The U.S. House of Representatives began its formal impeachment pageant Tuesday. The Intelligence Committee will forward its report to the Judiciary Committee, which will forward it to the whole House, which will then hold hearings on whether to impeach President Trump.
You can expect this to ramble on through Christmas. Happy Holidays!
We figure the upshot will be that the House, controlled by Democrats, will impeach Mr. Trump. The Senate, controlled by Republicans, in January will probably stop short of convicting him. And so he will remain in office, the only question being who came away from the process looking worse.
Don’t get us wrong: The evidence has become clear that Mr. Trump tried to get a foreign power to do his bidding in a way that would help him politically. He wanted Ukraine to investigate the son of Joe Biden, who is clearly a rival in the 2020 election. He also wants to give some legitimacy to a theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, rather than Russia. That theory has been debunked by U.S. intelligence agencies. The culprit is Russia.
So what do we know about Mr. Trump? We know what we knew going into the 2016 election. He’s a dealmaker who will say anything to benefit himself. Whether you think he lies all the time or he deludes himself into believing whatever it is that he needs to believe is pretty much a matter of faith, since you can’t get into his head. The issue with Mr. Trump often gets down to that question: What was his intent? And how are we really supposed to know that, anyway?
He’s obviously self-serving in the extreme, and makes deals that push the limits of the rules. It’s also obvious in general that he has cozied up to Russia — a major U.S. adversary — and stuck it to Ukraine, which is an important U.S. ally against Russia. In taking those positions, he clearly got a payoff in terms of his own short-term domestic political standing.
Does all that amount to a crime? The House will likely attempt to characterize all of this as bribery — I’ll give you millions in aid if you’ll make my political opponent look bad. Judging by the evidence thus far, it’s a reasonable case to make. It’s also reasonable to argue that political leaders do that sort of thing regularly, and it’s reasonable to counter with the assertion that Mr. Trump was doing it in a way directly counter to U.S. foreign policy.
Assuming things go as outlined above, making the judgment will come down to people like Jerry Moran, a United States senator who lives in Manhattan. He’s a Republican, and generally a level-headed, forward-thinking policy maker. We don’t envy him that position, because it’s not an easy call for a person willing to seriously consider the evidence.
The hardest part for him — and for all of us, as we think about it — will be this: What, exactly, was Mr. Trump thinking?
Once that process is over, the rest of us will get to judge. We’ll know the outcome of that judgment in 11 months, after the 2020 presidential election. Again, we assume that’s what all of this is really about.