EDITORIAL: House must impeach Trump

The Dispatch Editorial Board
President Donald Trump points to the crowd at the end of his "Keep America Great" rally at the Giant Center in Hershey Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

The impeachment of President Donald Trump is not only correct, it’s necessary.

Trump has earned the two charges leveled against him by the House Judiciary Committee — obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

A more thorough investigation, with a court compelling testimony from White House officials now thumbing their noses at lawful subpoenas, might very well lead to more articles.

As a witness to the House Judiciary Committee said this week, in yet again soliciting foreign interference in our elections, Trump has proven he is an immediate threat.

Trump is a petty swindler and a con man. Since taking office, he’s brought his bargain-bin brand of mob speak to the office — using terms like “rat” to describe those he considers disloyal and ousting anyone who questions his sole grip on power.

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And it’s his use of mafioso-style language — phrases designed to apply pressure while maintaining plausible deniability — that are at the crux of his pending impeachment in the House.

It was phrases such as “do us a favor” that made clear his intent when discussing policy with freshly elected Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy. Trump referenced directly his desire for an investigation into a potential Democratic political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

On the same phone call, he also also asked Zelenskiy to look into Crowdstrike, a company at the heart of the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Hillary Clinton. Never mind that the idea has been debunked by former members of Trump’s own National Security Council as a Kremlin red herring.

These were especially powerful statements from a U.S. president who views every interaction as transactional.

Trump reminded Zelenskiy of the hundreds of millions in military aid Ukraine has received in recent years. Zelenskiy was keenly aware that Trump held the purse strings for the next $400 million, a fund that could prove life or death for the eastern European country’s standoff with an expansionist Russia.

But political legitimacy — the likes of which come from close ties to the White House — was perhaps just as important to Zelenskiy as cash. And a slew of high-ranking State Department officials have testified during the impeachment inquiry that any military aid or White House visit was conditioned on Zelenskiy’s announcement of an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter.

Unsurprisingly, the military aid was held and only released two days after a complaint made by a whistleblower about Trump’s call made headlines. Meanwhile, Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, continued running Trump’s unappointed, unelected shadow State Department.

The entire affair bears a striking resemblance to the allegations that for the past three years Trump fervently denied, in that case regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“No collusion. No obstruction,” the American president would bellow throughout special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

But Mueller said while he could find no evidence of collusion, the Trump campaign did anticipate benefiting from Russia’s interference. Mueller specifically noted he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction and said that any legal recourse was a matter for Congress.

Throughout the Mueller probe, Trump did everything he could to undermine investigators and bury the public in baseless conspiracy theories.

He humiliated and ultimately drove out his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions. He blocked the release of documents and applied executive privilege in an unprecedented way, one that effectively shielded countless current and former White House officials from testifying.

Trump’s playbook in the Ukraine scandal remains unchanged.

He denigrates Congress, showing a level of contempt that would make Caligula blush. He blocks the release of information and ignores lawful congressional subpoenas.

Trump’s congressional sycophants can’t even muster a legitimate defense. Instead, they’ve spent weeks complaining about the process and touring Fox News spouting Russian propaganda. One can’t help but wonder if these spineless Republicans will someday reflect on their behavior and wonder if federal judgeships and tax cuts were worth it.

And no, there’s no reason to expect the Republican-held Senate will convict Trump. Yet, the House has a duty to stand for its own authority and against Trump’s assault on the rule of law.

Trump has eroded the very institutions he has sworn to defend. He’s a man obsessed with his own enrichment. Even now, he’s welcoming the Senate trial because he believes it to be to his political advantage.

Trump’s built a political machine that’s fueled by corruption and actively seeks to undermine American political sovereignty.

If that’s not an abuse of power, nothing is.