Less than a week ago, The Washington Post reported that an official in the US intelligence community had access to a transcript in which Donald Trump made a promise during a phone call to the head of a foreign government. This promise was so “troubling” that it reportedly compelled the official to file a formal whistleblower complaint. In the time since — just six days — we have learned that Trump has been accused of withholding foreign aid to the government of Ukraine as ransom over a demand that they investigate Joe Biden, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Early Tuesday evening, at the end of a 36-hour period that can only be described as astonishing and unprecedented, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, met with her caucus behind closed doors and then emerged to announce to the country on national television that a formal impeachment inquiry would be launched into the allegations against Donald Trump.
In the past week, like most Americans, I have felt a numb incredulity in reaction to this news. Since early 2017, our country has been enmeshed in an international scandal in which Trump and those closest to him enlisted the help of the Russian government to subvert our electoral system and hijack a presidential election. Those of us demanding accountability and respect for the constitutional process have been slandered as histrionic and unpatriotic.
Now, as the nation plunges headlong into yet another chaotic presidential cycle, it has been suggested that Trump may have done the same thing a second time: attempting to overrule the voices of the American people and corrupt our political system with foreign intervention, and without oversight or transparency in the public’s interest.
The impeachment process will be a long one and not without substantial controversy; Trump has, after all, denied any improprietry. After the House presumably votes to impeach on whatever charges are brought forward, Trump will be tried by the Senate, and 67 votes will be required to convict and remove him from office.
I can hardly claim to be optimistic at the chances of straightforward due process or any findings leading to a result that prioritizes the health of our democracy above all else. I have spent the past two and a half years watching Donald Trump and his cronies consistently trash the Constitution and act with a seemingly gleeful cruelty toward vulnerable people, including children who were ripped away from their parents and packed into cages at the US-Mexico border. Why that was somehow seen as less impeachable than this Ukraine scandal is far beyond my understanding — or perhaps I would like to avoid conceding that I understand what happened all too well: brown and black children and their families fail to register sufficiently on our collective moral radar for that.
Regardless, all I and so many other Americans have at this point is our remaining hope in the constitutional process. I have to believe that congressional leaders, regardless of political party, will act with full accountability in this matter. I have to believe that the Republican Party will choose country over clown. I have to believe that the Great American Experiment will endure another chapter because if not, what else can be done?
As we await the release of the formal whistleblower report on Thursday — as opposed to the transcript of the phone call, which is not the same thing — I am reminded of a saying out of Texas that George W.Bush infamously butchered and now seems entirely appropriate to this second round of Trump needing an assist from a foreign government: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”