The evidence is in, and it’s overwhelming: Donald J. Trump abused the power of the presidency and your taxpayer dollars — $391 million in military aid — to pressure a desperate ally to manufacture dirt on his political opponent.
And now we must decide what to do about it.
The Founding Fathers did not leave us helpless to a lawless chief executive; they drafted a Constitution providing that a president could be impeached for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
They foresaw that a president might work with a foreign power to put his own interests over America’s, or that he might try to profit from his office, or that he might traffic in lies and obstruct justice. They, and we, might not have foreseen that one president would do all of these.
Ukraine testimony clear
The testimony and evidence were clear from the start. The readout of President Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president shows Trump asked for a “favor” that would directly assist his own reelection. Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, later admitted that military aid — already appropriated by Congress and approved by the Pentagon — was conditioned on Ukrainian investigations, and he said Americans should just “get over it.”
And that was before the clear and convincing public testimony given to the House Intelligence Committee by a cavalcade of career civil servants and patriots, including several Trump appointees. The unerring direction of the testimony was that the president used your money and resources to further his personal goals, and everyone in the administration’s highest ranks knew this was so. The military aid was released only after the president was told the scheme had been exposed.
Several firsthand, front-row witnesses to this debacle have refused to testify after the president ordered them not to. We must conclude that their testimony would harm the president’s case.
There has been no plausible defense; assessing what happened here is a matter of plain facts and common sense. As a former prosecutor, this might be one of the clearest-cut cases I’ve ever seen.
Now the House Intelligence Committee sends its findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which will hold a hearing Wednesday on how to proceed. We will hear from a panel of constitutional experts who will discuss how and why these uncontested violations rise to the level of impeachable offenses.
This is a final chance for my Republican colleagues to get serious, to honor their oaths and to protect our national security.
Thus far, they have ignored clear evidence and chose instead to resurrect long-since-debunked conspiracy theories, including the Russian talking point that it was Ukraine that interfered in our 2016 election — a fact-free claim directly contradicted by the unanimous finding of our intelligence agencies.
Now Republicans must stand up and be counted: Are they OK with this president’s undebatable abuse of power? Are they prepared for what America becomes if we accept it? Is this the conduct we want to be commonplace in our children’s America?
Hope for Republicans
I have hope that at least some House Republicans are starting to see the light. Behind closed doors, I saw how deeply disturbed some were by the damning details and corroborating evidence that piled up during this process. I saw that the deliberate smearing of career patriots who came in to testify, often over the White House’s objections, didn’t sit well with these lawmakers.
Watergate taught us that history looks kindly on those — like Sen. Lowell Weicker of Connecticut and Reps. William Cohen of Maine and Tom Railsback of Illinois — who are willing to stand up to their own party to do the right thing. Lemmings usually aren’t rewarded with history’s praise but rather with a grisly demise at the bottom of a cliff.
So much is at stake. We must ensure that future presidents, no matter their party, are held to account for their actions. We must ensure that foreign governments never feel empowered to interfere in America’s elections. We must make sure that we don’t end up looking like Russia, where a dictator relies on disinformation to maintain power. Ironically, the whole point of supporting Ukraine is to limit the number of nations that are remade in Russia’s despotic image.
I’ve mostly given up hope of Donald Trump behaving presidentially, but I have hope that my Republican colleagues can behave congressionally. Even people who have confessed to crimes deserve a fair process, and we will continue to give the president that fairness while pursuing swift justice come hell or high water. The future of our democracy relies on us doing this together.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a former prosecutor, serves on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees and co-chairs the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. Follow him on Twitter at @RepSwalwell
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine scandal: Republicans have new chance to hold Trump accountable