Will GOP fi­nally hold Trump ac­count­able?

Repub­li­cans’ last chance to honor oaths of of­fice

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Eric Swal­well Rep. Eric Swal­well, D-Calif., a for­mer prose­cu­tor, serves on the House In­tel­li­gence and Ju­di­ciary com­mit­tees and co-chairs the House Demo­cratic Steer­ing and Pol­icy Com­mit­tee.

The ev­i­dence is in, and it’s over­whelm­ing: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump abused his power and your tax­payer dol­lars — $391 mil­lion in mil­i­tary aid — to pres­sure a desperate ally to man­u­fac­ture dirt on his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent.

And now we must de­cide what to do about it.

The Found­ing Fa­thers did not leave us help­less to a lawless chief ex­ec­u­tive; they drafted a Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vid­ing that a pres­i­dent could be im­peached for “trea­son, bribery or other high crimes and mis­de­meanors.”

They fore­saw that a pres­i­dent might work with a for­eign power to put his own in­ter­ests over Amer­ica’s, that he might try to profit from his of­fice, or that he might traf­fic in lies and ob­struct jus­tice. They, and we, might not have fore­seen that one pres­i­dent would do all of these.

The tes­ti­mony and ev­i­dence were clear from the start. The read­out of Pres­i­dent Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian pres­i­dent shows Trump asked for a “fa­vor” that would di­rectly as­sist his own re­elec­tion. Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mul­vaney, later ad­mit­ted that mil­i­tary aid — al­ready ap­pro­pri­ated by Congress and ap­proved by the Pen­tagon — was con­di­tioned on Ukrainian in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and he said Amer­i­cans should just “get over it.”

And that was be­fore the clear and con­vinc­ing public tes­ti­mony given to the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee by a cav­al­cade of ca­reer civil ser­vants and pa­tri­ots, in­clud­ing sev­eral Trump ap­pointees. The unerring direc­tion of the tes­ti­mony was that the pres­i­dent used your money and re­sources to fur­ther his per­sonal goals, and ev­ery­one in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s high­est ranks knew this was so. The mil­i­tary aid was re­leased only af­ter the pres­i­dent was told the scheme had been ex­posed.

Fi­nal chance to get se­ri­ous

Sev­eral first­hand, front-row wit­nesses to this de­ba­cle have re­fused to tes­tify af­ter the pres­i­dent or­dered them not to. We must con­clude their tes­ti­mony would harm the pres­i­dent’s case.

There has been no plau­si­ble de­fense; as­sess­ing what hap­pened here is a matter of plain facts and com­mon sense. As a for­mer prose­cu­tor, this might be one of the clear­est-cut cases I’ve ever seen.

Now the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee sends its find­ings to the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, which will hold a hear­ing Wed­nes­day on how to pro­ceed. We will hear from a panel of con­sti­tu­tional ex­perts who will dis­cuss how and why these un­con­tested vi­o­la­tions rise to the level of the pres­i­dent’s im­peach­able of­fenses.

This is a fi­nal chance for my Repub­li­can col­leagues to get se­ri­ous, to honor their oaths and to pro­tect our na­tional se­cu­rity. Thus far, they have ig­nored clear ev­i­dence and chose in­stead to res­ur­rect long-since-de­bunked con­spir­acy the­o­ries, in­clud­ing the Rus­sian talk­ing point that it was Ukraine that in­ter­fered in our 2016 elec­tion — a fact­free claim di­rectly con­tra­dicted by the unan­i­mous find­ing of Amer­ica’s in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.

Now Repub­li­cans must stand up and be counted: Are they OK with this pres­i­dent’s un­de­bat­able abuse of power? Are they pre­pared for what Amer­ica be­comes if we ac­cept it? Is this the con­duct we want to be com­mon­place in our chil­dren’s Amer­ica?

I have hope that at least some House Repub­li­cans are start­ing to see the light. Be­hind closed doors, I saw how deeply dis­turbed some of them were by the damn­ing de­tails and cor­rob­o­rat­ing ev­i­dence that piled up dur­ing this im­peach­ment process. I saw that the de­lib­er­ate smear­ing of ca­reer pa­tri­ots who came in to tes­tify, of­ten over the White House’s ob­jec­tions, didn’t sit well with these law­mak­ers.

His­tory won’t re­ward lem­mings

Water­gate taught us that his­tory looks kindly on those — like Sen. Low­ell We­icker of Con­necti­cut and Reps. Wil­liam Co­hen of Maine and Tom Rails­back of Illi­nois — who are will­ing to stand up to their own party to do the right thing. Lem­mings usu­ally aren’t re­warded with his­tory’s praise but rather with a grisly demise at the bot­tom of a cliff.

So much is at stake. We must en­sure that fu­ture pres­i­dents, no matter their party, are held to ac­count for their ac­tions. We must en­sure that for­eign gov­ern­ments never feel em­pow­ered to in­ter­fere in Amer­ica’s elec­tions.

We must make sure that we don’t end up look­ing like Rus­sia, where a dic­ta­tor re­lies on dis­in­for­ma­tion to main­tain power. Iron­i­cally, the whole point of sup­port­ing Ukraine is to limit the num­ber of na­tions that are re­made in Rus­sia’s despotic image.

I’ve mostly given up hope of Don­ald Trump be­hav­ing pres­i­den­tially, but I have hope that my Repub­li­can col­leagues can be­have con­gres­sion­ally. Even peo­ple who have con­fessed to crimes de­serve a fair process, and we will con­tinue to give the pres­i­dent that fair­ness while pur­su­ing swift jus­tice come hell or high wa­ter.

The fu­ture of our democ­racy re­lies on us do­ing this to­gether.

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