The Case for Impeachment

In his opening statement in the House impeachment hearings, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff laid out the case for impeachment in simple terms. First, he defined the factual issues:

“The questions presented by this impeachment inquiry are whether President Trump sought to exploit [U.S. ally Ukraine’s] vulnerability and invite Ukraine’s interference in our elections? Whether President Trump sought to condition official acts, such as a White House meeting or U.S. military assistance, on Ukraine’s willingness to assist with two political investigations that would help his reelection campaign? And if President Trump did either, whether such an abuse of his power is compatible with the office of the presidency?

The matter is as simple, and as terrible, as that.”

Then, he rebutted the Republican “no harm, no foul” defense to these facts (which are not in serious dispute). According to Republicans, it should not matter that Trump attempted to extort foreign election assistance from Ukraine because he didn’t succeed. Ukraine never did initiate the public investigation of Joe Biden as Trump had requested, and the White House eventually released the funds appropriated by Congress for Ukraine even without the Ukrainian “favor” Trump had demanded. So, as acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said, people should just “get over it.” Dealing with this defense, Schiff first pointed out a critical timing issue, which is that the White House finally released Congressionally mandated military aid to Ukraine only after the White House became aware of the whistleblower’s complaint that the aid had been wrongfully withheld, and only after Congress began questioning why it was being withheld. Then, Schiff re-set the moral context:

”A scheme to condition official acts or taxpayer funding to obtain a personal political benefit does not become less odious because it is discovered before it is fully consummated.”

In closing, Schiff used the words of of the White House against it:

“If we find that the president of the United States abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections . . . must we simply ‘get over it’? Is this what Americans should now expect from their president? If this is not impeachable conduct, what is? Does the oath of office itself . . . still have meaning?”

The matter really is as simple, as as terrible, as that.

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