The dangers posed by a Donald Trump presidency were evident long before the 2016 election. This newspaper made no secret of its position regarding Trump's unfitness for the job. But immediately after his election, we called on the nation to unite behind him — not to feed Trump's substantial ego but to sustain the nation's trajectory of success. The subheadline on our Nov. 10, 2016, editorial stated: "Give him a chance to succeed." We cautioned, however: "If he hopes to unite the country, Trump must find ways to control his worst impulses and consistently measure his words."
Three years later, the nation is perhaps more divided than at any time since the Civil War. Trump seems incapable of controlling his worst impulses or measuring his words. That's exactly why he now finds himself on the verge of impeachment.
Try as Republicans in Congress might to blame his legal problems on an unfair process manipulated by Democrats, Trump's own actions are what prompted this constitutional crisis. Yet the party of personal responsibility refuses to hold Trump responsible.
Impeachment is 100% justified because Trump betrayed America's national interests for the sake of his own political gain. No matter how many times Trump and his GOP supporters insist that he did "nothing wrong," any objective observer can see that he violated the Constitution by soliciting Ukraine's help to undermine the presidential candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden.
In fact, objective observers were listening in on the July 25 phone call when Trump demanded a favor of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, making clear from the context that badly needed U.S. military aid hung in the balance. Those observers sounded alarms almost immediately, and it was only after a whistleblower filed a complaint that Trump freed up the nearly $400 million in military aid he had suspended.
Then-national security adviser John Bolton denounced the administration's political manipulation of Ukraine as a "drug deal." Trump's ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, stated that the "favor" Trump solicited from Zelenskiy was a quid pro quo proposition.
One listener on the call, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated Iraq War veteran, testified that it was "improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent," and that withholding aid to Ukraine would "undermine U.S. national security, and advance Russia's strategic objectives in the region."
No matter which observer spoke out against Trump's actions, that person was harshly denounced by the White House or Trump's apologists in Congress as a traitor to the Trump cause. Instead of pausing to reflect on the substantial evidence of Trump's wrongdoing, House Republicans have blindly stood by the president — not necessarily because they believe he's innocent or because they're acting in the nation's best interests, but because they fear an electoral backlash from Trump's base.
These same supporters previously insisted that nefarious, evil "deep state" forces were behind the FBI investigation of potential collusion between Russia and Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Yet an independent inspector general's report on Monday concluded that the FBI was justified in launching that investigation.
"The FBI's work was perceived as a threat to the president, and many Republicans apparently believe that all threats to Trump must be destroyed, no matter the cost to the nation," former FBI Director James Comey writes on Wednesday's op-ed page. Comey should know. Merely for doing his job, he was perceived as one of those "threats to Trump." Therefore, Republicans set out to destroy him, no matter what damage they inflicted on the nation.
For the thousands of lies Trump has spoken and tweeted during his presidency, no objective observer could credibly claim those constituted impeachable offenses. For his diversion of Defense Department funds and military personnel to assist with construction of a border wall, impeachment was never seriously contemplated. For all his insults, foul language and embracing of white supremacists, Trump remained within his rights as president. Wrong as he was, that didn't make him impeachable.
Republicans are turning a willful, blind eye to the fact — yes, fact — that Trump undermined Ukraine's security for his own political gain and, in doing so, strengthened the hand of America's arch foe, Russia. His abuse of power absolutely is an impeachable offense, as is his obstruction of congressional efforts to investigate his actions.
If Trump really had done nothing wrong, why is he going to such great lengths to hide the truth? If he truly was interested only in fighting corruption in Ukraine, why did the word "corruption" never once appear in the official White House transcript of the July 25 call?
Our 2016 post-election editorial concluded: "For Trump to be successful, he must deliver results. His critics must not blindly oppose him simply because they disagree with him. His supporters must not blindly applaud him even when he falls short." Democrats, and more than a few congressional Republicans, have had to swallow their pride and bite their tongues over the multiple ways Trump has divided the nation and undermined the dignity of his office.
Impeachment looms not because of Trump's opponents but because of Trump himself. Trump has fallen short, and unless Republicans stop blindly supporting him, he will drag the nation into the abyss.
So we again appeal to his supporters on Capitol Hill: Trump has not earned your loyalty. If he doesn't receive the strong rebuke that impeachment and a Senate trial would bring, worse Trumpian offenses loom in America's future.
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