Today’s question: Should Congress impeach President Trump? The easy and obvious answer is “yes” because he asked two foreign countries, China and Ukraine, to investigate one of his political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter. That’s against federal law but the question is complicated and deserves more than a simple yes or no answer.
Many of the facts aren’t in dispute. President Trump asked China and Ukraine to intervene in our electoral process in a phone call with Ukraine’s president and in a public statement to a group of White House reporters. “China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump told reporters. The president’s usual apologists quickly claimed he was joking, but Trump never jokes about anything.
That statement followed a phone call to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked for a “favor” while implying that he would renew military aid to that country if Zelensky approved an investigation of the Bidens. “There was no quid pro quo,” said Trump, an important point since impeachment requires a quid pro quo.
Meanwhile, two alleged CIA whistleblowers have come forward to accuse the president of violating the law in his phone call to his Ukrainian counterpart. Congressional investigators will interview them behind closed doors while Democrats continue to ponder filing formal impeachment charges against Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, is being cautious — in fact, too cautious for some of her even more progressive colleagues who want to begin impeachment proceedings immediately. She knows that even if the House impeaches Trump, the Republican-controlled Senate will never convict him and remove him from office, very similar to what happened to ex-President Bill Clinton 20 years ago.
I admire Republicans who’ve had the courage to denounce the president for asking foreign leaders to, in effect, support his reelection campaign. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, an unsuccessful 2012 presidential candidate, called Trump’s behavior “appalling,” while widely respected Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse denounced Trump for urging China to investigate the Bidens. Sasse added American prosecutors should conduct those investigations, “not communist tyrants running torture camps,” and I agree.
It’s a matter of record that Hunter Biden, who had no previous experience in the energy business, was paid $50,000 per month as a board member of a possibly corrupt Ukrainian energy company while his father, the vice president, was in charge of Ukraine policy during the Obama administration. Hunter was also involved in a questionable billion (with a “b”) dollar business deal with China. Hmmm, those sweetheart deals don’t pass the smell test.
One of Trump’s most fervent defenders, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, questioned the president’s actions on Ukraine. “There’s no way to spin the Trump-Ukraine phone call as a ‘good idea,’” Carlson said, and the far right-wing blogosphere went wild with indignation. Welcome to Trump World.
Northern Nevada’s mild-mannered congressman, Carson City Republican Mark Amodei, became ensnared in the impeachment web when he suggested that Congress “should put it (impeachment) through the process and see what happens.” Far right-wingers immediately denounced Amodei as a “traitor” — he was Trump’s Nevada campaign manager in 2016 — while a moderate group calling itself Republicans for the Rule of Law launched a million-dollar TV ad campaign urging the congressman to publicly condemn Trump. Amodei, always quick with a quip, said he’d rather watch old episodes of “Gunsmoke.” Me too, Mark.
The current “impeach Trump” campaign will end like the “impeach Clinton” campaign did in the late 1990s. The Democrat-controlled House will file articles of impeachment but the Republican-controlled Senate won’t remove our mercurial president from office, thereby helping his 2020 reelection campaign.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.