The prevailing meme on how to impeach Donald Trump post-Ukraine-gate is to "keep it simple." Specifically, focus on the call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. Without a doubt, the call and what Trump said on it warrant impeachment.
For three years, Trump and his enablers have been telling us he did not collude with Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election in his favor. The transcript of the Zelensky call tells a different story. It clearly shows Trump not just colluding, but blatantly attempting to orchestrate a new round of foreign interference on his behalf by what appears to have been a reluctant Ukrainian president. As if saying to US law enforcement and Congress, "Here I'm doing it again, see if you can stop me this time."
But it gets worse. Far from being the enthusiastic participant Putin was, Zelensky appears to have wanted no part of it. At which point Trump doubles down and directly ties military aid to combat a Russian offensive with Zelensky's cooperation in fabricating politically damaging evidence against 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, whom Trump seems to assume or want to be the eventual nominee.
Is this treasonous? Let us count the ways. First of all, Trump is again doing Putin's bidding. The Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine is a major security threat to the region, and it is certainly in the best interest of US national security to mitigate that. Zelensky and the Ukrainians are resisting the Russian offensive. Trump's approach is an aid to the Russian offensive and a detriment to the Ukrainian resistance.
The argument can be made that a US proxy war with Russia in eastern Ukraine is not the way to promote peace in the region. Likely it is not. That, however, does not in any way justify Trump going rogue to aid the Russians.
The problem for the Democrats is that although Ukraine-gate gives them plenty of good cause for impeachment, and it does, it is difficult to divorce from previous Trump transgressions. The Ukrainian phone call took place on the day after Mueller's testimony before Congress a day when Democrats had all the evidence they needed to impeach and no stomach for doing anything about it.
If the election interference component of Ukraine-gate sounds familiar, it should; it is Trump trying to use the same playbook that got him elected in 2016. The problem and the accelerant here is that neither Congress nor the Justice Department took any meaningful legal action to confront Trump's blatantly unlawful conduct.
What is different about Ukraine-gate appears to be that the public gets it. It is, for whatever reason, resonating with voters in a way that Russian interference in the 2016 election, the firing of the director of the FBI to obstruct the subsequent investigation, the Mueller report, or the deliberate torture of child asylum seekers at the US-Mexican border did not. This one is not necessarily more serious -- they were all mind-bogglingly serious -- but it is more marketable.
Trump's conduct in the Ukrainian affair, as in the other impeachable instances, is patently illegal. He is a clear and present danger to US and global security. If the public now sees that through the lens of Ukraine-gate, then so be it. Public awareness of the scope of the Trump threat is long overdue.
The danger here is that Pelosi and Democrats deferred to public opinion and were resigned to inaction because of fear of political consequences. Yes, they now have a more compelling issue in the court of public opinion.
But they also have a rogue and criminal president who is emboldened by his ability to flout the law and the Constitution and strengthened by additional time to marshal the resources of the American presidency to consolidate his grip on power. This is the danger of subjugating the rule of law to public opinion and political expediency. The rule of law becomes a reality TV show, literally.
Defending the Constitution is not guaranteed to be clean, fun, or politically convenient, but the alternatives are the stuff of fascist revolution.
It would probably be a sound strategy for the Democrats not to forgive through omission Trump's previous illegal conduct. They may choose to focus on Ukraine-gate, which depending upon what is on the super-secret NSC server may be only be getting started, but they should not lose sight of or trivialize the conduct that set the stage for the call with Zelensky.
The Democrats need to keep all options on the table at this stage.
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