It was as if an accused white-collar criminal, during jury selection for his bribery trial, had offered the judge a briefcase full of unmarked bills.

Or if a drug offender, taking the stand to defend himself against charges that he trafficked in narcotics, had tried to sell a brick of cocaine to the jury foreman.

But it really happened. Even as the House on Tuesday worked out the rules of the debate that will almost certainly see President Trump impeached by Wednesday night, Trump and his team continued to commit the very offenses for which he is being punished.

As the Rules Committee moved to the floor an impeachment article alleging Trump had abused his office by soliciting foreign help for his reelection campaign, Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, boasted to CNN that Trump is “very supportive” of Giuliani’s ongoing efforts to dig up political dirt in Ukraine that would help with Trump’s reelection campaign.

“We’re on the same page,” a defiant Giuliani, fresh from a dirt-seeking trip to Ukraine, said of Trump. “Just in case you think we’re on defense, we’re not.”

It was the latest stop on Giuliani’s media tour — of Fox News, the New Yorker, the New York Times and The Post — boasting about Trump’s active engagement in Giuliani’s attempts to get dirt on Joe Biden and to bulldoze, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s help, U.S. officials who stand in their way.

The moment Giuliani’s plane touched down from Ukraine last week, he said, Trump called him to ask, “What did you get?” He boasted that he forced out corruption-fighting ambassador Marie Yovanovitch because he needed her “out of the way.” He says he’s writing up a 20-page report full of the dirt he has dug for Trump.

And Trump doesn’t disagree. “He does this out of love, believe me,” the president said of Giuliani on Monday.

In response, Democrats must show their love, too — of the rule of law, the sanctity of elections and democracy itself — by impeaching this recidivist president. Trump continues to cheat in the 2020 election.

“We present you not just with high crimes and misdemeanors but a constitutional crime in progress up to this very minute,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), representing the House Judiciary Committee, testified to the Rules Committee. Referring to Giuliani’s latest boasts, he added that Giuliani, “fresh from his overseas travel looking to rehabilitate once again the discredited conspiracy theories at the heart of the president’s defense, admitted that he participated directly in the smear campaign to oust Ambassador Yovanovitch.”

Other Democrats on the panel picked up the theme. “I look at this as a crime in progress, and we’re trying to stop the president from rigging the next election,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.), the committee chairman.

Members of the House Rules Committee on Dec. 17 established parameters for the House debate of two articles of impeachment against President Trump. (The Washington Post)

The Rules Committee, which meets in a tiny hearing room on the third floor of the Capitol, is a last haven for congeniality. McGovern gave the ranking Republican, Tom Cole (Okla.), unlimited time to present his case. “I’m very liberal,” the Democrat explained.

“In the finest sense of the word,” Cole agreed.

When Cole finally finished, 45 minutes later, McGovern quipped: “You’re going to make me into a conservative.”

Before the hearing, McGovern and Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), assigned to make the case against impeachment, exchanged a smile. “Livin’ the dream,” Collins said.

But when the camera went on, Collins resumed his usual posture, accusing the Democrats of “abuse,” “fiction,” “last- ­minute Christmas shopping,” a “kangaroo court” and “Alice in Wonderland” proceedings. Collins opposed not just Trump’s impeachment but also Andrew Johnson’s. (Congress “set him up,” he said.)

McGovern said he was shocked by Republicans’ “inability to acknowledge that President Trump acted improperly.” The chairman asked Collins if he thinks it acceptable for a president to ask a foreign country to investigate an American citizen.

“Nothing wrong with the call,” Collins replied.

This followed Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) saying last week: “Is it ever okay to invite a foreign government to become involved in an election involving a political opponent? The answer is yes. . . . We do it all the time.”

Trump sure does. At the Rules Committee hearing, Raskin returned several times to Giuliani’s boasts about his ongoing efforts to find political dirt for Trump in Ukraine. “Given that he and his team are still awaiting President Zelensky’s statement about investigating Joe Biden, given that he has already invited China to perform an investigation of its own, we can only ask what the 2020 election will be like,” he said.

And Republicans ask why Democrats don’t wait for that election — the very election in which Trump is trying to cheat — instead of impeaching him? Or don’t wait — likely until after the election — for the dispute to make its way through the courts?

As Trump once said: Talk to Rudy.

The impeachment inquiry into President Trump has exposed troubling cracks in the political system. (The Washington Post)

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