Was there linkage between the withholding of U.S. military aid and the U.S. demand for a Ukrainian state investigation of the Bidens?
"Was there a quid pro quo?"
This question has bedeviled this city for months now. "The answer is yes," said U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland in sworn testimony on Wednesday.
Sondland added that President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, national security adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence were all wired in to what was up:
"They knew what we were doing and why. ... Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret."
And so where are we headed now?
The House intel and judiciary committees will advance one or more articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the House floor, where they will be agreed upon in party-line votes and sent to the Senate for trial.
Impeachment appears as inevitable as anything in politics today.
Some are pressing the House, after Sondland, to slow down, cast a wider net, and demand the sworn testimony of Pompeo, Mulvaney, Pence, Bolton and Giuliani. Others are urging the House to strike while the iron is hot, move impeachment swiftly, and get it all done before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.
As the goal of the more rabid anti-Trumpers is to impeach, convict and remove the president, and then proceed with civil and criminal charges, this looks to be a fight to the death.
Mulvaney may have shown the White House the way to fight a month ago. Asked whether the withholding of aid to Ukraine until an investigation of the Bidens had been announced was not the definition of a "quid pro quo," Mulvaney blurted out:
"We do that all the time. ... No question about it... That's why we held up the money. I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy." Welcome to the real world.
In return for meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump had a right to demand that Ukraine initiate an investigation into its most corrupt company, Burisma. Especially since the ne'er-do-well son of Vice President Joe Biden had been given a $50,000-a-month seat on Burisma's board just days after Joe demanded and got the resignation of the state prosecutor and signed off on a billion-dollar loan guarantee for this third-most corrupt regime on earth.
We read often that allegations of corruption in the smelly deal that put Hunter Biden on Burisma's board are "unfounded."
Who did the investigating?
And what are we to make of the crocodile tears of Democrats that Ukrainian soldiers battling secessionists and Russians in the Donbass have died for lack of U.S. weapons held up by Trump?
Is this not manifest hypocrisy?
Most Ukrainian government officials were not even aware that the military aid for which Congress voted was being held up. And from 2014, when Vladimir Putin's Russia seized Crimea and backed the secessionists in the Donbass, to 2017, President Barack Obama confined military aid to the Ukrainians to "sending blankets and meals," as said the late Sen. John McCain.
If Trump imperiled "national security" by withholding for two months this latest tranche of military aid, did not Obama more gravely imperil our national security by denying Ukraine lethal aid for years?
Among the foreign service professionals who testified to Adam Schiff's intel committee this week, none chose to associate himself with charges of "crimes" or "bribery" having been committed during that controversial phone call of July 25.
Indeed, the weakness of the Democratic case may be found in the endless escalation of the charges. First, Trump was guilty of a quid pro quo, and then an abuse of power, and then throwing fighting Ukrainian allies to the wolves. Next, it was bribery.
But how is it bribery for a president, responsible for seeing that the laws are faithfully executed, to insist that a regime dependent on U.S. aid investigate a conflict of interest and potential corruption when the enriched beneficiary is the son of the vice president of the USA?
Even before his first day in office, President Trump was in the gun sights of the "deep state" and its media auxiliaries.
And the origins of that "Get Trump!" conspiracy inside the "deep state" are now under investigation by the Inspector General of the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham.
The issue at hand: Criminal misconduct inside the U.S. government to determine the outcome of an election, and, failing that, to remove a president our government elite cannot abide.
Bottom line: If this country is not to be torn apart for a decade, the decision to retain or remove President Trump should be made by those who put him in the White House and not by rabid partisans like Adam Schiff.
Let the people decide the fate and future of the president of the United States. After all, they were the ones who hired him.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of "Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever." To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.