President Donald Trump has earned his impeachment.
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have an obligation to give it to him.
The House Judiciary Committee released two narrowly drawn articles of impeachment on Tuesday, making the case that the president deserves to be removed from office for his actions regarding Ukraine and efforts to pressure a foreign country to intervene on his behalf in our elections.
The first article accuses the president of abuse of power:
“Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election. He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage.”
The second article accuses the president of obstruction of Congress, an obvious charge built on the fact that the president blocked the lawful subpoenas by the House of members of his administration, refused to turn over documents and unconstitutionally interfered with the authority of Congress to investigate the executive branch.
The scope is narrow and limited and ignores significant evidence of wrongdoing uncovered both during the House impeachment inquiry and through the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
For many Democrats, who see clear evidence of obstruction of justice and other “high crimes,” the short list of impeachment articles will be unsatisfying. The president has done a whole lot more that merits his removal from office.
But Democratic leaders in the House have made the strategic decision to limit the case against Trump to the most clear and obvious actions.
Even a casual observer of the impeachment inquiry should realize that the president attempted to use the power of his office to pressure Ukraine into conducting a politically motivated investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden. The president, in his much-less-than-perfect phone call with the Ukrainian president, says as much, as did Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney during a highly publicized press conference.
“Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” Mulvaney said in October, though he later tried to walk back his language.
The president has abused the power of his office for inappropriate political gain. He has compromised national security by withholding aid to an ally in need of support, and he has tried to cover up his actions by blocking a legitimate inquiry by the U.S. Congress.
As the articles of impeachment say: “In all of this, President Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
None of us should be under the illusion that Republicans will break ranks, either in the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate. They have stood with the president as he has denied the facts of Russian interference in the 2016 election, allowed kids to die as a result of his detention policies on the southern border, violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, and on and on and on.
Despite the evidence and his misconduct, the president is unlikely to be removed from office by the Senate. For those members of Congress who turned a blind eye, the judgment of history will be unkind – even if they enjoy a short-term benefit.
In terms of political fallout, it’s impossible to know in advance whether the impeachment effort rallies the president’s supporters to his side and helps his re-election campaign or ultimately moves him closer toward defeat.
The unfortunate truth is that Democrats in the House had a constitutional obligation to hold the president accountable, to conduct oversight of his activities and to move forward with impeachment – politics and the election be damned.
To do otherwise would have been to ignore their oath of office and their duty to our country and to the Constitution.