During special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, the cry from Republicans was that there had been “no collusion.” Aside from the fact that collusion is not a crime (conspiracy is the crime), they meant there was no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump picked up the phone, called Russian President Vladimir Putin and asked him to have damaging emails against his opponent released. That sort of smoking gun did not exist, but at least they acknowledged that such conduct would be illegal and/or impeachable.

Now, there is replete evidence that President Trump called up the Ukrainian president and asked him to find damaging information, even if none existed according to every investigation already undertaken, on his opponent’s son. If the facts are as the Wall Street Journal reported, we have the smoking gun of collusion, conspiracy and a “high crime & misdemeanor.” Now Trump says he can say anything to a foreign leader. Republicans are largely silent.

The media start throwing out chum, “Well, this sure reopens the Hunter Biden thing!” No, it doesn’t. But it does reveal the degree to which Republicans and the media have contributed to the survival of a lawless president.

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So in case you thought there would never be a time that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would call for impeachment, consider her Dear Colleague letter on Sunday. “If the Administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,” Pelosi wrote. She’s getting closer, for she and many other Democrats understand that the action in question here is far more egregious than anything Mueller turned up with regard to Russia.

And in case you thought House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) would never touch impeachment, take a look at what he said on CNN’s “State of the Union”:

JAKE TAPPER: If the president did, in fact, in that phone call push the Ukrainian president to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden eight times, as The Wall Street Journal reported, is it an impeachable offense, in your view?
SCHIFF: Well, Jake, you know I have been very reluctant to go down the path of impeachment, for the reason that I think the founders contemplating, in a country that has elections every four years, that this would be an extraordinary remedy, a remedy of last resort, not first resort.
But if the president is essentially withholding military aid, at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit, that is, providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is coequal to the evil that that conduct represents.
We’re going to hear from the director of national intelligence on Thursday why he is the first director to withhold ever a whistleblower complaint. And we are going to make sure that we get that complaint, that whistleblower is protected.
And we're going to make sure that we find out whether the president has engaged in this kind of improper conduct. But it may be that we do have to move forward with that extraordinary remedy, if indeed the president is, at the same time withholding vital military assistance, he is trying to leverage that to obtain impermissible help in his political campaign.
TAPPER: Well, that’s certainly the farthest I have ever heard you go when it comes to the possible need for impeachment.

You might have thought not a single Republican would ever show daylight between himself and Trump. There were, however, a few bright spots. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) declared, “If the President asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out.” (Nevertheless, both Rudy Giuliani and Trump have made admissions that seem to say exactly this.) Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) likewise weighed in: “Look, it is not appropriate for any candidate for federal office, certainly, including a sitting president, to ask for assistance from a foreign country. That’s not appropriate. But I don’t know that that’s what happened here.” Well, that’s not a rousing call for justice to be done, but it is a start. (Since Trump seems to be stipulating to the facts — he raised Hunter Biden on a call with Ukraine’s president — it might be hard for these Republicans to escape the conclusion that Trump has crossed a bright red line.)

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Now, as irresponsible as it has been for some in the media to suggest — despite multiple investigations — that there is wrongdoing or potential wrongdoing on both sides, we are seeing many in the press rebuke the Trump propaganda, reiterating that the facts and the timeline do not support any allegation of wrongdoing by former vice president Joe Biden. ABC New’s Martha Raddatz, CNN’s Tapper and virtually the entire CNN “State of the Union” panel rebutted in real time Republicans’ suggestion of wrongdoing on Biden’s part.

You might have thought Democratic presidential candidates would never stand up to Trump on his deflection, false accusations and misdirection. However, not only did Biden himself take on a reporter who tried the “both sides" hooey, but also his campaign went on the offensive. (His deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield sent out an email to the media: “Any article, segment analysis and commentary that does not demonstrably state at the outset that there is no factual basis for Trump’s claim, and in fact that they are wholly discredited, is misleading readers and viewers.”)

Finally, in case you thought there would never be a time that the Democratic presidential candidates linked arms to denounce Trump’s solicitation of help from a foreign power, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) as well as South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg all denounced Trump and directly or indirectly called for impeachment.

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I grant you there are still reporters and columnists, as well as mainstream outlets, that insist “this really could hurt Biden” or “you know there’s an issue here with Biden” and the overwhelmingly number of Republicans (including the secretaries of state and treasury) are carrying Trump’s dirty water, but we see, already, progress in clarifying what is at issue (Trump asking Ukraine to come up with dirt on his opponent) and the seriousness of the offense (the very definition of a high crime and misdemeanor), the lawlessness of Trump bottling up the whistleblower complaint and the necessity, if impeachment is to have any meaning, of pushing forward on this issue. Now the media must press each and every Republican as to whether they will defend Trump going to a foreign power for help in his reelection campaign.

Congress, the responsible media outlets, Democrats and those Republicans not entirely under Trump’s spell must keep up the drumbeat of facts: If Trump did what news reports say he did, impeachment is a necessity.

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