Is limiting impeachment to Ukraine a mistake?

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

What’s happening:

When Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry into President Trump last month, the caucus reportedly favored a quick, focused investigation that could be finished as early as Thanksgiving. To get things done so quickly, the inquiry was limited to the president's dealings with Ukraine and whether he abused his power in an effort to politically harm his potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden.

In the past few days, Democrats have begun to indicate that timeline may be unrealistic, as the investigation brings up new angles that beg further digging and the administration works to thwart the inquiry. “You know shocking things happen every single day,” Democratic Rep. Jim Himes said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly hopes to have a Senate trial, which would be held only if the House votes to impeach, finished by Christmas. If two-thirds of senators vote to convict, Trump would be removed from office.

Why there’s debate:

There is a large contingent of conservative lawmakers and voters who see impeachment, regardless of its scope, as a political farce that shouldn't be happening at all. However, polling shows a growing number of Americans support the inquiry.

Those who favor a narrow inquiry say the Ukraine scandal shows clear impropriety that is easily understood by voters. Adding other angles, especially the sprawling Mueller report, could overwhelm the resources of the investigation and muddle the ultimate message that comes out of it. There is also concern among Democrats that an expansive inquiry would drown out the message of the party's presidential candidates in the months leading up to the 2020 election.

Advocates for broadening the inquiry, many of whom were calling for impeachment before the Ukraine scandal broke, argue that focusing only on Ukraine essentially gives Trump a pardon for what they see as a long list of other abuses of power — including enriching himself through the presidency, obstruction, and harmful foreign policy decision making. Impeachment is the most powerful investigative tool Congress has and it should be used to give the country a full accounting of the president’s deeds, they argue.

What’s next:

There are a number of steps that will likely need to be completed before a vote can be held, even if the inquiry stays focused on Ukraine. So far, witness testimony has happened behind closed doors. Democrats reportedly would like to hold public hearings and bring in big-name witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton, for questioning. They’re still hoping to complete the inquiry by the end of the year, reports say.


The inquiry should be expanded

The administration is obstructing the inquiry.

“But it’s now clear that it’s impossible to contain impeachment, since Trump’s only response to being challenged is to become ever more brazen. ...That’s the way it is with impeachment: Trump and his cronies have no ability to defend themselves in a legal manner, so they’ll pile misconduct on top of misconduct.” — Jeet Heer, The Nation

Trump using the office to enrich himself is a prime example of impeachable conduct.

“I understand Democrats’ desire to keep impeachment focused on abuses of power, but if they don’t use the process to investigate and prosecute Trump’s corrupt self-dealing, it’d be a huge mistake. It’s a canonical abuse of power.” — Vox founder Ezra Klein

Focusing on Ukraine means letting Trump get away with everything else.

“For House Democrats to wait this long and then impeach a reckless, lawless, racist, tax-dodging president only over his interactions with the president of Ukraine would be to effectively give Trump a clean bill of health on everything else. Going into an election year, Democrats would be unilaterally disarming — unable to offer further substantive criticisms of Trump’s crimes and abuses of power across the board.” — Mehdi Hasan, The Intercept

The public deserves to know everything that’s happened.

"The American people are entitled to the truth about all this administration has done, and there should be a formal accounting of Trump’s wrongdoing for the public and for posterity. Impeachment is the only opportunity our political system offers Democrats to accomplish this outside of an electoral process structurally tilted in Trump’s favor." — Osita Nwanevu, New Republic

The Ukraine scandal needs to be shown as part of a pattern of behavior.

“It may not be necessary to impeach Trump for every impeachable offense he’s ever committed, but it would be both strategically wise and healthy for the future of the republic to widen the aperture of the inquiry enough to make it clear that the Ukraine shakedown wasn’t an isolated impropriety, but part of a much larger pattern.” — Brian Buetler, Crooked

A narrow focus is best

The Ukraine scandal is easy to understand.

“I also think the Democrats are right to pursue a narrow impeachment inquiry that’s easily understandable and mostly avoids the morass of the Mueller investigation.” — David Leonhardt, New York Times

A broad inquiry would make Democrats look like they’re fishing for an excuse to impeach.

“A wide-ranging inquiry into obstruction of justice (or other concerns, such as emoluments or separation of families at the border, all of which is troubling) would play into Trump’s attack that the Democrats are assembling everything they have to take him down and were ready to do so before the Ukraine scandal broke.” — Renato Mariotti, Politico

The current inquiry is already strained for time and resources.

“[A]s the grab-bag of grounds for investigating Trumpworld grows at a faster pace than Democrats can keep up with, their cautiously plotted inquiry is being stretched in more directions than ever before.” — Sam Brodey, Daily Beast

The case can be easily communicated.

"The Ukraine scandal clearly involves conduct most people would consider criminal. ... Obstructing Congress? Maybe not so much, particularly since Congress’ job approval ratings are significantly worse than Trump’s.” — Ed Kilgore, New York

Time is not on Democrats’ side.

“One factor contributing to the desire to concentrate on Ukraine is time. House Democrats hope to vote on articles of impeachment before the holidays so they can pivot back to policy matters in 2020 ahead of the election. Expanding the impeachment inquiry would no doubt complicate that timeline.” — Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, Washington Post

The public has shown little appetite for impeachment on other subjects.

“Even worse for Democrats than combining Ukraine and Russia would be to offer a laundry list of impeachment charges, involving the emoluments clause or Trump’s general conduct in office or what not. The public has a high threshold for what constitutes impeachable conduct, so reasons that are below that threshold might weaken the overall case for impeachment rather than being additive.” — Nate Silver, Five Thirty Eight

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