The House impeaches Trump

President Trump this week became the third president in American history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, which voted along party lines to charge him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to his pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political enemies. The House voted after six hours of rancorous debate, in which Democrats argued that Trump had put his own personal political interests above national security and compromised the integrity of U.S. elections by withholding nearly $400 million in congressionally approved security aid for Ukraine. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee formally explained the charges in a 658-page report that also accused Trump of committing federal crimes as part of his abuse of power, including bribery and wire fraud. “It is tragic that the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty.”

House Republicans fiercely defended Trump, insisting the president did nothing wrong and accusing Democrats of trying to overturn the 2016 election. “They hate this president. They hate those of us who voted for him,” said Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah. “That’s what this vote is.” Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., said that when Jesus was falsely accused, he was given “more rights” than Trump. The night before the vote, President Trump sent an irate and rambling six-page letter to Speaker Pelosi on White House stationery accusing Democrats of conducting an “illegal, partisan attempted coup” and of cheapening “the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”

A handful of moderate Democrats were reportedly pushing Pelosi to withhold sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate and keep them open for months in case further information is obtained. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a speedy acquittal, and refused Democrats’ request that they be able to call new witnesses, including national security adviser John Bolton and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. “I’m not an impartial juror,” McConnell said. “Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel.”

Impeachment “ought to inspire the utmost seriousness and patriotism from members of Congress,” said The Washington Post. Instead, Senate Republicans have baldly declared that they intend to hold a truncated sham trial. If McConnell gets his way, “crucial witnesses to Trump’s alleged abuses of power may never be heard; the president’s flagrant stonewalling of congressional authority may be allowed to stand.” “It’s not the Senate’s job to dig House Democrats out of the disaster their partisan zeal led them into,” said the New York Post. House leaders chose to rush the articles of impeachment to the Senate without hearing from key witnesses because they didn’t want a lengthy court fight over subpoenas dragging impeachment into the middle of the 2020 campaign. Sorry, Dems, you don’t get a “do-over.” What are Republicans afraid of? asked the Houston Chronicle. If more evidence would fully clear Trump, the Senate GOP should welcome hearing from witnesses. A sham trial, on the other hand, would rob the president “of a legitimate claim to the exoneration he says he deserves.”

President Trump is clearly afraid, said David Graham in The Atlantic.com. While he has insisted that impeachment is actually good for him politically, his “apoplectic” letter to Pelosi indicates he knows it’s actually damaging him. A recent Fox News poll showed that 50 percent of Americans support impeaching Trump and removing him from office, and other polls are in the same range. Given “the intensity of anti-Trump feeling,” it’s hard to imagine those voters voting for Trump next November.

Impeachment isn’t popular enough to be justified, said Andrew McCarthy in NationalReview.com. The House shouldn’t even consider impeaching a president unless there is overwhelming public consensus for it, compelling two-thirds of the Senate to remove the president from office. The House’s party-line vote shows there’s nothing close to that on the Ukraine scandal. By sending a case with no chance of conviction to the Senate, Democrats are “trivializing impeachment,” paving the way for a future in which routine impeachments and acquittals are just another feature of Washington’s ceaseless partisan warfare.

The Founders never anticipated today’s “hyperpartisan politics,” said Elizabeth Drew in The New York Times. The Constitution’s framers believed that each branch of government would zealously guard its own power and independence. They never envisioned one party in Congress marching in lockstep to protect a president from accountability, much less Trump’s “almost cultlike” hold over Republicans. Acquittal “may shatter” the last limits on Trump, said Ronald Brownstein in CNN .com. He will rightly conclude that Republicans will stand with him “almost regardless of what he does next,” including soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election. “One party alone cannot defend the norms of democracy and traditional limits on the expansive exercise of presidential power.”