White House

Trump’s Impeachment Will Be Trump’s Fault

President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives at Ocala International Airport in Ocala, Fla., October 3, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
He has no one to blame but himself.

‘I have news for everybody: Get over it.” So saith acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” he added.

Well, if that’s what he thinks, I have news for him. Get over it: Your boss is going to be impeached. And he has nobody but himself (and Rudy Giuliani) to blame for it.

Let’s get as much throat clearing done as quickly as possible. Yes, the so-called Resistance has wanted Trump’s 2016 victory annulled, canceled, made moot, or overturned. Yes, its members have injected a peculiar viral paranoia into our politics where everyone who disagrees with old foreign-policy grandees such as Richard Haas is now considered vaguely Ruskie. Yes, professional bureaucrats and members of the broader intelligence community have transgressed their duties in trying to contain or subvert the administration. Yes, Trump is surrounded by advisers and elected members of his own party who simply don’t share his agenda of revising America’s foreign and trade policies. Yes, recent presidents have also transgressed the Constitution on matters of foreign policy in ways I think ought to be impeachable, even if Congress doesn’t. Yes, Ukraine, under its previous government, more or less tried to interfere in the 2016 election and felt quite sheepish about it. And yes, I still believe the American policy of assistance to Ukraine is misguided. Trump could more or less survive all of that. Bad advisors and bad policy are normal.

But when Trump is impeached it will be Trump’s own fault. I say “when” because the political logic for Democrats is becoming inescapable. Their base wants it to happen. And that’s enough. All they needed was a reason.

And Trump gave it to them. Having escaped the probe of Robert Mueller and the unbearably saccharine tweeting of James Comey, Trump almost immediately tossed his presidency out of the microwave-safe dish and into a dumpster fire. He did so by withholding congressionally authorized assistance to Ukraine and planning to withhold it until that country’s leaders announced a politically expedient investigation into Trump’s political rival’s son, a plan that never came to fruition and has backfired spectacularly.

And he did so without even the pretense that it was in America’s national interest. At least, that is what we must conclude if we give any credit to William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, whose Tuesday testimony before House impeachment investigators gives them a clear, easy-to-explain, and straightforward case that the president abused his power for electoral benefit. Abuse of power for personal electoral benefit is precisely the kind of “maladministration” that some Framers — Madison excluded — had in mind when debating impeachment.

“He said that President Trump wanted [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations,” Taylor said. That and a bowl of chicken soup will, one morning soon, add up to a brisk impeachment and a healthy lunch.

Trump brought this scandal on himself. Nothing compelled him to believe Rudy Giuliani’s theories about Ukraine. His campaign or other surrogates could have dug up and shoveled dirt on Joe Biden and his son. There is plenty to go around.

Trump arguably brought about the political conditions that have made his impeachment possible. He was unable or unwilling to pressure his party to vigorously pursue the most popular items he campaigned on in Congress. Instead they wasted his time with Obamacare repeal. (Another round of health-insurance-policy cancellations or alterations, it turns out, was electoral poison). He encouraged them to pass a politically unpopular tax cut. Mitch McConnell has done the lion’s share of work on appointing judges. But when it comes to the unique “Trumpian” contribution to American governance, the only evidence of a Trump administration’s existence is some executive orders related to the border crisis and a lot of tweets. It’s not a surprise he lost Congress.

Now, it is still exceedingly unlikely that 20 Republican senators will be inclined to join Democrats in conducting a full Senate trial and removing Trump from office. But the fact of impeachment, and the fact of Senate Republicans giving Trump their grudging deference, will likely inflame political passions going into election while vastly increasing public cynicism. Americans will be reminded that there is nothing — save for peaceful foreign policy and sound budgeting — that both parties can agree to reject as damnable and beyond the bounds of decency.

Perhaps soon Trump will be the first president elected twice without carrying the popular vote. And the first president to be impeached twice. There is still hope of innovation.

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