For months, media pollsters and political pundits have been asking the wrong questions about impeachment. Cable TV commentators and op-ed columnists have been clamoring about the “politics of impeachment,” questioning whether seeking to remove President Donald Trump would be a victory for Democrats or instead something closer to political suicide in the lead up to the 2020 election.
But the politics of impeachment never should have been what Democrats were focused on. Rather, Congress and those in the Democratic leadership owe it to the American people to ensure that no individual—even the President of the United States—is above the law.
Now it has become clearer than ever that political punditry and public opinion polls ought to be left at the wayside when it comes to impeachment. The recent whistleblower report, which alleges Trump repeatedly pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, just days after withholding US military aid—is so disturbing that Congressional Democrats can no longer fail to act on Trump’s blatant corruption and lawlessness.
The president has openly acknowledged that his call with Ukraine included direct requests to Zelensky to investigate Biden. The most generous interpretation of Trump’s conduct is that the President of the United States explicitly invited interference in our elections from a foreign government. The reality may somehow be far worse, as it appears possible—if not overwhelmingly likely—that the President has engaged in a direct quid-pro-quo, dangling military aid to Ukraine in exchange for political favors and information on Trump’s most high profile domestic political opponent.
So, to hell with D.C. consultants and the opinions of the political class. To let Trump’s conduct go unchecked—particularly when it is laid out directly in broad daylight, by the President’s own admission—is to aid and abet the deliberate destruction of America’s long standing democratic institutions.
And just as the Democrats should eschew polls and punditry, they should give little credence to the idea that impeachment is a fool’s errand simply because they lack votes to convict in the Senate. To rule out impeachment under this pretense would be to establish a standard such that Trump—or any president, for that matter—can get away with criminal conduct so long as a third of all U.S. senators are content to serve as loyal sycophants. Just this week, former Republican Senator Jeff Flake—who is hardly a profile in courage—said in an interview that he knows at least 35 GOP Senators who would secretly vote to impeach Trump. In lieu of an imaginary secret ballot, Democrats should hold the GOP’s feet to the fire and make them cast a vote for the world to see.
Perhaps the man who has most pointedly summed up Trump’s recent criminal conduct is not a Democrat, but instead a Republican. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, who is waging a noble primary challenge against Trump, said of Trump’s conduct: “that’s not just undermining democratic institutions, that is treason. It’s treason pure and simple.” Weld’s comments were even more explicit, as he noted that treason is punishable by death under U.S. law.
Of course, nobody is calling for Trump to be put to death. But given the severity of the allegations put forward in the whistleblower complaint, Trump deserves the political equivalent. Trump’s conduct is so egregious that polls, punditry, and concerns of cowardly Republican senators are no longer acceptable justification for avoiding an impeachment inquiry. The United States Congress and the Democratic leadership have no choice but to impeach Donald Trump and issue what one can only hope will be a fatal blow to this presidency.