EDITORIAL: Don’t stop short on impeachment

York Dispatch Editorial Board
Former White House national security aide Fiona Hill, right, and David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, are sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Andrew Harrer/Pool Photo via AP)

During two weeks of public hearings, House Democrats have laid out a compelling case for bringing articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

One after another, career government officials and diplomats have corroborated the initial whistleblower assertion: The president sought to make an official White House visit and some $400 million in military aid to Ukraine contingent on that country’s president announcing plans to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory about the origin of 2016 election meddling, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden’s son’s role on the board of a Ukrainian power company.

The findings of the investigation weren’t important to the president — indeed, there was nothing in either case to find. But the announcement would allow Trump to tar a possible opponent in the 2020 presidential election while discrediting the determination by Special Counsel Mueller and U.S. intelligence that Russia sought to influence the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.

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There is no arguing these findings. Yet the president’s Republican defenders continue to ignore or dismiss them.

Pennsylvania’s Sen. Pat Toomey is one of many GOP lawmakers embracing the “it’s-bad-but-not-bad-enough-to-impeach” defense.

Others, like Sen. Lindsay Graham, are simply ignoring the hearings, pretending the incriminating evidence doesn’t exist (much like they refused to read the Mueller report; what they don’t know can’t hurt their guilty consciences, evidently).

And then there are those, like the president himself, who continue to insist he has done nothing wrong. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is still whining there was no quid pro quo — despite first-hand witness testimony, the readout of the president’s phone call and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney all confirming that was indeed the case.

So, while making clear the president has egregiously abused his office for personal and political gain, Democrats have yet to make a dent in the lead-headed party apparatus that is the Trump Protection Program.

In short, their work is not done. Far from it. There is no clock running on the impeachment inquiry and the only deadline has been self-imposed. House inquiry leaders should toss it.

Why have they not called witnesses like the president himself? Or Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s now-indicted Ukrainian associates Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas?

Why are they not fighting the refusal of others, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or former National Security Advisor John Bolton, to testify?

In fact, why do House Democrats continue to shrug off the administration’s wholesale refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry? They claim they don’t want to get dragged into a lengthy legal battle but by simply ceding to unfounded claims of “executive privilege” they forfeit not only the opportunity to conduct a full and thorough investigation but Congress’ very role as a co-equal branch of government constitutionally responsible for executive oversight.

And why are they limiting their investigation to misdeeds associated with Ukraine? From directing government business to his private resorts, to subverting government security parameters to secure clearances for his daughter and son-in-law, to repeated attempts to obstruct justice in the Ukraine and Russia probes, the president respects neither precedent nor probity.

No, House Democrats must put the brakes on the rush to complete their findings. Even plans to revisit allegations in the Mueller report during a one-day hearing next month — fueled by new evidence that emerged in the trial of former Trump advisor Roger Stone that the president may have lied in his written answers to the special counsel — though welcome, are not enough.

Republicans have turned their back on the American people, the Constitution and the rule of law. Democrats must stand up for all three.

Push back against White House obfuscation, ignore the childish name-calling and theatrics by the president and House jesters like Jim Jordan, and carry on the important and very likely historic work of getting to the bottom of this president’s misdeeds.

Then and only then will your work be done.