that Ukraine got its aid, when in fact, Ukraine is still waiting for the aid it was promised.
Now, the OMB has a new story about the aid, as reflected in a Washington Post story published late on Wednesday night. After Trump’s attempt to deny the aid went down in flames and the claim that Ukraine got the aid fell apart, the OMB stepped into explain, in the form of a memo, why it was justified when it opted to withhold the promised aid.
Describing the practice as the routine, the OMB memo says, in part,
“Often, in managing appropriations, OMB must briefly pause an agency’s legal ability to spend those funds for a number of reasons, including to ensure that the funds are being spent efficiently, that they are being spent in accordance with statutory directives, or to assess how or whether funds should be used for a particular activity.”
This is the OMB trying to take one for the MAGA team. The only problem is, even if this is true, it’s irrelevant. Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense during that phone conversation with the president of Ukraine. What happened after that doesn’t matter. What other people did also doesn’t matter.
The only thing that does matter for the purpose of considering if Trump should be impeached is if during that phone call, he abused his power by seeking personal favors in exchange for an official benefit. The answer to that question is a simple, unconditional and straightforward yes. If you believe Donald Trump’s own readout of that call, factually and logically speaking you acknowledge a basis to impeach him that has nothing to do with partisanship, coups and other conspiracy theories. And if you support impeachment, then you support America continuing to be an exceptional democracy.
However, if you believe the readout but oppose impeachment you are, in reality, saying you believe the president should be above the law. That’s this president and any other in the future because, once you open that can of worms, it can’t be closed. You support America becoming an ordinary dictatorship.
I say this because the Constitution is specific when it comes to foreign influence over our president and our politics. It’s why there is an emoluments clause forbidding presidents from accepting financial benefits from foreign countries. Such benefits amount to leverage over the president as a basis to influence policy to the detriment of the United States.
It’s why only natural born American citizens are eligible to run for the presidency. Ironically, there was debate about this provision by Republicans as early as 2003. But that’s a separate topic and moot for the 2020 election.
The fact that Donald Trump sought Ukraine’s help is, in reality, part of a larger pattern of behavior, as seen in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Republicans try to spin this as being about hating Trump or having a temper tantrum over the results of 2016. Don’t fall for it. The calls for investigation were because of Russia’s interference – not because Trump won.
No serious minded person believes the impeachment power should be used to undo an election. But if someone cheats their way to the presidency with help from foreign powers and shows intent to do so again, not only does that call for impeachment, then another election is not a remedy.
The case of Ukraine is evidence of that tactic being repeated.
To make things worse, there is another step in a descent into tyranny, also addressed by the articles of impeachment. We have seen in real time the basis for the second article, namely obstruction of Congress. Trump ordered every witness not to appear and refused to turn over any documents.
As the proceedings continue, it’s important to remember the impeachment power was written because the Founders anticipated, with great concern, a president exactly like Donald Trump.
It’s up to us to decide whether we want our children to inherit an exceptional democracy or an ordinary dictatorship.