House Democrats have been itching to impeach President Donald Trump. He seems hell-bent on making their job easier.
The president, who walked a fine line on obstruction of justice during the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, did not seem to learn from that experience.
Three years ago he publicly applauded the Russians for breaking into the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. This time it’s worse: He is accused of actively soliciting the help of a foreign power to investigate Joe Biden, his possible Democratic opponent next year.
According to a whistleblower complaint, backed up last week by the release of a rough transcript of Trump’s phone conversation in late July with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump asked the Ukrainian president if he wouldn’t mind looking into Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company — obviously in the hope that Zelenskiy’s intelligence folks could turn up dirt on Biden that Trump could use in his re-election campaign.
“I would like for you to do us a favor,” Trump said to Zelenskiy, according to the transcript, before making his request.
The timing of the call was baffling in its stupidity. It came one day after Mueller had testified to Congress about his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Trump, fresh from chumminess with a U.S. adversary that had the potential to bring down his presidency, willfully flirted with another foreign entanglement that could have even worse consequences. How dumb can you get?
There’s also the suspicion that Trump was indirectly pressuring the Ukrainian president to do his bidding by putting a freeze a few days earlier on $400 million in military aid. Even if there was not a clear “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” deal, it certainly has the covert appearance of one.
Trump now becomes only the fourth sitting president to be the subject of an official impeachment inquiry. He will try to play the victim card and accuse Biden — without any proof — of acting improperly with Ukraine.
Will it work? Maybe. The nation is getting fatigued by all the peeking and probing, some of it admittedly politically motivated, into Trump’s conduct in and out of office. Trump has already defied most of the norms of U.S. political life, and he may become the first president ever to be impeached and re-elected.
But maybe not. Even if they don’t believe Trump should be removed from office by Congress, some of those who voted for him in 2016 may decide they are tired of his mess.
It’s a gamble for House Democrats to pursue impeachment, knowing that the GOP majority in the Senate is unlikely to convict. But it’s also a gamble for Trump to dare them to impeach him.
Someone is going to lose that bet.