Pelosi declared that President Trump had abused his power, undermined our national security and used his office to compel a foreign power to investigate a political rival. “Our democracy is what is at stake,” she warned. “The president leaves us no choice but to act, because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit.” She admonished Trump: “The president’s actions have seriously violated the Constitution — especially when he says and acts upon the belief Article 2 says I can do whatever I want. No.”
With that, she asked House committee chairs to proceed with articles of impeachment. A great many questions still remain, such as the breadth of the articles (e.g. whether they reference the Mueller report) and whether the House will draft all articles now or wait on some issues for the resolution of court cases concerning witnesses and documents Trump is blocking. Pelosi’s remarks did not mention the Mueller report nor other constitutional issues such as violations of the emoluments clause, but that does not mean such matters won’t be included in proposed articles and put up for a vote.
Three points deserve emphasis.
First, Trump will join a select group of only three other presidents who faced articles of impeachment. In Trump’s case, the facts, as Pelosi noted, are largely undisputed, and the gravity of the offenses is undeniable. Whatever bluster Trump provides, this stain will remain on his presidency, and history will judge him accordingly.
Second, Trump on Thursday yet again demanded a quick vote on impeachment. Without merely being oppositional, the House should consider adopting a deliberate pace, both to give Americans time to absorb the facts and to allow a short amount of time to see whether additional witnesses can be pried loose. The facts are there, and the danger of continued abuse is present. (Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani is in Ukraine right now, continuing his search for dirt, presumably with Trump’s assent or at least knowledge.)
Third, one cannot help but notice the difference in tone between the two sides. Pelosi was somber, “prayerful” as she put it. The witnesses called by the Democrats are, as she noted, serious and impressive public servants, diplomats and scholars. The Intelligence Committee report is a tightly drafted and fact-filled document. By contrast, Republican lawmakers and the president engage in nonstop histrionics. They peddle in lies and debunked conspiracy theories. They aim to disrupt and discredit a constitutional process, not to enlighten the country. One hopes that however this comes out, the American people will see one party that takes its constitutional responsibilities seriously and another lacking dignity, integrity and fidelity to the Constitution.