WASHINGTON — President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which he asked him for that “favor” of getting political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, has convinced House Democrats to throw caution to the winds and go for President Donald Trump’s impeachment with no further delay.
With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, once reluctant, leading the way and armed with new ammunition with which to corral nearly all fellow Democrats in her flock, the odds for a House vote against the president are soaring.
Much less certain, however, is the prospect that enough Senate Republicans will break their solid allegiance to Trump. A two-thirds Senate majority is required for conviction, and that seems a longshot right now.
Consequently, a debate is in the offing on Capitol Hill and in party circles on whether the president will be hurt by the latest Ukrainian political bombshell or, as some hopeful Republican argue, it will help him in rallying the faithful to his defense. Trump himself has started mobilizing his base by reprising his chorus of “witch hunt” and other conspiratorial themes that have become commonplace in his rhetorical arsenal.
The same sort of debate is being heard on how what the Ukrainian saga will hurt or help Biden’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He started out as the clear frontrunner, but in recent weeks he has slipped in the polls, to the point that he fell slightly behind rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the latest Des Moines Register survey of Iowa voters.
The state kicks off the convention delegate-selecting process each four years and is regarded as critical, especially to candidates far behind in the polls. Biden has stepped up his campaigning there amid reports his paid advertising in Iowa has fallen off. Still, he enjoys the highest voter recognition, particularly among older voters and African Americans in Southern states.
For months, various House committees have been investigating aspects of the political case against the president, and they are continuing. In her new, robust impeachment strategy, Pelosi has authorized a special committee under Rep. Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence committee, focused especially on Trump’s dealing with Ukraine and his pitch for aid from its president.
Trump’s behavior bears a close resemblance to his 2016 campaign courtship of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was the principal subject of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that found no evidence Trump had conspired with the Russian government in that election. However, the report failed to exonerate Trump in 10 specific incidents of suspected wrongdoing.
Sidetracked somewhat in deference to the Schiff effort is the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, which has met with some criticism for letting former Trump campaign Corey Lewandowski off the hook for his uncooperative and even disrespectful responses at a recent hearing.
Nadler’s inquiry nevertheless continues to address the various other allegations against Trump, from violating the emoluments s clauses barring presidential enrichment from foreign sources to withholding multiple yearly tax returns from federal scrutiny.
But with Pelosi guiding the whole process with a steady hand, Trump’s open call on Zelenskiy to interfere in the 2020 American election in return for hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to protect our Ukrainian ally against continued Russian subversion now holds center stage.
This obvious offer of quid pro quo in plain sight is an astonishing capstone of Trump’s unabashed readiness to abuse the power of his office for personal and political advantage. It goes directly and nakedly to his unfitness to fulfill his Article II obligation to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States,” and “preserve and defend the Constitution.”
Unlike the Mueller report, hedged with a sketchy road to possible impeachment, Trump’s admission in his own words released by the White House provides unambiguous evidence that he can’t be trusted with running this great country any longer under its sacred rule of law.