A president with contempt for the law and a habit of inviting foreign interference in American elections gave the House of Representatives little choice but to take the fateful plunge toward impeachment.
We have long believed President Trump to be unfit for the presidency. We have long feared that impeaching him, and doing so in the midst of a reelection campaign no less, will supercharge his politics of grievance, increasing his chances of winning a second term.
In the past week, however, the case for the House to take the extraordinary step of arguing for removal of the chief executive and sending the case to the Senate, where a conviction is highly unlikely, has strengthened.
The trigger is the alleged attempt to strong-arm Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter — in other words, Trump’s use of the powers of the presidency to coerce a foreign leader to do his dirty work in an American election, under possible threat of losing nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid.
Trump announced Tuesday that the transcript of his July 25 conversation with Zelensky would be released Wednesday afternoon. “No quid pro," he insists it will demonstrate.
The call transcript is only one piece of the puzzle. The larger picture of this scandal is coming into focus, and it is damning indeed.
Because Trump admitted Tuesday that, yes, the Ukraine money was held back this summer, shortly before he put the squeeze on Zelensky.
Because the aid was abruptly released just as the scandal broke earlier this month.
Because it now seems that when Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, overtly pressured Ukrainians for months to dig up dirt on the Bidens and admitted Monday, he was acting under the auspices of the State Department.
The transcript of the Zelensky call is necessary but insufficient evidence of how deep the rot may go. The intelligence community whistleblower who sparked these latest investigations reportedly states that the call was not the only reason a formal complaint was filed to the intelligence committee’s inspector general, who deemed it an “urgent concern.” The acting director of national intelligence should have promptly turned that over to Congress, except the Justice Department blocked it.
We have long known the breadth of Donald Trump’s abuses of power. The House’s job now is to determine their depth. And to do so meticulously, guided by evidence — lest sloppiness and vindictiveness make the whole damn thing backfire.