Democrats make their impeachment case
House Democrats this week prepared a report making the case for impeaching President Trump, after completing public hearings in which a dozen witnesses testified about the White House’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponent. The House Intelligence Committee will send a report on its findings to the Judiciary Committee, with Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff saying the panel’s inquiry had already uncovered “massive amounts of evidence” of “corrupt intent” by the president to use U.S. military aid to bribe Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 elections. Last week, former National Security Council official Fiona Hill bluntly described the Ukraine pressure campaign orchestrated by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland as a “domestic political errand” in conflict with national security interests—and said she warned Sondland it would “blow up.”
The Judiciary Committee is expected to move quickly on debating and drafting articles of impeachment, so that the full House of Representatives can vote on impeachment before the end of the year. A Senate trial would begin in January. Although such key witnesses as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney have refused to testify, Schiff said he is moving forward anyway. “We will not allow the president or others to drag this out for months on end in the courts,” Schiff said.
What the editorials said
The case against Trump is clear, said The Washington Post. “The Constitution specifically lists bribery as an impeachable offense,” and federal law defines bribery as giving or offering “anything of value” in exchange for official acts. When the president dangled $400 million in frozen military aid before Ukraine for months while repeatedly pressing for an investigation that would benefit him politically, that was bribery. Multiple witnesses have testified the president wasn’t actually concerned with corruption in Ukraine, with Sondland testifying that Trump only cared that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky announce an investigation of the Bidens. Actually, the impeachment hearings were a waste of time, said the New York Post. Multiple officials said it was their “impression” or understanding that Trump wanted to squeeze Ukraine for investigations. But not one witness actually heard the president directly order a quid pro quo to get “dirt” on Biden. “None of this will move the needle for anyone on the fence.”
What the columnists said
Everything we heard in two weeks of testimony backs up “the charge that President Trump muscled Ukraine for political gain,” said Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. House Republicans haven’t even bothered protesting that Trump would never stoop to investigating a political rival, because everyone knows this is how he operates. “The case has been so clearly made, you wonder what exactly the Senate will be left doing.” With the trial coming so close to an election, Republican senators will probably decide “to let the people decide.” Since our country is so bitterly divided, that’s the best way to go.
The hearings haven’t changed voters’ minds, said Jennifer Agiesta in CNN.com. Support for impeachment “remains exactly the same as it was in October.” Fifty percent of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 43 percent say no. “Democrats have only themselves to blame” for their failure to move the needle, said Noah Rothman in NBCNews.com. It’s undeniable that Trump abused his power for personal gain. But Democrats have seized on the term “bribery” hoping it would resonate more with voters than abuse of power or blackmail. These “rhetorical contortions” have backfired, allowing Republicans to argue that Trump didn’t actually receive or give any bribes.
Trump’s worst crime is his assault on democracy, said Adam Serwer in TheAtlantic.com. He tried “to rig the 2020 election” by blackmailing a weaker foreign country at war with Russia to cook up bogus charges against one of the leading Democratic candidates. “It was, in short, a conspiracy by Trump and his advisers to keep themselves in power” by leveraging the power of the presidency. “The republic’s Founders foresaw such a circumstance, and created the impeachment clause as a last resort against it.” The primary crime for which Trump is being impeached: “scheming to defraud the American people of a free and fair election.”
Cover illustration by Fred Harper.
Cover photos from Reuters, Getty, Alamy ■