The House of Representatives is moving toward a momentous decision about whether to impeach a president for only the third time in U.S. history. The charges brought against President Trump by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday are clear: that he abused his office in an attempt to induce Ukraine’s new president to launch politicized investigations that would benefit Mr. Trump’s reelection campaign, and that he willfully obstructed the subsequent congressional investigation.
Because of that unprecedented stonewalling, and because House Democrats have chosen to rush the impeachment process, the inquiry has failed to collect important testimony and documentary evidence that might strengthen the case against the president. Nevertheless, it is our view that more than enough proof exists for the House to impeach Mr. Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, based on his own actions and the testimony of the 17 present and former administration officials who courageously appeared before the House Intelligence Committee.
We believe Mr. Trump should receive a full trial in the Senate, and it is our hope that more senior officials will decide or be required to testify during that proceeding, so that senators, and the country, can make a fair and considered judgment about whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office. We have reserved judgment on that question. What is important, for now, is that the House determine whether Mr. Trump’s actions constituted an abuse of power meriting his impeachment and trial.
What follows is a summary of the evidence that we believe justifies charges against the president.
Several State Department and National Security Council officials testified that there was no evidence to support either allegation. One, former NSC senior director Fiona Hill, said the election interference claim was a “fictional narrative” peddled by Russian intelligence agencies.
Mr. Trump’s actions were an abuse of his presidential powers. He used his official authority — the granting of an Oval Office meeting — to obtain a personal benefit: mud he could sling at a likely opponent in the 2020 election.
Volker: “Good lunch – thanks. Heard from White House—assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / “get to the bottom of what happened” in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck! See you tomorrow – kurt”
Source: The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Dec. 2019, page 96.
Source: The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, December 2019, Page 96.
Zelensky: “I also want to ensure you that we will…work on the investigation”
Trump: “Good. Well, thank you very much and I appreciate that. I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call. Thank you. Whenever you would like to come to the White House….Give us a date and we’ll work that out.”
Source: Page 5 of the memorandum of telephone conversation between President Trump and President Zelensky of Ukraine, on July 25, 2019.
Source: Page 5 of the memorandum of telephone conversation between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, on July 25, 2019.
Yermak: “Once we have a date, will call for a press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of US-UKRAINE relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations.”
Source: Gordon D. Sondland’s opening statement before the United States House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Nov. 20, 2019, page 10.
Source: Gordon D. Sondland’s opening statement before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Nov. 20, 2019, Page 10.
The Ukrainians eventually told Mr. Volker they were not comfortable making a statement that directly referenced U.S. domestic matters. Mr. Zelensky never announced the investigations — and he has yet to visit the White House.
It is likely that senior aides whom Mr. Trump has prevented from testifying, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, could recount conversations that clarify Mr. Trump’s intention; Mr. Mulvaney already appeared to confirm in a news conference that the hold was linked to the demand for investigations. What we know is that Mr. Trump released the funds six days after this Editorial Board reported he was using them to pressure Mr. Zelensky, and two days after three House committees announced they would investigate the charge.
We take no pleasure in recommending the president’s impeachment and are aware of the considerable costs and risks: further dividing and inflaming our politics; turning impeachment into one more tool of partisan warfare; perhaps giving Mr. Trump unwarranted aid in his reelection effort. But the House must make its decision based on the facts and merits, setting aside unpredictable second-order effects.
That is particularly true because, unlike any previous president, Mr. Trump has refused all cooperation with the congressional inquiry. He has prevented the testimony of a dozen present or former senior officials and the release of documents by the White House, the Office of Management and Budget and three Cabinet departments.
Congress prepared an article of impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon for a less comprehensive refusal to cooperate. Mr. Trump’s actions demand that Congress again act to protect a foundation of U.S. democracy.