There was little expectation that the impeachment of Donald J. Trump would progress as the nation’s Founders had structured the process to include responsibilities and ceremony: that the president’s defenders would participate in the House committees’ deliberations, that the Senate would add to the debate with its witnesses, documents and discussion, and that members of the jury, the senators of the president’s party, would make even approximate objective decisions about his guilt or innocence.
What took place, by the president and with his orders, resembled nothing the Founders could have envisioned.
The president’s and the Republican Party’s obstacles to the process were deep and wide, and strained belief. That the flagrant quid pro quo (“the perfect call”) that put the president’s re-election desires above the interests of the country did not take place, that the House committees should appeal to the courts before expecting to hear from witnesses close to the president, and that it was not necessary for the Senate to require its own witnesses and documents, has reflected miserably on that party.
The best any Senate members could do, a few of them, was to say informally, in hallways, that yes, what the president did was a quid pro quo but that it didn’t rise to the level of impeachment. The fear of the president runs deep.
Put us in the camp of those who say that bribing a neighbor of Russia by withholding promised arms, a country fighting a low-level but critical war with a country which long-term challenges this country’s right to survive, was an abuse of power. That is a clear example of exactly what the Founders wanted punished with ouster from the presidency.
And as the details became public of what occurred before and after the president’s call, it is clear that the president’s conversation was no spur-of-the-moment impulse. His closest advisors had laid the groundwork, and the former mayor of New York, who was concurrently making his own foreign business, was operating for the president at his direction on a parallel course. One clear result was that a quality ambassador got the boot for being in the way. No wonder career staffers in government positions were appalled and spoke up fully during the House investigations. John Bolton, who said what was going on was “a drug deal” and wanted no part of it, will have a lot to say in the near future, as well. We look forward to it.
The president has shown no contrition about what he did – none. On the contrary, he is railing anew at Democrats and at the one Republican senator who voted with courage and conviction. Mitt Romney makes clear the importance of his vote to him, to his legacy, and its origins in his faith and in his belief in the Constitution. That is the model we expect from the country’s senators. Under this president, there is no indication that any other Republican senator – or member of the House – is willing to do the same. The fear of the president runs deep.
We know from a slim history that there is no perfect impeachment of a president, but what transpired because of this president and his subordinates has set the lowest possible example.
To those who say the decision whether to oust the president should have been left to voters in November, we say, no. The president’s self-serving action was too severe to be set aside, no matter when the election.
Had the House committees not worked to uncover what had transpired, Americans might likely never have known the breadth of what took place and its components affirmed. Honest elections are at the core of democracy, on which this country is built, and any attempt at upending them by the person highest in power made an impeachment even more necessary.