The best politicians know that it is important to start any initiative from an honest place. In Washington, it is easy for things to become distorted and to evolve in unpredictable ways. Also, the best politicians know there should never be a gap between what they are saying and what people observe for themselves. Voters don’t like to be taken for fools. Yet House Democrats have started a momentous impeachment process that violates both of these fundamental tenets.

Just two days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced a formal impeachment inquiry, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) used a committee hearing to engage in a bizarre fantasy account of President Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That’s right, during Thursday’s hearing with acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, Schiff presented a completely false narrative, misleading viewers into believing that Trump, in the rough transcript of the phone call, had said, “I have a favor I want from you. ... And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand?”

Schiff went on from there, later saying — after criticism arose — that the performance was just a “parody” — but parody of any kind is the exact opposite of honesty.

In addition to the Democrats’ not starting from an honest place, there is a gap between the breathless headlines, the suggestion that grave crimes have been committed, and what the rough transcript and the whistleblower’s complaint actually reveal.

For starters, the whistleblower’s complaint is filled with what it admits are second-hand accounts, which has raised questions about its accuracy. CBS News reports that, according to a senior government official, State Department counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl was not on the Trump-Zelensky call, despite the complaint’s alleging otherwise.

Also, Democrats and many in the media were quick to suggest that Trump engineered a quid pro quo agreement with Zelensky, but even a critical reading of the rough transcript fails to find any specific instance where Trump can be seen pressuring Ukraine’s president. And, oh, by the way, Zelensky himself described the call as “normal” and said that “nobody pushed” him.

Even if Zelensky were being “pushed,” Trump’s request was for him to investigate meddling in the 2016 election. In Trump’s own way, he appears to have been trying to proceed by the book. He suggested that Zelensky coordinate with Attorney General William P. Barr, which would be entirely appropriate for two countries working together on an investigation.

Democrats spent two years and millions of dollars supporting the underwhelming report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on Russian interference in the election, but Trump can’t pursue suggestions of foreign meddling?

Finally, with something as grave as impeachment, the burden is on the accusers to be precise. Their reasons for wanting to remove a president should be clear and compelling. Instead, we have the opposite. There was already momentum for impeachment among the hysterical left and many of the mainstream media pundits. They have latched onto the whistleblower and are spreading the idea that Trump is undoubtedly guilty of something and should be removed from office. With their lack of clarity and precision, they are eroding the perception of fairness. Even if Trump is undeserving of the benefit of the doubt, the American people are fair-minded and want a legitimate, nonpartisan process to decide the fate of the presidency.

So, the great debate has now begun. But in case the Democrats haven’t noticed, Trump is not much of a debater. He is incapable of articulating a case on its merits. He will shout, deny, blame, obfuscate, etc. If the Democrats think they can match him outburst for outburst and slur for slur, they are playing a losing game.

As I have said for quite a while, impeachment was always going to happen. It is what the Democrats’ left wing demands. The question is whether Democrats will establish a valid reason for impeachment, one that a majority of voters will accept as legitimate and will produce a positive political result in the process. Doing so will require Democrats to present themselves as adults proceeding in a measured way, doing what they must to check Trump’s lawlessness. So far, they are off to a very bad start.

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