On Tuesday night, following the devastating testimony of William B. Taylor Jr., NeverTrump leader Bill Kristol previewed a new ad from Republicans for the Rule of Law, a group that has put out some of the most effective ads skewering Republicans for failing to live up to their own stated principles:

This message helps cut through the mass of disinformation and distraction the White House and its morally obtuse enablers throw up to disguise or minimize the president’s gross violation of his oath. Implicit in the ad are several key concepts that those managing and supporting the impeachment process should keep in mind.

First, the notion that President Trump’s actions were wrong but not impeachable needs to be strongly rebutted. What other president ever held up appropriated aid to an ally for his partisan purposes? What other president pressured an ally to inject itself into American elections? In sum, the uniqueness of the president’s abuse of power needs to be emphasized.


Second, it is time to appeal to Americans’ better angels. Do we believe in American democracy, the principle of self-governance, or do we think our strongman should enlist other countries to decide our elections? It is time to pin down Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who have refused to say whether foreign countries should decide our elections. And it is time to follow up with lawmakers such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) who have conceded that this conduct is fundamentally at odds with our democracy.

On “Face the Nation” on Oct. 13, Cruz had this exchange:

MARGARET BRENNAN: So China’s a — a surveillance state. Is it appropriate for President Trump to be saying —
SEN. CRUZ: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --China should look into the Biden family? Is that appropriate?
SEN. CRUZ: I — look, of course not. Elections in the U.S. should be decided by — by Americans and it’s not the business of — of foreign countries, any foreign countries, to be interfering in our elections.

Now, he and other Republicans should reiterate this standard and concede that such conduct, if proven, is impeachable.


Third, impeachment proponents should refuse to engage in process arguments (hearsay!) that do not apply in the impeachment context. When Republicans squawk about lack of “due process” because Trump’s attorneys are not in the hearing room, a quick reminder is in order that like grand juries in the criminal-justice system, the House (the body that comes up with the equivalent of an indictment — namely, articles of impeachment) for now is entirely free to operate in private. Soon enough, all evidence will be made available and Trump will be able to put on his defense, if he has one, in the Senate.


Finally, the misdirection or withholding of public monies to promote a president’s private objectives is the very definition of corruption. Imagine if presidents, for example, could suspend appropriated funds to a state unless the governor helped him win reelection or could refuse to release funds to the Justice Department until its lawyers clear his associates. For one thing, the president does not have the right to supersede legislation allocating funds, but more fundamentally, those are not his own funds to play with. These examples in the domestic context are no more far-fetched than Trump’s actual stunt — withholding foreign military assistance until an ally’s leader pitched in with an investigation into a made-up scandal involving a political opponent.

In sum, Democrats have their work cut out for them to explain in simple terms why this conduct is uniquely awful and why Trump cannot remain in office to continue manipulating the very election that gives voters the opportunity to throw him out. If he had shown remorse and if his misconduct would not injure our democracy nor prevent a free and fair election, we might consider lesser punishment such as censure and leave the rest to the ballot box. That’s not what is at issue here, and thus leaving him in office to deform our democracy is not an option for Americans. Republicans need to make a choice: Betray American democracy (as Trump has), or boot him out of the way so that a President Pence (who’d nominate the same judges and pursue the same policies as Trump) can curtail destruction of our democracy and the implosion of his party.

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