EDITORIAL: Trump, GOP ignoring impeachment reality

York Dispatch Editorial Board
President Donald Trump talks to reporters last week on the South Lawn of the White House.

If there were any doubts that President Donald Trump has remade the Republican Party in his own image, they can be laid to rest in the wake of the House vote to formalize its impeachment inquiry.

In teeing up the vote, House Democrats pointed repeatedly and emphatically to corroborated allegations that the president has abused the power of his office in an effort to benefit personally and politically. In response, congressional Republicans did their Trumpian best to insult House leaders, tarnish witnesses, decry the process and deny reality.

It was to be expected that Trump, the king of superlatives, would brand the inquiry “The Greatest Witch Hunt in American History!”

What’s telling is how the party faithful have fallen into line.

More:Smucker, Perry blast House Dems after impeachment rules vote

“A blatant and obvious coup to unseat a sitting president of the United States,” was how Rep. Ross Spano, R-Fla., hyperbolically and inaccurately characterized the inquiry.

“A sham process … a witch hunt,” added area Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, who along with the rest of the House’s Republicans, including Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, voted against the inquiry.

“What we’re seeing among Democrats on the Intelligence Committee is like a cult,” said the committee’s top Republican, Devin Nunes. “These are a group of people loyally following their leader as he bounces from one outlandish conspiracy to another.” (That last sentence is as good a definition as any for the word “projection.”)

Enough with the hyperventilating and attacks!

As congressional committees gathered facts about the president’s actions these past few weeks — and they were full congressional committees, Democrats and Republicans — Trump and his allies complained the process was secretive, unfair and denied the president due process.

Never mind that it was a fact-finding inquiry, not a trial. Nevertheless, Republicans demanded the process be held in public. Now that Democrats have conceded, it’s time the GOP faced facts.

This image from video made available by House TV on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019 shows the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington and the vote count to approve the rules for its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. (House TV via AP)

Congressional Republicans need to cease the ad hominem attacks and whining about the process and engage in the substance of the allegations, which are serious, unprecedented and exceedingly troubling.

The president — by his own admission and as confirmed by nearly a dozen highly placed government officials — sought foreign assistance to dig up dirt on a rival and dispel the findings of his own nation’s intelligence agencies.

That is a stunning allegation — unthinkable in any past administration and indefensible to its core. Which is evidently why Republicans from Trump on down have done everything they can think of except try to defend it:

  • They argue there was no quid pro quo. While there almost certainly was, none is needed. The president sought foreign assistance.
  • They demand the identity of the whistleblower. The allegations in the initial complaint have been largely proven, making the identity of the person who first raised them immaterial — unless one plans to disparage that person’s character or motives.
  • They say “read the transcript” of the president’s “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. There is no transcript; just a partial summary, which quotes Trump pressing Zelenskiy for “a favor.”
  • They call the process a sham and the charges baseless. And they leave it at that.

Like Trump, the Republican Party is living in its own world, creating its own reality reinforced by conservative opinionistas and reliably right-wing Fox News.

Reality is about to intrude. The public hearings they demanded will provide the GOP, and the nation, clear evidence of the president’s actions. Will Republicans, like the party leader they’ve come to emulate, continue to ignore that reality?

Only if their constituents let them.

“During Watergate we did not have Fox News,” NBC correspondent Heidi Przybyla said during a recent report. “We did not have an alternative-facts universe. They were all operating from the same set of facts and principles and standards. … Republicans aren’t going to lead, the poll numbers are going to lead the Republicans.”

Public opinion may be the only way to bring Republicans — and politics — back to reality.